Before I launch into the review of Miss World 2016, I would like to begin by offering you, the reader, some things to think about. In particular, about the concepts of beauty and justice. I am presenting two videos from Crash Course Philosophy (spearheaded by the Vlogbrothers John*1 and Hank Green, and this course is hosted by the latter brother) that provides a lot of insights about these concepts that I hope you, the reader, would take time to listen and then pause and reflect.
*1 John Green is best known as the author of the young adult novel The Fault in Our Stars which was made into a hit movie. Anyway I encourage you to subscribe to both vlogbrothers and Crash Course on YouTube as they both educate and enrich your mind.
Now, another point to ponder when we look through history and culture, arguably the earliest beauty contest that was recorded in antiquity (albeit in a myth) was the Judgment of Paris.*2 The interesting thing about this contest is that Paris’s decision ultimately was not based on his opinion on the beauty of the three goddesses (Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite) competing to get the golden apple with the inscription “For the Fairest One”, but from the rewards these goddesses offered. Hera offered to make him king of Europe and Asia, Athena offered him wisdom and skill in war, and Aphrodite offered him the most beautiful mortal woman in the world, Helen of Sparta. Paris chose Aphrodite as the winner, but the prize came with a snag–Helen was married to King Menelaus so as most versions told it, Paris abducted/seduced Helen and brought her to his city-state, Troy, and the Greeks triggered the Trojan War to get Helen back. Helen was heretofore better known as Helen of Troy.
*2 The dispute arise as the chief god Zeus held a party to celebrate the wedding of Achilles’ parents Peleus and Thetis and didn’t invite the goddess of discord, Eris. Eris crashed the party by throwing a golden apple with the inscription “For the Fairest”, and ultimately it came down to three goddess to dispute for the honor. They first wanted Zeus to be the judge but he’s reluctant to make such a call, so he decided that the Trojan prince Paris be the judge as he had previously displayed exemplary fairness in judging a contest between the god of war Ares who took the form of a bull and Paris’s own personal prized bull–Paris ruled in favor of the god Ares.
In modern history we do witness pageants with questionable decisions and some of these may be a product of influence peddling. Take the case of Miss World 1970. It was reported that four of the nine judges actually voted for Sweden (Maj Johansson) as their winner, and only two for the eventual winner Grenada (Jennifer Hosten). But based on the majority vote system that Miss World creator Eric Morley put in place, because Sweden didn’t get the absolute majority (at least five), the crown was not granted to her, so they had to go to votes for Top Five placements. It so happened that Grenada had a lot of votes placing her 2nd, 3rd, 4th or 5th that she garnered enough points to win. Sweden apparently didn’t get that much Top Five placements that she eventually was overtaken by Africa South (Pearl Jansen)*3 and Israel (Irith Lavi) and she fell to 3rd runner-up. Now it also should be noted that the Prime Minister of Grenada Sir Eric Gairy was in the panel of judges so even if Eric Morley provided proof that the pageant was not rigged by displaying the ballots of the judges, many would still argue that the presence of this official made the other judges grant token placements for Grenada. For more about the Majority Vote System and the 1970 pageant, you can find articles that Pageantopolis webmaster Donald West for the defunct Geocities Beauty School website archived.
*3 From 1970-76, there were two representatives from South Africa–one white representing South Africa and one black designated with the sash “Africa South”.
Another edition that featured a controversial decision that may have an element of influence-peddling was Miss World 2012. This pageant was held in Ordos, Inner Mongolia, China. First there was the controversy of the Leaderboard–observant pageant fans may notice the final Top 15 leaderboard featured scores that do not seem to be sorted in proper order, with some high scores shown to be ranked low. For this aspect, after several months eventually Miss World issued a statement explaining the rankings are correct but the scores were not properly updated due to a production error.
Another controversy related to this pageant was that the Top Two scorers on the Leaderboard, India (Vanya Mishra) and Mexico (Mariana Berumen) were then marked down, with the latter ousted of the Top Seven finalists in favor of Brazil (Mariana Notarangelo) and the former suddenly relegated to the bottom of the Top Seven when the rankings were disclosed. It was said that the two front-runners were ousted to pave the way for the victory of the host country China (Wenxia Yu), allegedly as a favor to the Chinese organizers and sponsors. But I have to note that it could be argued that China has merits to be worthy of the crown, and she was one of the big favorites to win in the first place, anyway. But the way the evening unfolded made it open for speculation of sponsor/host committee peddling and detracted from what could’ve been otherwise an acceptable result.
Lest we say that only Miss World is guilty of these incidents, I would like to point out that the other Big Two pageant, Miss Universe, also has incidents that make you go “hmmm…” Case in point: Miss Universe 2012. First, ever since now President-Elect Donald Trump reportedly threw a hissy fit when back in 2004 Ukraine’s Oleksandra Nikolayenko*4 failed to make the final cut, they implemented a system that allowed Trump and the Miss Universe Organization to select five or six of the Top 15, and over the years, instead of fulfilling its intentions of ensuring the best looking ladies are featured, we were saddled with quite a significant amount of dubious choices–some can be attributed to Trump’s preference for almost anything Eastern European, and others to serve his business interests or to curry some favors. This particular edition was no exception with the inclusion of Turkey (Cagil Őzge Őzkul) and India (Shilpa Singh).
*4 She competed in Miss World three years earlier and was a Top Ten semifinalist there.
Then came the choice of winner. Going into the finals, many pageant fans and pundits were betting on South Africa (Melinda Bam) to win it all, but despite a flawless performance, she was cut out after the Top Ten. As I speculated in my review of that pageant, the probable issue for her ouster was that she was deemed “too perfect”. After the swimsuit, evening gown, and interview, everything seems to point towards a victory for the Philippines (Janine Tugonon). However, there is a factor that swayed the judges to not evaluate on merit but on patriotic sentiments–a few days before the Sandy Hook massacre occurred with 20 innocent children and 6 heroic teachers and school administrators murdered, and the producers wanted to ensure this pageant would serve as an uplifting beacon after that dark incident. So even if arguably Janine totally outclassed her in evening gown and interview, the crown still went on the head of USA (Olivia Culpo).
COMING UP: THE MISS WORLD 2012 PAGEANT REVIEW PROPER