Miss USA 2015 Pageant Had Some Good, Some Bad, And Mostly Terrible Body Positivity Moments
Body positivity might not be the first thing on your mind when it comes to pageants, and maybe particularly not with this year's big pageant. A lot of the Miss USA 2015 contestants look the same, or at least really similar, showing that the pageant's reputation for enforcing really narrow beauty standards has more than a bit of truth to it. However, beauty pageants and body positivity can go hand-in-hand — albeit, in some unconventional ways — but this year's pageant actually didn't prove that to be true. When it came to body positivity at the 2015 Miss USA competition, it was kind of a trainwreck.
My first impression was that I was definitely stunned, in a good way, by how racially diverse the lineup and judging panel were. When it came to showing images of women from diverse backgrounds and cultures, the pageant succeeded. With the dark cloudy controversy of Donald Trump's xenophobic remarks hanging over the evening, this was a weirdly refreshing occurrence — it was off to an OK start. I didn't expect the pageant to be a beacon of body positivity or for organizers to suddenly replace half of the contestants with women who looked totally different, but I expected something that was at least decent. Just acceptable, even.
Instead, my optimism was rewarded by the Miss USA pageant laughing manically while running it over and then setting it on fire.
Here were the night's worst moments for body positivity:
1. The Constant Reminders That Being A Woman In A Swimsuit HAS To Be Terrifying
Seriously, the pageant hadn't even started when the hosts were sure to make quips about how the "daring" and "terrifying" swimsuit competition was happening at some point. Reminding women that their bodies are being judged and they should be afraid instead of confident seemed redundant and unnecessary. The implication that these women had something to be ashamed of really ground my body pos gears.
2. Featuring A "Lightening Cream" As Pageant Prep Product
When introducing Miss USA 2014, Nia Sanchez, the pageant did it with a cute little promo of her getting ready with products from the sponsors. I get it: They stuck with you when Miss USA sponsors and partners dropped the pageant and you want to make sure they get their money's worth.
My jaw dropped, however, when they showed the reigning queen's regimen included lightening cream. While I understand that some women of color will choose to use lightening products because of shadeism and colorism, using a Latina woman to sell your sponsor's lightening cream is in beyond terrible taste.
3. When A Judge Claimed The Contestants Represented All Women
Miss USA from 2011, Kimberly Pressler, stated that being Miss USA was representative of the modern woman and meant being a "role model for all ages, all shapes, all sizes, and all races." UHH, NO. One woman, who generally embodies most of the dominant culture's ideals of beauty, does not represent all women. Women are not a monolith and a thin, white, able-bodied, conventionally attractive woman does not need to be the face of everyone, OK?
4. When The Backstage Correspondent Asked Cymphonique Miller If She Thought She Could "Hang" With The Contestants
Master P and his daughter Cymphonique were backstage at the awards promoting their new show on Reelz when host Julie Alexandria asked Cymphonique if she thought she could "hang" with the contestants and, basically, if she thought she was Miss USA material.
This put the poor young woman on the spot and had her stammering and saying "maybe." There was no right way to answer this question, we know this: She would have been berated and "brought down to reality" if she said yes and she was basically being forced into saying "oh no, not silly old me," which paints her as not being confident. Just say someone looks great and move on.
5. When They Interviewed The Contestants About Their Favorite "Indulgences" In Their Swimsuits
After all the emphasis on how terrifying it is to show your hideous woman body to the nation, Julie Alexandria asked the women coming off stage what their favorite food indulgences were. You know, because now the bikini competition was over.
Hmmm. I didn't realize eating things that I liked counted as an indulgence. The fact that we've accepted and act like it's totally normal to just deprive ourselves of pleasure and balance in order to temporarily achieve an unrealistic standard of beauty weirds me out. I was double incredulous at Alexandria's shock that Miss Hawaii could eat a whole pint of ice cream.
Women eat food, get over it.
Images: Getty; Reelz; Giphy; Courtesy Image Skincare