Truth at a Beauty Pageant

A LIGHT FOR ANGOLA: Leila Lopes, Miss Angola 2011, was crowned Miss Universe on September 12. She is the first Angolan to win the honor. (Darren Decker/Newscom Photo)

Newly crowned Miss Universe Leila Lopes isn’t your average beauty queen. Lopes “wants to help her native Angola further escape a history of war and impoverishment and said she plans to focus on combating HIV around the globe,” Associated Press reported.

Her win raises the question: Can beauty pageants be redemptive? 

Opportunity to Highlight Angola’s Troubles

The Washington Post outlined Angola’s troubled history in light of Lopes’ win. That history includes a 27-year civil war, during which 300,000-500,000 people died. As of 2009, 38 percent of Angolans lived in poverty. The life expectancy for both men and women in this country of south-central Africa  is 50-53 years, and 2 percent of the population suffers from HIV or AIDS, the article said.

Reminder That Beauty Comes from Within

Lopes is a business management student in Great Britain. When questoned about what physical traits she would change if she could, Lopes said she was satisfied with the way God created her and wouldn’t change a thing. “I consider myself a woman endowed with inner beauty. I have acquired many wonderful principles from my family and I intend to follow these for the rest of my life,” she said.

Jude and broadcast journalist Connie Chung echoed these sentiments, telling Associated Press, “You have to keep in mind that these women are not objects just to be looked at. They’re to be taken seriously. I want to choose somebody I take seriously and the world takes seriously, too.”

Confronting Racism

Not everyone was so generous though. At The Huffington Post Lili Gil reported that seven-of-16 semifinalists were Latinas and their fans took to Twitter to complain that some of these women didn’t emerge as finalists.

Asked about being one of the few blacks ever crowned Miss Universe, Lopes said “any racist needs to seek help” and “it’s not normal in the 21st century to think in that way.”

At The Root, Jenée Desmond-Harris offered this fitting conclusion, “Remember Satoshi Kanazawa, the professor [and former Psychology Today blogger] who distorted facts to make a “scientific” claim that black women were less attractive? We’d love it if the new Miss Universe could have a word with him at some point during her reign.”

What do you think? Are beauty pageants ever appropriate for Christians or does Lopes make us think harder about their value?