By Nomalanga Mhlauli-Moses
I just watched the Miss World 2013 finale where Miss Philippines claimed the crown. Miss France was second and Miss Ghana was third.
While I am not disgruntled that Miss Philippines won the title, I believe that Miss Ghana could have taken the crown home but I believe that the judging panel was extremely slanted in the favor of Miss Philippines.
Can you imagine how the pageant would have ended if it had been in an African country and four of the 8 or 9 judges had been from Africa? While I am not suggesting that there was any misappropriation in the judging of the contestants, I think it is worth considering that had there been a different venue and a different set of judges, the winner could have been different and it could have been Miss Ghana.
The Miss World 2013 pageant was held in Indonesia and at least three of the judges were from Indonesia, while the rest came from anywhere else in the world but Africa. Also, there was not a single judge who was Black. The odds were against Miss Ghana and I applaud her for still shining and representing her country with grace and dignity.
So, where do we go from here? Well, it is my personal opinion that there should, first of all, be a pageant that is created by Africans and uses the many beautiful African countries on the continent as their venue. Miss Universe originates in the Americas (USA). Miss World Originates in Europe (UK) and Miss Earth originates in Asia (Philippines).
In Africa, there has yet to emerge a pageant that celebrates our many beautiful cultures and defines beauty in broad enough terms that being dark or darker skinned, having a curvy and shapely (not overweight) body and so called “African features” is not automatically a reason to believe you will not win the title.
Having lived in the US my entire adult life, I have been able to see what can happen to the self esteem and self worth of young women when they are constantly bombarded with messages that tell them that the darker they are and the more “black” they look, the uglier they are. Growing up in Botswana, it was not entirely different; there still existed a school of thought that being more like a “lekgowa” (a white person, specifically English since Botswana was a British protectorate until independence in 1966), made you more beautiful. That is a lie and simply saying that beauty comes in all shapes, sizes and colors is not enough. It must be reflected in judging panels and it must be reflected in the winners of pageants around the world.
Racism and colonialism are a thread that is always woven into every pageant and the saddest part of it, to me, is that many Africans and other Black people around the world either don’t see it or are so affected by it that they cannot and do not challenge it.
Pageants are about more than what a woman looks like but it has been said that beauty opens the door. How the women look is a factor that cannot be denied and we cannot continue to sit back while beauty is defined in ways that suggest that being from Europe (or anywhere BUT Africa) is somehow “better” than being from Africa. In doing so, we automatically close the door to the many opportunities that could be available to the many women that live in Africa or are from Africa.
Wake up, Africa! Wake up, Black people! Miss Ghana could have been Miss World and until we start to get honest about how we have allowed the way beauty is celebrated to be biased, we will continue to settle for second and third place or not placing at all.
Nomalanga helps Black women thrive in their lives and careers. She is a Social Commentator, an Editor at Your Black World , a former College Professor and Mrs Botswana. Visit Nomalanga’s Facebook page or Follow her on Twitter