A celebration of health and aesthetics – that is what most people tend to associate with beauty pageants. Without a doubt, the contestants that take the stage deserve to be commended for the sheer amount of effort it takes for them to get show-ready. Relentless dedication to training and nutrition are all but the basics when it comes to the pursuit of this craft. Yet despite its noble aspirations, the world of pageantry has had to deal with the very same demons that plague other pageantries.
Every form of competition has its fair share of seediness. Stories of unethical acts, from both judges and contestants alike, bear testament to just how strong an emotion like desire can be. “Winning no matter the cost” is mantra that is anything but unfamiliar to those who compete. While this can be a source of strength in times of doubt, it is not seldom that pageant contestants end up finding this weapon being used against them.
Beauty pageants are almost never born of the efforts of one single entity. Multiple organisers are known to collaborate, often with the intention of furthering their own agendas. The more unsavoury of organisers have been known to request for a significant amount of investment, monetary or otherwise, which in turn influences the judges’ final opinion. Such unethical dealings may be uncommon, but they occur often enough to tarnish the reputation of the industry.
Dana Soprah is the Director of Miss Bikini Universe Singapore and happens to be a former beauty pageant contestant herself. Her unique experiences have put her in a position where she finds herself able to challenge the institution that is pageantry.
“I believe the industry should be self-governed. One way we could do this is by having the pageant organisers come together as a team to create a watchdog organisation and disband any pageant that allows unethical winnings.”
Such aspirations however, noble as they are, are much easier said than done. Homogeneity is often met with resistance, and having the various organisations adopt a singular mindset and commit towards a common goal may prove to be the largest obstacle in the way of progress.
Proving that she’s more than willing to walk the talk, this year’s Miss Bikini Universe Singapore will feature an entry cost of zero thanks to Dana’s influence as Director. She hopes that this will be the first of many steps towards reshaping the practice for the better.
Going another step further, Dana would also like to address the perception most members of the public have towards pageants, which often sits on the more superficial side of things.
“Contestants undergo quite vigorous training – usually in etiquette or fitness or sometimes both, depending on the pageant they have signed up for. They must demonstrate that beyond their looks, they have what it takes to represent their title for that country,” she says. “The training not only prepares them for the final judging, but also teaches many valuable life skills and lessons.”
As beauty pageants become more common and popular, the uptake in fresh talent has not gone unnoticed. However, it is important to note that not all pageants are created equal. For newcomers, doing their due diligence in background research is imperative when it comes to protecting themselves. It is also important to consider the opportunities that will come with this endeavour and whether you’re in the position to make the best of them. Dana’s advice? “Speak to the previous year’s contestants and ask them as many questions as you can. Only then will you get first-hand insight into how that competition is being run.”