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.”
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.”
I personally think pageants are demeaning to women, Christian or not. Parading around in a swimsuit–for what? Beauty and looks are a part of the competition and I think that’s shallow. Connie Chung says she wants to pick someone she can take seriously. Well how about eliminating the swimsuit portion and just have young women showcase their talent and answer questions?
Hopefully, this young woman can make a difference. I won’t begrudge her that, but I just wish we could get rid of pageants.
We are thrilled about Angola’s victory. Beauty must be fully represented by women of all walks of life, backgrounds and this title does provide a great opportunity for a country with needs around healthcare, education and many more; to get the attention it deserves.
Beauty pageants tend to get misunderstood as “beauty only” but people do miss out on the fact that these young women carry an ambassador role that could drive great change and positive impact in thousands of people around the world!
So my story was simply intended to share the surprise of many Latinos in social media who were shocked after seeing their favorites out of the top 5, but was never intended to diminish that the stunning beauty of Angola was well deserving of the crown.
Thanks for weighing in Ms. Gil. I understood that from your article and apologize if my summary she a different light on it. That was not my intention. Sometimes brevity is the enemy of clarity. We’re just highlighting perspectives.