- Competitions a celebration of women and their right for non-conformity
- Not all about beauty, but the traits pageants provide women
- Platform for women to speak up and raise issues
Beauty pageants have been around for decades, and have been the centre of heated debates among women – feminists and non-feminists alike – for just as long.
Supporters of pageantry see these competitions as a celebration of women and, in many ways, as a bold refusal to conform to certain cultural and religious norms.
For some, it’s an opportunity to get people to finally listen to issues we conveniently put on the back burner.
“It gives a platform for women to speak up and raise awareness on certain issues,” says Mrs Malaysia Asia International pageant owner, Datuk Simon Lim.
“Our overarching goal is to empower women to be whatever they want to be, and the pageant serves to show that married women are still just as confident, desirable and charitable as they were when they were unmarried. Perhaps even more so now.”
Lim adds that it is a chance to show that even though they are beautiful, they can still be empowered and still be intelligent and use their voices to reach the masses to inspire.
And in that sense, he isn’t wrong.
Former Miss Universe Malaysia, Deborah Henry, used her success in beauty pageants to establish the Fugee School, which she co-founded five years ago for child refugees that end up in Malaysia.
She firmly believes that philanthropy can significantly boost the global development agenda, especially now that traditional donors can’t give as much as they would want to.
Many believe that it’s unfair to oversimplify the competition as an event that prioritise beauty and overlooks the intelligence, accomplishments, and competence of its candidates.
A woman’s physical appearance coupled with her decision to actually enter a pageant should not make her less of an icon, because what’s so wrong about being empowered by beauty?
According to Lim, beauty does not end after marriage, nor does confidence, generosity, and health.
He believes critics too easily dismiss such pageants, adding that contestants are judged not by their physical appearance but by how they fulfil criteria that focus on inner beauty.
Lim’s wife, Datin Tracy Luo, who happens to be the pageant’s spokesperson, was the first-runner up at the Mrs Malaysia 2015.
Her journey and experience encouraged Lim to take reigns of the pageant as he saw the goodness it brought to its contestants.
“The beauty pageant is all about perception. Those who have fear will create cons in this industry, but those who look at things positively, will see all the wonderful traits that the pageant is providing for women. The platform is always right, but it’s the people who use the platform who create the good and bad,” says Lim.
“The pageant made my wife realise what having a good support system really meant. This experience opened her eyes and she came out a more resilient human being, capable of giving more than she ever imagined.”
Beauty queens put in a lot of work. Pageant coaches and camps train these women to be excellent public speakers.
They develop skills that help them work under pressure, ace interviews, give charismatic speeches – all while smiling through pain, hunger, sleep deprivation and anxiety.
Amber Chia who rose from a small town girl to a cosmopolitan supermodel, through hard work, determination, and self belief is proof that such skills is much needed in pageantry, which is why she is coaching the participants of the upcoming Mrs Malaysia Asia International.
A Mrs and mom herself, she will be judging the competition as well.
“We are looking at the overall presentation of the contestant, not only the looks but most importantly her confidence and inner beauty,” says Chia.
“When I say inner beauty I mean the personality. It has to shine. As a Mrs you have to include your family, your journey as a mother, and how you are able to empower other women — even with all the responsibilities you are able to look and feel beautiful, presenting yourself well in public.”
For details of the pageant, visit www.facebook.com/MrsMalaysiaAsiaInternational/.