Army of Barbies













Amelia Vega
Amelia Vega was crowned Miss Universe on June 3.

At the young age of 18 and with the above average height of a woman, 6'1 Amelia Vega won the crown of Miss Universe as Miss Dominican Republic. As fellow Dominicans cheered for the Hispanic goddess on June 3, 2003, Vega thanked God and her family for all the love and support she had been granted to win the royal crown. She promised to fulfill all the required duties needed to fit her role, while she continues to support the fight against AIDS. The crowning of Vega as Miss Universe was a fairy tale ending for many Dominicans, which acknowledged us as visible individuals within our society.

As a Dominican American living in New York City, I see that we're recognized as merely Latinos who live in Washington Heights, creating violence and havoc -- the typical stereotype. Unlike most nationalities, which seem to have a positive icon to represent them, we have very few fellow Dominicans who stand out to prove we also have positive goals and dreams. Therefore, when Vega became the first Dominican to win the crown for Miss Universe, many Dominicans applauded her accomplishment. However, I was disappointed that a greater achievement couldn't be accomplished by my people.

While all congratulated Vega for her hard work and effort, her victory was not seen as a positive event by me. I am saddened to see that not even my own people can realize how beauty pageants affect us within our society. While it's true that Vega's role as Miss Universe makes Dominicans more visible, Miss Universe is not an empowering role for women and does more harm than good.

The great tragedy of Miss Universe lies behind the army of live Barbies in the pageant. These women don't have a voice of their own; they are dolls trained to speak with near-perfect structure, damage their cheekbones with plastered smiles, and totter around on dangerously high heels. These women present themselves to millions of television viewers, who will judge them on their looks and not on what lies beneath their plastic shell.

While millions of girls are hitting the books to attend decent colleges and earn scholarships, these dolls are granted full-fledge checks for having the most amount of makeup applied on their skins. If you happened to watch the Miss Universe pageant, you may have noticed that when the contestants wore bathing suits, the skin tones on their faces didn't match the tone of the rest of their bodies. Intelligent, average-looking hard workers are never fully acknowledged for their efforts, while participants of a glamour boot camp are crowned as royalty.

What saddens me most about the Miss Universe pageant is the distribution of money for this contest. According to ABC News Online, the government of Panama, who hosted this year's Miss Universe event, spent nine million dollars on the event. At the same time, 40% of the Panamanian population lives in poverty. That's nine millions dollars that could have fed hungry people, but was instead spent on beauty queens.

The ideal woman is not someone who will try to look her best just to win the hearts of people. A real woman is proud of her natural looks, yet she is not afraid to be sexy. She has the sweat of manual labor dripping from her forehead. She is found hitting the books, not in the bathroom throwing up to lose a few pounds. Before she learns to respect others and become of aid, she loves herself first. She doesn't need the praises of a man, rather the wisdom of a mother. Above all, she speaks her mind, and doesn't recite words like a trainee. This is the person I want to represent the universe.

I believe that changing the image of the ideal woman will help Dominicans. If we are the first ethnic group that can portray inner beauty as a gift, then society will become more accepting of all types of women, rather than only a makeup infested one. If Miss Dominican equally showed off her intelligence and her beauty, it would have proved to the world that intelligence is what makes a person stand out as a positive icon in society. People would be able to see Dominicans as smart, capable, and successful. Young Dominicans would have a role model, and above all, Miss Dominican would help break down the stereotypes that haunt Dominicans within our neighborhoods.

Stephanie Nolasco is a 17-year-old student from New York City.

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