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Critically Engrossing Highlights of 2012 Pageantry

And why we like Honey Boo Boo more than Sheena 

Queen of Disgrace: A now former Miss Pennsylvania USA Sheena Monnin (photo), 26, has accused the Miss Universe Organization, owned by Donald Trump, of rigging the Miss USA 2012 competition last June. On her Facebook page, she wrote:

"I witnessed another contestant who said she saw the list of the Top 5 BEFORE THE SHOW EVER STARTED proceed to call out in order who the Top 5 were before they were announced on stage. Apparently the morning of June 3rd she saw a folder lying open to a page that said 'FINAL SHOW Telecast, June 3, 2012' and she saw the places for Top 5 already filled in."

Former Miss USA 2010 Rima Fakih, 26, said via twitter, "To Miss Pennsylvania 2012 so u didn't win or place in Miss USA last night but don't u dare disrespect my organization! Maybe that's y u lost."

The Daily's Richard Johnson, a former editor at Page Six and a three-time Miss Universe judge, said the beauty pageant is not fixed, but Donald Trump did make it clear to the judges who he would pick. Johnson wrote:
"Just in case a judge was indecisive, Trump was sitting right behind us in the front row, close enough to chat with us during commercial breaks, letting us know his preferences. Was he just making small talk, or trying to influence our votes? Did his voice carry more weight than any other fan who was applauding and shouting for their favorite? Probably. But the pageant wasn’t rigged. I voted for the contestant I thought was the most beautiful. Most of the time, Trump and I agreed. But not every time."

On Dec. 17, the New York Post reported a judge had ruled that Monnin defamed Trump's beauty pageant organization, stating that "the method in which the Miss USA Pageant is judged... precludes any reasonable possibility that the judging was rigged." Continuing, Monnin’s “defamatory” statements “were false” and “showed a reckless disregard.” Monnin was ordered to pay the Miss Universe Organization $5 million for defamation. A few days later, Monnin took to her Facebook to express her shock with the judgment and posted a YouTube video expounding on her claims and soliciting money for her legal defense.

Call Her JennaTal, not Genital:  In April 2012, Jenna Talackova (photo) was accepted as a contestant for Miss Universe Canada 2012. But a little birdie told the pageant organizers that Jenna was actually born a male named Walter and had gone a gender reassignment. Pageant rules state that a contestant must be a natural-born female, thus Jenna was disqualified. But she sued the organizers for discrimination. She won, and got reinstated as a candidate. Miss Universe owner Donald Trump - perhaps fearing that a tranny could bring his pageant down and/or that Jenna bears a strong resemblance to his daughter, Ivanka Trump - gallantly allowed Jenna to compete in Miss Universe if she won the Canadian heat. Jenna didn't win - not because she's a tranny - but because she walked like an ostrich and was boring as hell. We hope not to hear from her ever again.

     Although several countries are considering allowing transsexuals in their national pageants, Venezuela's national director Osmel Sousa said that it would also be a lack of respect to have a naturally-born woman compete with a transwoman.  "Transsexuals should be competing with other transsexuals; we respect them, but we don't share it." Sousa's fellow judge in the hit reality show "Nuestra Belleza Latina", Lupita Jones- director of Nuestra Belleza México - agrees with Sousa and thinks that it is not fair that people who are not naturally-born females should compete with naturally-born women.

 Fiji Fiasco: The Most Troubled National Pageant: On April 27, 2012, Tonika Waters (photo), 16, was crowned Miss World Fiji. Her coronation sparked outrage among Fijians who didn't think she looked "native" enough (Waters has a very light complexion and with European ancestry). The pageant was also criticized for inviting an all-non-Fijian judges to select the winner, including supermodel Rachel Hunter. The Miss World Fiji Facebook page was bombarded with ugly comments, and national director Andhy Blake himself was subjected to attacks by Waters who accused Blake of running the pageant with lies, deception and lack of professionalism (it was Blake's first year as director). In a post on the Miss World Fiji website, Blake acknowledged he had preselected Watters as a semifinalist and gave the judges his personal opinion that she should win, but denied that made the event a sham. 

