October 27, 2013 12:20 AM EST
International Beauty Contests Get Politically Controversial: Is Controversy Key?
Beauty pageants are special avenues for demonstrating femininity, grace, brainpower and beauty. But today these contests are being used as venues for politics and controversy.
In the recent months, politics and controversies played surprising roles in two high-profile competitions. On Sep. 28 Miss World announced a new title holder in Bali, where the pageant was relocated following protests by a group known as the Islamic Defenders Front, which argued the competition violated Quran teachings.
A few weeks earlier in the U.S., the crowning of Nina Davuluri as the first-ever Miss America of Indian heritage sparked racist comments when observers on social media criticized her ethnic background. One Twitter user wrote, "And the Arab wins Miss America. Classic." Another said, "Miss America? You mean Miss 7-11." Several stories on racism and American culture poured forth.
In late 1960s, contestants were regularly asked questions about current affairs and politics. In 2009, in the Miss USA pageant, Carrie Prejean was asked a question about gay marriage:
"I think it's great that Americans are able to chose one or the other. In my country and in my family, I think that marriage should be between a man or a woman - no offense to anybody out there," Prejean, who was Miss California at the time, said.
Prejean's answer became a burning topic for public debate, but she did finish the competition as first-runner up amid all the debates.
As for Davuluri, she told TODAY.com that she has been already prepared for her heritage to become the subject of spiteful remarks. "It was an unfortunate situation, but it was something I had sadly experienced when I won the title of Miss New York. For every one of the negative tweets, I received hundreds of positive words of encouragement and support," she said
"We live in an era where these things matter so much. The more extreme things are going to get more attention," she added.
The spiteful social media comments that drew her into a public debate about racism turned out to be another prospect to promote her platform on educating children about diversity.
The message she delivered was that it's "important to respect everyone's beliefs, backgrounds, and heritage."
The difference between contest controversy now and 50 years ago is the 24-7 media presence and social media services, which allow people to put online their opinions in real-time.
This is a reminder for the global audience who will watch the next high-profile beauty pageant Miss Universe 2013.
Watch Miss Universe 2013 pageant trailer below: