December 5 2011

Dear Pageant Girl,

As work starts to wind down for the silly season and everyday people start getting ‘festive’, spare a thought for those working in the Australian beauty pageant industry.

Just as we have had our fill of Miss UniverseMiss WorldMiss Internationaland Miss Earth and we think it’s all over for another year, the reality is it’s back to the beginning for the Australian franchises.

Cattle calls and state heats for the next “Miss [insert global synonym here]” are in full swing in malls all around the nation.

For many of us in the industry, it’s also the scariest part of the year.

Now, let me make this clear from the very beginning.  We ALL have our talents and blessings.

Some of us are blessed with the gift of song. Others, the gift of movement.  Some, the gift of the gab and others, mind blowing intelligence. 

And yes, we are all beautiful in our own way.

But the reality is not all of us can sing.  We see this time and time again onAustralian Idol and X Factor audition specials.  Not everyone can dance.  Not everyone can be a neurosurgeon.

And not everyone can be a beauty queen.

The sad truth is that to be a beauty queen you must be able to at least meet the physical requirements to be seriously considered. This equates to the possession of an almost otherworldly, alien-like beauty, the kind that only a few human beings possess. The kind of beauty that we would kill for and the kind we love to hate.

But what is beauty, you may ask?  Yes, “beauty is subjective”. But have you ever seen an ‘average-looking’ Victoria’s Secret Model?

If beauty were so subjective the Holy Trinity wouldn’t be LindaChristyand Naomi.  It would be Linda, Naomi and me.

It amazes me the number of women who show up at these auditions believing they have a chance at the crown.  It’s almost painful and quite cruel. 

Stage mothers, pay attention.

One of the greatest gifts you can give your children is the gift of reality, so spare them the unnecessary rejection and steer them towards areas where they will make their mark and do well.

Why waste their time competing for pageants they would never win when they could be developing their skills to be amazing musicians, educators, debaters (aka future politicians), actresses, comediennes or vets? Stop living your dreams through your child and be a parent.

To be honest, many of these aspirants can’t be blamed.  Take note of the ‘requirements’ set out by the three major Australian beauty pageant organisations in Australia. Funny how none mention physical beauty to compete in a beauty pageant!

Read it and you will see that most women fall under the categories set out by the major pageant organisations.

The Miss Universe Australia website’s application form states that to qualify entrants must:

•    Be an Australian Citizen or Permanent Resident
•    Be aged no less than 18 years and not more than 27 on the 30th January 2012
•    Have been residing in Australia for at least six months prior to march 2012
•    Have a valid passport
•    Have never been married
•    Have never given birth to a child
•    Have not committed any crime or been involved in any inappropriate behaviour, photographs or films which may cause embarrassment to both parties if disclosed at a later date.

Bear in mind that this doesn’t even specifically tell you that you have to be first and foremost, be a female.

The Miss World Australia site’s has similar categories:

1.    Be a natural born female
2.    Be an Australian Citizen or Permanent resident
3.    Be aged no less than 17 and not more than 24 on 31st December 2012
4.    Have a valid passport
5.    Have never been married
6.    Have never given birth to a child
7.    Have not committed any crime

The Miss Earth Australia site says that before you can register to become one of Mother Earth’s angels, you need to be:

* Single and have never been married 
* Born Female
* Between 18 and 26 years of age. 
* Citizen or a resident in Australia.  
* Good moral character.
* Have not participated in any obscene or x-rated exhibitions, whether print, stage, television or movies.
* Have not worked as a Model, Hostess or any similar capacity in establishments generally reputed to be “girlie” joints.
* Have not been convicted of any crime.
* Familiarity with Australia’s culture and environmental concerns/problems and…the clincher:
*Must plant a tree or trees before coming to the finals in Sydney in November 2012.

Loving the “Mother Earth’s angels” requirement. Each time you put on a swimsuit on stage, a whale is saved.

So we have the above organisers partly to blame for this. 

For goodness sake, it’s a beauty pageant and none, absolutely none of the organisers of the major beauty pageants acknowledge this. 

For the most part, the above read like a list for nothing. 

A job description on or would require more detail.  A job description like any of the above wouldn’t fly anywhere.  What exactly are they looking for?  Forget the physical requirements, there is nothing there that says anything about education or skills.

Physically, none of the above state that you need to be over a certain height to make an impression on stage (for those of you who ask, a seasoned pageant judge struggles to notice anyone below 5’7).

The national director of Miss Universe Australia once told me that “we don’t discriminate against short girls.  Short girls just need to compete harder to be noticed”. In saying that, I have never seen a girl compete internationally that is shorter than 5’7.  If she has, I have never noticed her.

Did anyone mention that it may be advantageous to possess the following:

•    a long swan-like neck (the type Audrey Hepburn was so lucky to be born with).
•    have legs all the way to Cairns.
•    must be incredibly photogenic that her face and body is good enough to be used as the face of a brand in place of hiring a supermodel.
•    be no more than a size 10 but able to fit into sample sizes as low as a 6-8.
•    must be able to burn the runway like a Victoria’s Secret Angel.
•    must have at least finished senior high school.

When hundreds and thousands of dollars in sponsorship money goes into the preparation, dressing and flying over of the one woman who will represent our entire nation for the overseas competition, you would want to be putting forward your best possible chance.

As a pageant judge and personality, you never EVER want to hear your international contemporaries and colleagues say to you “Was that the best your country could find?”

Before you call on the rabid villagers with their picks and torches, hear me out.

We, the general public, are responsible for this.

We fund this.

We purchase the magazines with impossibly beautiful people on the cover.

We subscribe to shows with beautiful people on screen.

We buy clothes worn by willowy models on the runway.

I’m going to say what many in the media are too afraid to acknowledge: beauty – the airbrushed kind – sells.

Case in point: The Miss Australia Quest.  Once a glamorous event, where a glamorous woman is selected each year to be the fabulous face for its charitable work, the organisers bowed to political correctness and tried to become more than what it originally set itself out to be.

Despite having a noble cause with good intentions, they bowed to public pressure and opened the competition to the general public. It became a fundraising competition. And it soon faded into oblivion.

Beauty contests always adhere to what society deems as physically beautiful at the time.  The bee-hived beauty queens of the ‘60s are different to the glamazons of the ‘80s and the athletic American supermodels of the ‘90s.

In saying all of that, beauty can only get you so far.  I have lost count of the number of times a girl’s physical beauty has taken my breath away at first glance, only to take my breath away again in disbelief the moment she opens her mouth. You can mesmerise me and the world for about ten seconds – after that, you better have something good to say.

You see, while you need to be a certain kind of beauty to compete in a beauty pageant, you also need brains, class, enough sass, elegance and that undefinable ‘X factor’ to be a beauty queen.  Yes, you do need a personality.

We conduct this search to send the most amazing, charming, memorable and physically beautiful (however defined) woman we can find to compete against the glamazons unleashed by countries like Colombia, Venezuela, USA, Brazil… the list goes on.

So all you pageant girl wannabes, take a moment for a reality check. If you think you have what it takes – physically and mentally – to take on the likes of Scherri Biggs, Jesinta Campbell, Rachael Finch, Laura Dundovicor Jennifer Hawkins, we would love to hear from you. If not, then it’s time to review your career aspirations.

Next time I see you at a pageant heat and you don’t get a call back, take the hint and go back to school.

Besides, that tiara is only yours for a year.  A university degree lasts forever.