Indian beauty pageants have very specific standards and they mostly don’t endorse how women are diversely beautiful. If you take a cross-section of all beauty pageants in our country, you will find it littered with repetitiveness. Most people like me would not be able to tell one contestant apart from another. They all look like clones of a prototype beauty contestant manufactured in a cosmetic lab.
At most, there would be difference of (gasp) two tones of skin colour. They all have a perfect smile. A perfect poise to go with that perfect figure. They all have straightened out glossy hair, and their conduct is as manicured as their nails. As author Madhuri Banerjee pointed out in a recent tweet, what happened to the wide variety of Indian beauty?
You're trying to tell me they're not the same woman? I thought this was some Indian version of #OrphanBlack– identical ppl. What happened to wide variety of Indian beauty – curly hair, dark skin, different body shapes, I can go on abt Indian beauty. This ain't it! #Diva #bemore pic.twitter.com/uRJtR0Xiqb
— Madhuri Banerjee (@Madhuribanerjee) August 27, 2018
Standardisation of beauty killed diversity in pageants
As vast as India is across its length and breadth, it is diverse too. The diversity in topography, culture, food and genetics reflects in our physical features, and eventually in our looks. Be it complexion, or hair texture, or body shape and even built, Indian women are diversely beautiful.
The definition of beauty changes with this diversity. Which is why this white washing of Indian beauty in pageants is so annoying
- If you take a cross-section of all beauty pageants across the in our country, you will find it littered with repetitiveness.
- We cannot restrict the beauty of Indian women to the meagre standards by which beauty pageants abide.
- How can a bunch of young women with nearly identical features, represent 586 million Indian women, all diverse, all beautiful? But this is exactly what is happening.
We cannot restrict the beauty of Indian women to the meagre standards by which beauty pageants abide. It is just too limiting to be appreciative of a certain physique or complexion or hair texture. What hurts more is that when these pageants select a handful of contestants. These finalists only reflect a certain type of beauty, it ends up a very wrong message.
It seems to tell other women and young girls that if you do not have a specific skin tone or hair texture, then you are not beautiful. If your body type finds no representation in our contest, then we do not consider it to be beautiful. How can a bunch of young women with nearly identical features, represent 586 million Indian women, all diverse, all beautiful? But this is exactly what is happening.
As beauty standards across the world are changing today, we expect the same to happen in India
Gone are the days when you could restrict beauty to a set definition. Modern Indian women and men are too enlightened to let it pass. So if beauty contests, which are fast losing relevance today, want to engage us, then they have to adapt to our changed sensibilities. This means not just changing your definition of beauty, but diversifying it too. We need women with individual identities and conflicting features to represent us. When we see pageant finalists, we want to see different women with distinct features, and copy pasted versions of a set of features, which are boring and one-dimensional.
Many beauty pageants have argued that such contests are not just about physical beauty, but personality and intellect as well. Perhaps it is time to prove their words. Give us contestants who are us. We are everything, but not similar.
Image Credit: Autumn Goodman, Unsplash
Also Read: Must We Burden Little Girls With Our Beauty Standards?
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are author’s own.