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Beauty Pageants: The myth of ideal beauty

Aishwarya Seth

It is said that beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder, but as we grow up and come to terms with the harsh realities of the world, we realise that the true meaning of beauty was lost along the way and now the idea of beauty is synonymous with glamourous outfits and sparkling eyes.

Women across the globe enter beauty pageants aspiring to score a ticket to the world of showbiz. Alas, with shattered dreams comes shattered self-esteem. Even though these pageants are a road to fame and bring women to the limelight, we often forget at what cost.

The unrealistic beauty standards set by beauty pageants propagate a plethora of stereotypes, ranging from the concept of marriage and pregnancy to age and appropriate physical features. These stereotypical beauty standards set by pageants make women question their definition of beauty leading to self-esteem and image-image issues. Various titles such as “Miss beautiful smile” or “Miss beautiful skin" lead women, especially young girls who are at an impressionable age, to associate specific physical features with the concept of beauty. But the bar is set so high that it forces women to push their bodies to do high-intensity workouts and fall prey to fad diets to achieve these unrealistic standards of beauty which often paves the way to starvation and bulimia. “High rate of mental health and eating disorders are found in participants of beauty pageants," said a counsellor of the Centre for Wellness and Counselling Services at O.P. Jindal Global University, who wishes to stay anonymous.

In an attempt to sell their brand, the concept of beauty is nullified. These unattainable beauty standards stir negative emotions of self-loath and severely impact women’s self-esteem which often leads them to despise their own bodies. These irrational methods glorify a specific body type and the need to meet these socially acceptable beauty standards negatively impacts people’s mental health. “The main concerns and problems participants of beauty pageant face are low self-esteem, body dissatisfaction, poor self-image, fear of getting disqualified or losing the contest, constant jealousy from fellow contestants and difficult eating patterns,” the counsellor added. Questions like “‘Am I not good enough?’ or ‘Am I a loser’ come to play, further decreasing their moral,” she said.

Apart from setting a standard, pageants also promote classism through an enforceable form of luxurious lifestyle. The participants have to work with personal trainers, spend most of their time in the gym, hire professional nutritionists and indulge in a high-end skincare routine to be recognized in beauty pageants. People who are unable to afford these luxuries often tend to think even the beauty industry is dominated by the rich, like other spheres of life. Beauty pageants also encourage unhealthy competition and undermine the notion of intelligence by glorifying beauty. Asking participants questions like “How do you want to change the world?" would hardly qualify as intellectual and participants often respond with answers that would please the judges instead of being honest about what they truly believe in, which leads them to lose a piece of themselves under all those layers of makeup. “There are some coping strategies that could help participants deal with difficult circumstances, like indulging in self-care and having a positive outlook towards life, enhancing self-confidence and esteem by indulging in activities that make them feel good and eating healthy," were some tips suggested by the JGU counsellor.

Beauty should not be defined by the need to fit in a size zero dress, or having a particular skin tone. Beauty should be defined as an element that makes a person feel good about themselves, a concept that is filled with self-love and not self-loath. So, what if you are dusky and are far from size zero? Being beautiful should not come with an attached clause, every woman is beautiful in her own way. The perspective of beauty should change in the society and beauty pageants, if they change their definition of beauty and focus on the parameters that portray inner or real beauty then the world could be a better and more inclusive space.

Edited By: Himanya Chadha and Muskan Tyagi