You could argue that the very idea of a beauty pageant is so old school, especially in this day and age when a woman’s beauty is so much more than how she looks in a swimsuit and evening gown, or layers of foundation, liner and hairspray. (Not to throw shade on all the fashion and beauty tools I personally enjoy.) But if there is something you can appreciate about the Miss Universe pageants, it’s that after 65 installments, it continues to capture a beauty ideal for a specific moment in time. You’ve only to look at the clips of the winning moments of the past Miss Universe winners who were here for the recent pageant—1969 Gloria Diaz, 1973 Margie Moran-Floirendo, 1993 Dayanara Torres, 1994 Sushmita Sen, 2007 Riyo Mori and 2015 Pia Wurtzbach—to see how the image of beauty, and the fashion (!), has changed over the decades.
The recently concluded pageant here in Manila was no exception, but what struck me most was the diversity of women that landed in the top 13. Here was a mix of beautiful women with such varied ethnicities—whether Asian, Caucasian, Latin or African. And even if she didn’t make the cut after the evening gown competition, I found myself wistful for Miss Canada who represented so many women in all her curvy glory. Wouldn’t that have been groundbreaking?
If anything, I feel it’s reflective of the way the world sees beauty today, albeit a more polished and idealized version. Buzzwords that I often hear when talking about beauty and fashion now are “diversity,” “authenticity,” and “personalization.” It’s very much about being yourself and letting that resonate in both your fashion choices, how you choose to style your hair or fix yourself up.
At the post-pageant press conference, Sushmita Sen was quoted by ABS-CBN News to have given this piece of advice to the new Miss Universe 2016, Iris Mittenaere: “Keep it real. There will be a lot of pressure to become a Barbie doll. Keep it real. People love beauty that is approachable and that can impact lives and inspire people for a very long time.” At the end of the day, no matter your face, race and body shape, this is what matters most, and how great is it that even in the most traditional of pageants, keeping it real is what wins in the end.