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Beauty contest

From Academic Kids

A beauty contest, or beauty pageant, is a competition between people, based largely, though not always entirely, on the beauty of their physical appearance. Almost invariably, competitions for men and women are separate events, and those for men are not referred to as beauty contests except derogatorily. Those for women are more common; for an example of a male beauty contest, see Mr. Universe. There are also beauty contests for children; they are controversial, in particular if the term "sexy" is used and/or the children are dressed in no more than a swimsuit. [1] (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/2941472.stm)

Choosing symbolic kings and queens for May Day and other festivities is an ancient custom in Europe, where beautiful young women also symbolized the nation, virtue, or other abstract ideals. The first modern pageant was staged by P. T. Barnum in 1854, but his beauty contest was closed down by public protest (he had previously held dog, baby, and bird beauty contests). He substituted daguerreotypes for judging, a practice quickly adopted by newspapers, which held photo beauty contests for many decades. The first “bathing beauty” pageant took place as part of a summer festival to promote business in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, in 1880. Contests became a regular part of summer beach life, with the most elaborate at Atlantic City, New Jersey, where the “Fall Frolic” attracted contestants from many cities and towns in competition for the title of Miss America. They eventually added preliminary eliminations, an evening gowns competition, musical variety shows, and panel judging by panel. Still, the contest was hardly considered respectable entertainment and was shunned by middle-class society. Pageants did not become respectable until World War II, when beauty queens were recruited to sell bonds and entertain troops; scholarships and talent competitions accompanied closer scrutiny of contestants’ morals and background.

The modern beauty pageant can trace its origin to the Miss America pageant, first held in Atlantic City in 1921, under the title "Inter-City Beauty" contest. The following year, the title was renamed as Miss America. Other contests include the yearly Miss World competition (founded by Eric Morley in 1951), Miss Universe (founded in 1952), and Miss Earth (founded in 2001 with environmental awareness as its concern), which are the three largest and most famous international beauty contests. Women from around the world participate each year in the competitions for these titles. The organisers of the major beauty contests represent their contests as being events of world importance. Many other people consider beauty contests to be titillating entertainment events of no great importance.

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Beauty contests and politics

Many feminists regard beauty contests for women as degrading to females in general, as well as to the women who compete in them. A common comparison made by feminists is that beauty contests are like a cattle market for women. They have particularly objected to swimsuit rounds in competitions, where the contestants parade dressed only in swimsuits and high heeled shoes. Partly because of this, beauty contests have declined in popularity since their peak in the 1960s. These criticisms were presented in high-profile complaints against the Miss America contest in the late 1960s.

The contests are highly controversial and regularly attract demonstrators. An extreme example is the 2002 Miss World contest, which was held in Nigeria, the country of the 2001 winner, until mass riots which killed 200 and a fatwa against a female journalist caused the organizers to move it to London.

Beauty contests and "sexual purity"

Beauty contests for women often have rules regarding the sexual "purity" of the contestants: for example, they must not be married, must not become pregnant, must agree to remain celibate during their "reign", and must agree to refrain from other acts that the contest organizers regard as "moral turpitude". Breaking any of those rules disqualifies the contestant, and such disqualifications occur with some frequency: resignations have been forced by the threat to release extant nude photographs of contestants.

Selecting a Beauty Queen

Beauty pageants are generally multi-tiered, with local competitions feeding into the larger competitions. The worldwide pageants thus require hundreds or thousands of local competitions. In the United States there is now a commercial beauty pageant industry that organizes thousands of local and regional events for all ages for profit, supporting magazines like Pageantry and Pride of Pageantry, the online epiczine.com, Pageant News Bureau, and The Crown Magazine, and a host of retailers of everything from tiaras to cosmetic surgery.

Beauty contests and race

See also

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