Miss Nepal is an annual beauty pageant event held in Kathmandu, Nepal. The Hidden Treasure organizes this event every year in which the Nepalese women from all over the country can compete for various categories. The first MISS NEPAL Beauty Pageant was organized in 1994 on the special occasion of Kathmandu Jaycees Silver Jubilee. The winners of the competition can compete for Miss Universe, Miss World, Miss Earth and Miss Asia Pacific representing Nepal in the international arena. Ruby Rana won the first beauty crown in Miss Nepal. In 2009, Zenisha Moktan was crowned Miss Nepal.
Some of the popular former Miss Nepal are Jharana Bajracharya, Usha Khadgi, and Malvika Subba who are active in field of media and entertainment.
Though the Hidden Treasure made a press release announcing the holding of Miss Nepal 2010 Pageant in August 2010, it is being held in September, today. For the first time Dabur Special Hair Oil is to be the main sponsor of the event. This year 18 participants, between the ages of 18 and 25, will be competing for the Miss Nepal 2010 title.
The selected contestants have been through an extensive training program conducted by some of the best professionals available in the country according to the organizers. They say this will help them to enhance their personality & confidence. A distinguished panel of judges comprising of eminent personalities will select the winners. The winners of the pageant will have the opportunity to represent Nepal at various International Pageants such as Miss World, Miss Earth. The pageant will broadcast live by NTV from 4:15 p.m.
Does it really represent Nepal as its title suggests? No! For the 2 reasons, first, the Pageant Requirements state that for the participants, the academic qualifications should be minium 10+2 or equivalent and second, the minimum height should be 5 ft. 4 inches. These are 2 main constraints which prevent it from being fully miss Nepal. It would be wise to retitle it as “Urban Miss Nepal” because most of the participants come from urban educated middle-class society. It does not represent the rural population at all, and no serious attempts are made to explore the beauty and talent among the rural women. The organizers would argue the rural people resist such ideas and paegeants. Yes, indeed, because when people are living in poverty, the basic needs fulfillment is more important than these kind of competition done for profit-making by the organizers and sponsors.
Social construction of Gender and Beauty
Crawford et al. write in their article (abstract posted yesterday) that, “The beauty contest phenomenon warrants feminist analysis becausepageants represent and reflect not only social constructions of gender, but also of nationalism, morality, modernization, and globalization.” Indeed, the social constructionist theory (Gergen and others) states that these kinds of social events are responsible for the Social construction of Gender and Beauty through information dissemination using mass media.
These kinds of events in most part of the world have been the target of opppositon, controcersy, and resistance by forces such as political associations (All Nepal Women’s Association (Revolutionary), feminist groups, and women rights activists who see these programmes of beauty industry as vulgar, indecent, and degrading to women. They seriously oppose the commodification and exploitation of participating women at the hands of organizers and sponsors. But it is important to remember that the participants have exercised their agency and will to take part in the contest.
Dabur Nepal, a joint venture of Dabur India, is the main sponsor of the beauty pageant. In 2008, the pageant had to be cancelled at the last minute after Maoists’ women organisations staged protests.
Outside Nepal, the most severe pageant-related violence occurred in 2002, when the Miss World competition was scheduled to be held in Nigeria during the month of Ramadan. Speculation by a journalist over whether the prophet Mohammed would have approved set off Christian–Muslim riots in which more than 200 people were killed.
In response to such arguments, organizers in Nepal have eliminated swimsuit round/competition, organised preliminary rounds outside Kathmandu (in previous years, I don’t have data of this year), introduced dresses congruent with ‘traditional Nepali sentiments’ to gain the acceptability and respectability of the beauty pageant. At the same time, other prominent women have endorsed the pageants, even serving as judges, and a group of former Miss Nepals has created an organization to respond to the opposition.
The first beauty contest along the model of today’s pageants was held in the USA in 1880; the prototypical Miss America competition originated in 1921 in an attempt by New Jersey merchants to prolong the tourist season at a seaside resort. Miss World competition that originated in the UK started in 1951.
Beauty with a Purpose
The President of the Miss World Organization, Julia Morley, coined the phrase ‘Beauty With A Purpose’ more than 25 years ago and since then more than $400 million USD have been raised in its name in support of children’s charities across the globe, bringing help and hope to hundreds of thousands in need. Among the many recipients of this outstanding fund-generating activity has been the Nelson Mandela Trust, Canada’s Cops For Cancer, Variety Clubs International, Operation Hunger, and the SOS Children’s Villages which cares for orphaned and abandoned children in 132 countries.
Motivations of the participants, organizer and sponsors
Dabur Special Miss Nepal 2010, for along with the title and crown, will revieve the cash prize of Rs. 50000 and also take home a Chery QQ3 car for the first time in its history. The primary incentive for the participants is the reward of winning the competition. The other pull factors are name and fame, the attention the winner receives as a Miss Nepal for a whole year. Besides winning the competition, the beauty pageant contestants also receive special training on grooming and confidence building exercises prior to the competition and if won, she gets to represent Nepal internationally with their beauty.
For the organizers, it is about promotion of their company and the profit & fame it brings.
For the sponsors, it is about promoting their business and increasing their profit-making through advertisement of their products. The research has shown that consumers are more likely to buy the product when it is advertised by beautiful people and endorsed by celebrities. Sponsors are aware about the advantages of potential market for selling their products. A statement from a newsletter of Indian Feminist group Saheli quoted in Crawford et al.’s article is worthy of mention here:
By the 1990s, India had come to be recognized as a huge potential market for cosmetics – which explained the sudden victory of several Indian Miss Worlds and Universes.
Now, based upon Crawford et al.’s research, I would like to discuss briefly about attitudes toward Beauty Pageants among Nepali Women. This study is the first of its kind to interrogate the meaning of the beauty pageant spectacle in Nepal, in which they used focus groups and individual interviews to examine the discourses used to justify support and opposition to Nepali beauty pageants.
In Support of beauty pageants:
- Presents Nepal positively on the global arena
- Empower Nepali women
- Opportunity to enhance poise, self-confidence, self-esteem, and to become independent, liberated, and modern
- Helps to expose hidden talent and explore one’s potential
- Expression of speaking power (eloquence), inner beauty, character, confidence, the ability of impressive self-presentation (poise)
- possibility of new opportunities
Against beauty pageants:
- Objectification of female body and commodification of feminity
- causes body image disturbance, chances of Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) (dysfunctional preoccupation with appearance)
- Perceived expliotation of women and trivialization of women rights issues
- Increased weight concern and heightened eating disorder symptomalogy (negative impact of thin ideal internalization)
- Copy of western culture, accepting western norms and values and ignoring our own tradition, culture and norms
- Loss of self-esteem after losing the competition (negative impact upon subjective well-being)
Recommendations for beauty pageants:
- Extending the reach of perceived benefits of pageant participation to rural, improvished, and lower caste women (the issue of social inclusion)
- tailoring such contests according to our culture and our social context
Crawford et al. (2008). Globalizing Beauty: Attitudes toward Beauty Pageants among Nepali Women. Feminism & Psychology, Vol. 18(1), 61-86.
Miss Nepal 2010 today http://www.myrepublica.com/portal/index.php?action=news_details&news_id=22810