Annual contest attempts to modernise its approach to the typical beauty pageant. The beauty industry finally catches up to public concern over body dysmorphia.
Every year the prestigious ‘Miss Nottingham’ contest draws in a wide range of women that think they have what it takes to represent their city. Several rounds of testing, trials and interviews have left 20 girls still in with a chance to take the crown in Friday’s final.
The girls have been put through a series of tasks designed to examine their character, as opposed to solely concentrating on their beauty. Angie Beasley, the director of Miss England Limited told CBJ News Reports:
“We wanted to turn away from the original beauty pageant and stand out from the crowd. It’s important for us to have a chat with each girl to find out what they’re like. The finalists must show their creative side and source their own eco-dress.”
The young women were asked to reveal an interesting fact about themselves before undertaking a 10 minute interview with the pageants director in order to progress through to the final.
The controversial bikini round, a traditional staple of the beauty pageant, has recently been axed from the Miss World competition. Criticism from the Muslim community and campaigners similar to the “No More Page Three” group shrouded last year’s international event, raising concerns over the women dressed in scantily clad two-piece bikinis. Past beauty pageants have placed heavy emphasis on a woman’s appearance, however there is evidence to suggest this is changing.
The Miss Nottingham contest have followed Miss World, adding rounds that distance themselves from focusing solely on a womans body. The ‘sportswoman’ round aims to find the fittest girl in the competition, while an ‘eco-round’ asks contestants to source an outfit made from recycled materials. The diverse mixture of challenges are aimed at finding the most ‘well rounded’ individual, not just the most beautiful.
The emphasis on the women’s outward appearance can have damaging affects to the self-imposed pressure to look a certain way. Studies show that British women want to be thinner than they actually are. Part of a 1993 study had a spectrum from very thin to very fat female figures and asked over two hundred women what figure they thought they looked like and what figure they wanted to look like. One of the conclusions drawn was that normal-weight young British women tend to feel fat and wanted to lose weight.
Andrew Dunn, an experimental psychologist with an interest in the effects of perceptual signals (e.g. face, voice, body shape/size) on perceived attractiveness explained in an interview to CBJ News Reports what happens when people are exposed to unrealistic human bodies. Women competing in such contests may end up with negative self perception issues as they aspire to be a “perfect” image when there is no such thing. But he believes that it isn’t just about the information out there but how we take it in as individuals. Andrew goes on to explain;
Some people are just built to be more compliant than others or more wanting to be accepted fit in than others. But certainly the environment you’re in and the exposure to that influence you.
Past experiences and basic biological built-in biases will account for different people’s reaction to such information. But with the industry slowly making improvements to see a woman for more than her appearance, perhaps in the future beauty pageants will be hardly recognisable to their past format.
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