     Consequently, Waters was forced to return her crown and prizes, and Blake claimed that he was kicked out of his house "due to the embarrassment the false media attention was causing them." Eventually, Waters was replaced by her first runner-up Koini Vakaloloma, 24, who was sent to Mongolia. But the controversy continued when Vakaloloma's owl costume for Miss World 2012 pageant was heavily criticized by most Fijians who did not think that the costume was representative of Fijian culture. 

Sacrebleu! Racism in French pageantry: Miss Black France, the first all-black beauty pageant in France, was held on March 30th, 2012 in Paris.  Eighteen young women (some sources give the number as 20), the majority of whom are university students, competed for the award. The winner is Mbathio Beye, a 21-year old Senegalese woman who is pursuing a Master's degree in marketing strategy in Paris.  The competition created lots of buzz, some of which were political.  There are those who believe that an event that features black beauty is long overdue and should be hailed.  Others, including Patrick Lozès - the first black man to declare intent to run for the French presidency - believe this is a divisive event that will further polarize the country in the face of the strong support that the National Front (a right-wing political group) received in the first round of the presidential election.  CRAN, the organization that Lozès created and led for several years, is an official supporter of the pageant. 

     Some were displeased with the choice of the English word "black" for the pageant, preferring instead the French word "noir." Many have pointed out that there have already been several black winners of the Miss France competition and question the necessity of an event that singles out black women. Meanwhile, right-wingers belonging to the New France Movement protested the pageant  because they oppose special treatment for minority groups and argue that  the nation should not be divided along ethnic lines, although they demanded the creation of a Miss White France.

Pretty Ugly in China: In July 2012 in China, the organizers of a beauty contest were involved in a national controversy because of the differences between the taste of the judges and  that of the public. After choosing the three most beautiful women of the city of Chongqing, people went crazy and went on to criticize the choice of the jury on the Internet. The commotion was such that the organizers had to choose three new winners to try to calm things down. "Since the three winners have generated so much criticism among bloggers and media in Chongqing, the committee decided to add a direct election and pick three winners," organizers told he newspaper South China Morning Post.  

     Controversy erupted around the country after pictures were published of the three original winners. Chinese social networks exploded with anger and harsh criticisms towards the results. "The right one [in the photo] should be the mother of the winner, who has gone to collect the prize in her place," said a a netizen in his microblog Weibo, while another disgusted netizen who lives in Chongqing, threatened to leave town "If that was the level of beauty of local women." 

     After the controversy, one of the judges admitted to "external pressures" in deciding the winners and acknowledged that judges had the final say in the decision. Chongqing along the Yangtze River has a reputation for being the birthplace of beautiful women for the simple reason that it is a town with very few days of sunshine a year, and so the skin of its inhabitants is particularly white, which Chinese consider as a sign of beauty. 

Arrivederci Bikini! In August 2012, the Miss Italia pageant banned bikinis in favor of swimsuits. The organizers said the move would ‘add a sober element’ to the contest and that ‘interior beauty as well as exterior beauty’ was important. Pageant organiser Patrizia Mirigliani said: "With this type of costume we will be returning to the classical beauty of the 1950’s, the era of female legends who we still admire and respect even today. The costumes will really highlight feminine beauty and for next years competition I am already thinking of environmentally friendly outfits so the girls will do their bit for the environment." Other rules for the 2012 contest included no tattoos or body piercings, while women who have had plastic surgery are barred from entering.

     Can you imagine the Miss Universe pageant without the bikini? But on the other hand, a 1950s-style swimsuit could potentially maximize the glamour aspect of the pageant.

Japan wins first Miss International:  Japan has been hosting the Miss International beauty pageant since the early 1960s and has never won the crown - until 2012 when Ikumi Yoshimatsu (above) bagged the crown for her country. The pageant prides itself on having contestants who serve as “Ambassadors of Peace and Beauty.” According to the history of the competition, contestants are expected to “show tenderness, benevolence, friendship, beauty, intelligence, ability to take action, and a great international sensibility.” The goal of the international beauty pageant is to, “promote world peace, goodwill, and understanding.” Obviously, a predominantly Japanese panel of judges felt that Yoshimatsu would be perfect for this task!

