Pageants, Jamaica 50 and farrin-mindedness

So I went to the Miss Universe Jamaica 2012 coronation on Saturday night. I don’t normally attend these kinds of events, because that’s not my kind of crowd, and I couldn’t care less about beauty queens, but one of my friends was in the running and I do care about supporting the people I’m friends with.

The Miss Universe Jamaica 2012 pageant kicked off to a late start, despite apologies and promises every fifteen minutes that the show would soon be under way. Eventually the meagre handful of patrons in attendance realized the promoters had been waiting on Miss Universe herself – Leila Lopes – to make an entrance and the event started some minutes to nine o’clock with a rather-nice-but-not-their-best dance from The Company Dance Theatre (big up Tony Wilson). And then came the swimwear section.

Now, I can understand why creepy old men would create pageants that force girls to parade around in skimpy bikinis and nothing else but heels and a smile, but I will never understand why the young ladies do it. It’s the ultimate objectification of their bodies. Never mind the emphasis on intellect the pageant creators try to place on the event, using tactics like the question and answer session to make it look like they’re really interested in their minds, as well. Not when you’ve got an award for best body (that didn’t even go to the right person, for heaven’s sake).

But I digress.

The arena never really filled with spectators and the crowd looked scanty for the entire night, not to mention being incredibly unenthusiastic. Dancehall bigshots like Left Side (aka Dr. Evil) and Chino (aka Yendi’s babyfather) had a hard time getting more than some tepid foot-tapping.

The evening gown section was next, which had the girls strutting their stuff in floor length creations by top notch local designers. I couldn’t for the life of me understand or appreciate Amanda Mitchell’s endless Z-snaps with the hem of her blue-green layered gown. Especially when she started to show panties. The only way I can excuse that sort of behaviour is if she was under the influence.

The announcement of the top ten eleven contestants followed evening gowns. That’s right: a top eleven. Why? Kosvogiannis claims that the judges planned it that way, but with a break in between announcing lucky names to deliberate even more it seems more like they called someone by accident and had to cover up. It’s also telling of the level of interest people have in this sort of thing that patrons began leaving when they realized their favourite wasn’t in the Top 11.

Questions and answers were your typical blend of hilarity and confusion. What was she thinking, prevailed more often than, She was spot on with that one. Danisha Scott in particular stood out for asking the judge to repeat the simplest questions, and then bumbling through them anyway.

In case you’re wondering why I’m singling these poor girls out, it’s to point out that they both made it into the top five, despite deserving to drop out. I’m not just saying this out of bitterness that the girl I supported didn’t even make it to Top 5 – because God knows I’m bitter – but that’s not the only point here.

Take a look at the Top 5 contestants:

Look at their hair type and skin colour. Yes, I’m calling you out, elephant in the room.

Why is it that when it comes to beauty pageants or anything “major” or international, we feel like the best we have to offer the world are light-skinned, straight hair, stick-thin beauties when the majority of Jamaican women are dark-skinned with kinky hair and at least a little overweight? Who then is she representing?

Why is it that for our 50th anniversary of independence as a nation built up out of many, we select a girl who has lived in the States for so many years she doesn’t even sound like a yardie any more? Who exactly is she speaking on behalf of?

Kosvogiannis said that Zaky embodied what the competition was about.

“We are marking new territory for Miss Universe in Jamaica. We have a wonderful queen and I know she will do very well. We look forward to raising the bar even more next year,”

Source: Gleaner article.

I’d say that’s just about right. If Zaky embodies what the competition is about, then I’m even more convinced that this whole thing was about maintaining the position of the straight-haired, light-skinned girl at the top of our socioeconomic pyramid.

Feel free to point out that Danisha’s a black girl, but (at the risk of sounding like a conspiracy theorist) she is the exception that proves the rule. She is the token black girl, offered to us as if to say ‘See, we’re not racist – there’s a black girl in the Top 5!’ She didn’t even make Top 3.

I have friends who are so mixed you can’t even tell they’re Jamaican until they open their mouths, so I love brownings just as much as Buju Banton, but I love the black girls too. And where a pageant is concerned – especially a pageant that professes to be all about the intellect – it shouldn’t matter how long whose hair is or how many times they entered the competition, what matters is how well they answer their questions. For me, Sherece Cowan should have won that night. The girl answered her questions so well mi grudge har fi do better than mi fren, and in my opinion they did her a deep disservice by placing her third.

Here in Jamaica, we are guilty of this foreign-minded mentality that has us thinking that anything black nuh good and foreign (usually the US) is the only place things of value can come from. Fifty years after Nanny and Sam Sharpe and Michael and Alexander fought for our independence, we are still in this rut of an ideology. It is a crying shame. If even now, fifty years after we claimed our independence from the ruling world powers, we are still shackled to their mainstream culture then when will we truly emancipate ourselves from this mental slavery?

If we continue this way then Buju caa stop cry fi all black ooman.


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