Crowning “Miss Takes”

By Arlyn May Bongay | Last Updated May 3, 2012

The Miss Universe Organization has turned heads with the recent addition of a transgender to the pageant. Online discussions argue whether or not Jenna Talackova should be allowed. But this debate delves into a different aspect in the pageantry. Is it a change in the competition or another scandal?

Arlyn May Bongay

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A cartoon image of a transgender contestant in a Q and A portion - two hosts is asking, what is the essence of being a woman?

Change. The word itself is disconcerting enough let alone when it slaps you in the face. This hot issue on the MUO (Miss Universe Organization) embracing the surgically enhanced third sex is nothing more than change – an evolution of pageantry. Or is it?

Is it change or another scandal?

ON CHANGES. Now in its 60th year in the business of beauty pageants, the competition has had its share of changes as much as scandals. It started in 1951 when Pacific Mills withdrew from the Miss America competition as a major sponsor when Yolande Betbeze, the year’s titlist, declined to pose for the company’s Catalina swimwear. No longer sponsoring for the previous franchise, the clothing company created the Miss USA and Miss Universe Pageants. From there, it has gone to Kayser­ Roth, to Gulf and Western Industries, and finally into the hands of Donald Trump in 1996.

If you look at its long history, it’s obvious that a change could be due anytime. The pageant format itself has had many alterations since it moved from company to company. Like the “Question and Answer Portion” for example, it wasn’t until 1960 that it was initially introduced as a feature in the contest. In fact before 1990, when it was decided to be a permanent part of the competition, there were years without it. There have also been several versions of the number of semi­finalist. Sometimes it was Top 10, sometimes Top 15, and just like last year, a Top 16 was added. She was chosen based on votes made online, a type of judging set by the popular talent contests.

 

Looking back, the changes are just results of the instinctive calling to go with the hype. With the advent of advance cosmetic surgeries, we are merely at the mercy of another trend, proven by the initiation of a transgender in the competition. Irony aside, the future may just have us worrying about aliens joining the competition, too. Hey! It won’t be called Miss “Universe” for nothing.

ON SCANDALS. As we choose it, we can call this issue a scandal, where one transgender is singled out from even more cisgenders. (Cisgender is a term for a gender classification where the behavior, feelings and appearance are apropos to the physical gender.) This would not be the first time for Miss Universe to bear the spotlight of gossip.

  • Like last year’s winner Miss Angola, Leila Lopes stirred the news industry just days after she won the 2011 Miss Universe title. Allegedly, she submitted false documents, which didn’t only qualify her for the contest but helped her win it as well. Still, she is the reigning queen.
  • Miss USA 2010, Rima Fakih’s pole ­dancing photos surfaced before she was sent to represent Miss Universe that year. But even with the investigations, she retained the crown and represented USA in the Las Vegas, Nevada venue.
  • Like Canada’s representative for Miss Universe this year, Jenna Talackova, 2011 delegate from Venezuela, Vanessa Goncalves has enjoyed a few nips­and­tucks. She claimed to have had her boobs fixed only but was later discovered that she had her nose done, too. And yet, she stayed in the competition and placed in the top 16 though she lied about a thing or two on her surgery.
An image of a woman representing the cisgender of beauty pageants, shadowed by an image of a man representing the transgendered.

Heshe

So why were they still allowed in the competition despite the flaws and all? A little more inspection will tell us how this is more than a scandal. It is a scheme, another marketing strategy. As with the bad publicity the contestants and winners have been flashing, Miss Universe gains even more audience than the swimwear­thirsty male spectators. That’s how soap opera producers think; Any long­running show will die if you don’t toss in a little dirty linen once in a while. Considering how Donald Trump made his empire, he could just be playing all of us in the palm of his hands.

Miss-Understood

Miss-Understood

The Positive POV

In Donald J. Trump’s money, the MUO has run the Miss Universe, Miss USA and Miss Teen USA with NBC Universal. All three of which are created to actively reach out to media. Apart from their forefront, they are successful campaigns to propagate awareness on several of the society’s present cancers. It has shown protagonism against breast and ovarian cancers, importantly HIV/AIDS.  If you look at it from an advocate’s eyes, you will see how Miss Jenna Talackova might just be useful to the crusade. She could be the perfect spokesperson for HIV/AIDS coming from the gender community where it is widely prevalent. Who knows, with all the attention she is getting, she might just take home this year’s crown and become a worthwhile ambassadress of the MUO projects?

The Public Speaks

Be it a revolution in the arena of competitions or Trump’s marketing schemes, the question remains. Should a transgender be allowed in the Miss Universe pageant?

I went ahead to ask a couple of friends around the world who said:

NO. Apples will be apples even if they were made to look like oranges. What is for women will be for women and not those wanting to be women. The pageant can then be called Miss Misuniverse. It’s the perfect example of the old adage, ‘If you can’t beat them, join them!’ They just couldn’t take the beating anymore. When in doubt, look for more X’s and don’t ask Y. I hope they can make a pocket XY testing kit… FAST! — Joey Dee, Writer

YES. The only constant in the world is change, if MUO decided that transgenders are welcome in their pageant, be it! The society changes so should the rules. Transgenders are also human beings, they can be also part of one of the most prestigious pageant by sharing their intelligence and courage where they can take part in a major impact that can change the world. I am just so happy that transgenders are more recognized now and i hope to see transgenders as sales ladies, flight attendants or even a president in the near future… — Poi Subijano, Designer

NO. …how will they (transgendered) answer the question ‘What is the essence of being a woman?’ if by nature they’re not? We all respect each other and we know many transvestites give contributions to our economy, we’re not insulting them by prohibiting them fromjoining this event, we are just setting our limitations and respecting our differences and edges. — Sarah Bulawan, Model

YES. There was a time that an openly lesbian contestant joined. Now with almost a hundred contestants, who could tell if one of them is lesbian or not? Lesbianism is a sexual preference classified under homosexuality. It is a deviation of what is an antiquely accepted societal norm inasmuch as transsexuality. Meaning, we had it coming. Nothing is as “normal” as we hoped to control it. Taking a transsexual in is just another wave of change; we might as well take on the surf. — Megan Newel, Surfer, Lesbian

NO. …Miss Universe is also a medium to admire and empower women. If we allow Transexuals and Transvestites to compete along with women, time will come that every country will send a “gay” contestant. If that happens, Miss Universe will be dominated by gays­ Defeating the purpose. I don’t discriminate my kind though. — Yu Mer Uy, Student

YES. …gay people are getting recognized or slowly getting accepted by the society and that the definition of beauty now goes beyond appearance or is now more skin deep. — Majal Sarmiento, Educator

If you ask me… I am completely neutral about it. I take no sides on the debates of yes or no to Jenna and change versus scandal. But this doesn’t mean that I don’t care for what the world is turning into. I am quite sensitive with the changes that are happening in countries around the globe. Of course, the Miss Universe issue is merely a passing entertainment that hopes to divert our attention from global climate disruption, poverty, corruption and the “Mayan Apocalypse”. On the brighter side, it may just be the sort of distraction we need from daily ho­hum. What do you think?




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