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Ngoc Pham

November and December are big months for beauty pageants. There are around 10, inside and outside Vietnam, that attract a crowd of domestic candidates. These include Miss Ocean Vietnam 2017 and Miss Jewelry Vietnam. The pageant that was the most sizable and received the greatest attention in the Vietnamese community was Miss Universe 2017 at the end of November.

After the Miss Universe competition  was held in Vietnam in 2008, the country emerged as one of the greatest beauty arenas of the world, hosting Miss World, Miss Universe, Miss International, Miss Supranational and Miss Grand. Recent years have also seen a growth in fame seekers competing in pageants held overseas in Vietnamese expat communities.

No wonder Vietnamese people joke “Please hail a new day that comes along with a new crowned beauty queen.” A boom in so many beauty pageants for Vietnamese females has diluted the press and confused followers in their assessment of the winners.

How the beauty model has changed

Every standard changes over time and beauty is no exception. Previously, women who had a good looking face, graceful smile, superficial tenderness and simplicity were the biggest nominees for beauty titles. Nowadays, women who have regular faces and charm, but a sultry body and “golden” physical measurements are favored. Modern beauty pageants focus on criteria to align with international standards. Height is a commanding factor, and candidates compete among a narrow circle of fairly tall girls.

To suit this criterion, beauties who boast physical advantages are preferred. As a result, many winners have to run the gauntlet of public criticism over their perceived lack of facial charm. Many are asked why they were chosen and what they excel at to be so highly applauded.

Those who go in for remorseless beauty competitions overseas have to face this challenge and even domestic judges have to sometimes set aside predominant unwritten rules of beauty in their home country.

What shapes a winner in modern beauty pageants?

Usually winners embody an undeniable beauty. They are supposed to win the hearts of a majority of onlookers with their exceptional looks. Superficial beauty is of extreme importance. One can’t choose a winner who wins in inner beauty and intellectual contests and loses in the looks department since that may trigger public outcry.

The much coveted crown seems to still be devoted to the original mission of beauty pageants in Vietnam in the 1950s. The crown is meant to go to the fairest. However, audiences have grown more demanding and put candidates under greater scrutiny. Competitors are now supposed to perfect themselves relentlessly and realize that a modern woman needs more than a beautiful face.

Although beauty pageants now include activities that honor the kindness or virtues of competitors, these values can be tarnished if controversies arise. Indiscriminate cloning of beauty pageants has lead to the quality of all beauty pageants in Vietnam being scrutinized and criticized over scandals of both candidates and winners. Seizing the title means heavy responsibilities for the winner. But, not every winner is able to keep a tight grip on their new role and obligations.