The Honey Boo Boo Phenomenon:  Critics of child beauty pageants argue that pageants can be detrimental and destructive to the child's emotional, psychological, physical, and sexual development, specially if the  parent pushes her child to extremes. But we still have to meet a self-destructive grown-up beauty queen who had competed in kiddie pageants. Where is she? Or does she even exist? No matter what critics say, kiddie pageants are here to stay, thanks mostly to the popularity of  TLC's "Toddlers and Tiaras" that showcases the competitive world of child beauty pageants. The show is entering its 7th season, and now has spawned a spin-off called "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" featuring a former "Toddlers and Tiaras" 6-year-old participant Alana "Honey Boo Boo" Thompson. What makes the spin-off stand out is the colorful and amusingly eccentric relationship between Honey Boo Boo and her family, although her mother June sometimes steals the show, which is mostly filmed in and around the family's hometown in rural McIntyre, Georgia, United States.

     The series was one of TLC's highest-rated shows in its first season and has now attracted a huge following. The characters have also introduced fresh neologisms based on their "redneck" lifestyle. Call it Redneckipedia. Expressions like "beautimous" (extremely attractive), "biscuit" (vagina), "Elvis" (Santa Clause's helper), "Frito feet" (podiatric condition in which your feet smell like Frito-Lay corn chips), "Go-go juice" (June’s custom-made drink to help get Alana energized for pageants. Made up of Mountain Dew and Red Bull), "Kitchen sink" (place to wash your hair), "Old Man Glue" (denture cream), "Poodle" (gay man) and "ooo'd" (pooped). Who says that you have to go school to learn new vocabulary? 

Earthly Temptation:  A Russian newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda published an investigative report which claimed that “Krassa Rossii (Beauty of Russia)” and the “Miss Earth” crown can be bought if the price  is right. With the aid of hidden cameras, Russian journalists disguised as representatives of a Russian magnate had proposed to the organizers of both competitions - and according to the report - both pageants were keen on crowning a winner in exchange for money. The price – $ 4 million for the Miss Earth title. The website Missosology initially broke the scandal and you can read all the details and watch the video on this page. Lorraine Schuck, the Executive Vice President of Carousel Productions which runs the Miss Earth pageant, was caught on tape on the verge of accepting the bribe, but later vehemently denied any wrongdoing and accused the Russian newspaper of twisting the context of the meeting. 

     The scandal shocked many pageant fans and heavily damaged Miss Earth's reputation as an ethical and fair competition. Critical Beauty is highly disturbed by the scandal and reserves all judgment pending a full, thorough and just investigation of the event. Critical Beauty will still continue to support and promote Miss Earth (yes, we believe in giving everyone a second chance - unlike other pageant websites that are too quick to condemn the pageant based on one possibly misconstrued incident while disregarding the countless beneficial fruits of the 12-year-old pageant.)

Mabuhay, Philippines! With over a dozen successes in major and minor pageants, the Philippines clearly dominated the international pageant scene, even beating the combined successes of pageant powerhouses Venezuela, Mexico, India and Puerto Rico. Just look at the country's outstanding list of successes: Winner (Manhunt International, Miss International Queen, Miss Tourism International), 1st Runner-Up (Miss Universe, Miss Earth, Mr. World, Miss Teen Universe), 2nd Runner-Up (Miss Humanity International), 3rd Runner-Up (Miss Supranational), and Semifinalist (Miss World, Miss International, Miss Scuba International, Supermodel International, Miss Tourism Queen of the Year International, Miss Asia Pacific World). 

     Pageant websites can create their own ranking system based on arbitrary (and sometimes questionable) point system and designate the USA as country of the year, but no points or pretentious "Grandslam" or "Big 4" ranking can deny the fact that the Philippines outperformed any country in international pageantry in 2012 - thus making it the Country of the Year! 


By Rafa Delfin


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