5 Beauty Pageant Contestants Using Their Platforms to Get Political

For decades, beauty pageants like Miss America only stirred up controversy among feminists who regularly denounced the contests' objectification of women. There have been a few incidents of political controversy around international pageants, as contestants representing warring countries occasionally clashed, but social media and viral content have enormously amplified the actions of contestants recently, giving competitors the opportunity to speak out about politics. 2017 has notably featured pageant queens speaking out on controversial topics.

Critics who decry beauty pageants for objectification certainly have a point. The highly televised Miss Universe pageants that are so beloved by our president prop up a culture of glorifying women’s bodies. But anyone who mocks the women who participate in pageants is missing the point: some of them are savvy individuals using their influential platforms to deliver messages about under-discussed issues. We laud high-profile models like Chrissy Teigen who use their celebrity to speak out against injustice, and even demand that others follow their lead. For a publicity aware activist who wants to get the message out about her cause, entering into a beauty pageant might be a smart way to make herself heard. That is, assuming she looks good in a bikini.  

1. Miss Bumbum Brazil

Five women who competed in the Sao Paolo pageant earlier this week agreed to promote the event with a provocative photo shoot. They posed in bathing suits made of raw beef to bring awareness to Brazil’s rampant sexual assault and harassment problem (statistically, one Brazilian woman is raped every 11 minutes). The contestants hope to get the message out that “women are not just a piece of meat.”

2. Miss Peru

In October, the 23 women vying for the title of Miss Peru refrained from participating in the portion of the event that’s typically used for contestants to give their bust, hips and waist measurements. Instead, each shared a tragic statistic about violence against women in their country.

"My name is Camila Canicoba, I represent Lima and my measurements are: 2,202 cases of feminicides reported in the last nine years in my country," one contestant said. Besides Bolivia, Peru is the most dangerous country in South America for women, with 82 murdered women and 156 cases of attempted murder so far this year.

3. Miss America

Every sphere of American culture has been infiltrated by politics since the 2016 election, including our beauty pageants. Miss Texas Morgana Wood used her participation in the Miss America pageant in September to criticize Trump’s response to the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville. She wasn’t alone in getting political: even self-proclaimed Trump supporter Miss North Dakota Cara Mund, who later won the pageant, criticized the president for withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement. “It’s a bad decision,” she said. “There is evidence that climate change is existing and we need to be at that table.”

4. Miss Grand Myanmar

Shwe Eain Si, a pageant winner in Myanmar, was stripped of her title after posting a video accusing Burmese militants of violence against Rohingya villagers. Since August 25, 400,000 Rohingya have fled the region of Rakhine in Burma after the government launched a military crackdown in the name of fighting terrorism.

5. Miss Turkey

In 2014, Merve Buyuksarac was stripped of her title after posting a poem on Instagram that satirized the national anthem. Accused of insulting President Recep Tayyip ErdoÄŸan, she was sentenced to 14 months in prison, which was later rescinded. According to the BBC, "almost 2,000 people, including celebrities and schoolchildren, have been prosecuted in Turkey for insulting the president since he came to office in 2014, under a previously little-used law."

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