CHELSEA SALAC WRITES– On December 17 last year, Catriona Gray won the Title of Miss Universe 2018.
“It’s our Superbowl. The level of support that Filipinos give the arena of pageantry is phenomenal,” 25-year-old beauty queen Catriona Gray explains. The Philippines, a country that dominates International Beauty Pageants, has produced a variety of contestants who have won different titles: Miss Universe four times, Miss Earth four times, Miss International six times, and Miss World once.
Like viewers of widely anticipated episodes of the Bachelor series in America, viewers in the Phillipines ecstatically watch Miss Universe to root for Miss Philippines. Pageants have become an essential part of cultural pride. Parents influence their daughters to join beauty contests at a very young age because of the fame that comes with winning. Weeks before the airing of international beauty pageants, newspapers publish articles about candidates’ workout routines, their meal plans, etc.
Unfortunately, however, there is a downside to all this: International pageants promote Western beauty standards. Hence, Filipino winners have almost always been light skinned, had European facial features, and closely resembled white women. As Filipino contestants fall victim to Westernized beauty ideals, facial features inherent to the Philippines–flat noses and dark skin– are erased from international platforms.
While Catriona Gray is a mascot of national pride, she still looks like every other Filipina contestant who has won. In fact, the country has yet to sponsor an indigenous contestant. All four who have won Miss Universe thus far meet Eurocentric beauty standards— all four of them are mestizos (mixed Native and European ancestry). All four have small pointed noses, fairer skin, and voluminous straight hair.
So despite the fact that the Miss Universe pageant seemingly celebrates diversity, some may argue that, like other beauty pageants, its sets an unattainable, unfair Westernized beauty standard. Fr. Friar Stephanos Pedrano criticized the culture’s strong obsession with Westernized looks, tweeting: “These international beauty contests merely promote and perpetuate Caucasian features as the ‘gold standard’ of beauty.”
Filipinos deserve to celebrate their victories, but they must also recognize that not all Filipinas look like Catriona Gray. If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, they must also learn to see, and promote, the loveliness of indigenous beauty.