The top 10 weirdest beauty pageants
Earlier this month the global community was outraged by Israel’s inaugural Miss Holocaust Survivor pageant. The competition invited 14 women who were persecuted in the Second World War onstage to share their harrowing stories of survival in Nazi ghettos and concentration camps, as well as discuss their later contributions of the wider community. Though physical appearance counted “maybe 10 per cent” to the winning criteria, it was still a decisive factor in winning the title, and caused critics to say the pageant was steps away from “Survivor-Holocaust” or “Big Brother Auschwitz”. And, while the women competing were all consenting and seemed to have a wonderful time competing, there is something undeniably macabre about the whole scenario.
Though Miss Holocaust Survivor is certainly an anomaly, you just have to scratch the Internet’s surface to learn that strange beauty pageants are not. Look, we know beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, but competitions that pit amputees and women inmates against each other make Toddlers and Tiaras look like an episode of Dora the Explorer.
10. Miss Atom
Though it sounds like a Marvel comics character, Miss Atom is Russia’s answer to making women feel more accepted and appreciated in the country’s nuclear industry, demonstrating “how many beautiful girls and young women can work in nuclear” since 2004. Nuclear.ru organizes the web-based beauty contest, and last year a record-breaking 340 applicants who work in the industry across Eastern Europe entered. (If we’re honest, the whole parade is really just a PR exercise in which the Russian nuclear industry gets babes to pose in front of power plants and nuclear machinery. Ugh.)
9. Miss Russian Army
Russia has also implemented the beauty-pageant-strategy in order to make their army look good... literally. During 2005, The Russian Defense Ministry put their 19 most babin’ (female) soldiers on show, and got them to compete in drills, crawl in combat uniforms, enter tanks (not an innuendo), run with loaded guns, and, of course, sing in a spectacle broadcasted on national television. A memorable lyric sung by the pageant beauties went something along the lines of, and you’ll have to excuse my poor translation skills, “since we’re soldiers, our first concern automatic weapons; boys come second.” Bikinis were not allowed on the day.
8. Miss Sister Italia
Though naughty nuns are a tired costumer cliché, one priest in Italy thought it would be a bright idea to hold an online beauty contest to find out who the fairest nun in Italy with a wifi connection was. During 2008, Reverend Antonio Rungi called out to #allthenuns between 18 and 40 to submit a photo of themselves (in their full habit – no skimpy get-up allowed) and provide a written summary of their lives. TheVine has chosen to not make any swipes about this contest, because honestly, it is just too easy.
7. Miss Klingon Empire
Over the last 10 years, women have made their way to Atlanta, Georgia to fight for the prestigious title of Miss Klingon Empire. At the Dragon Con sci-fi and fantasy convention, contestants must assume the identity of any female character from Star Trek or any other fierce aliens dreamed up by Gene Roddenberry and walk the runway in their fullest swag. Makeup and creative insignias are, of course, a must, as is staying in character for the duration of the competition. The competition’s 2008 newsletter quoted the previous year’s winner as vowing to “cut the head off the new winner, so I'll have two crowns and a trophy.” Clearly, congeniality is not part of the criterion.
6. Miss Prisoner
Beauty pageants in Bogota’s Buen Pastor Prison gives a whole new meaning to the ‘if looks could kill’ expression. Every year the women’s jail in Colombia holds a beauty contest to commemorate the Virgin of Mercedes, the prison’s patron saint, where inmates dress up in feathers, glitter and spandex. It’s practically Carnivale! Jails in Sao Paulo, Rio de Jeneiro, Nairobi and Lithuania also hold contests like these in order to boost morale, and instill confidence in the inmates. I’m judging.
5. Miss Spring
Well done Russia, you have successfully made this list three times. Similar to Miss Prisoner, Miss Spring is a 22-year-old event held in a Siberian women’s prison in which inmates compete to win the coveted Greek Goddess, Flower Gown or Imaginary Uniform title. The event is broadcast on local television and, according to rumour, the winner gets an early parole. Let’s be real, you’d probably watch.
4. Miss Plastic Surgery
Hearts and souls weep worldwide over the fact that this beauty pageant was a one-off event. After being banned from participating in a beauty contest solely because she’d been under the knife (fair’s fair honey!) a Chinese woman caused such a stink that they – whoever ‘they’ may be – made a whole other beauty pageant just for her and her lipo’d, collagen’d, lap band’d friends to compete in. The 2004 Miss Plastic Surgery contest had 90 participants and the winner not only had the joy of winning, but also a country club membership worth $6000. (That’s like a quarter of a boob job.)
3. Miss Jumbo Queen
Thailand’s Miss Jumbo Queen event plays out during the Jumbo Banquet elephant feast and, like most beauty contests, there is a weight cut-off. Only in Miss Jumbo Queen, you have to be heavier rather than lighter to assume the title. The winner of the contest is crowned on her ability to most adequately exhibit the characteristics of an elephant: virtue, elegance, grace and size. The good news is that the winner gets to fight for the plight of Thailand’s dwindling elephant population. A cause the contestant could have found a job in anyway?
Another beauty contest in Thailand, which I don’t believe necessitates an entire paragraph, is Miss Condom. It involves women blowing up condoms and if you’re interested, you clearly have a well-working Internet connection and access to the search engine of your choice.
2. Miss Armpit Queen
As part of the three-day armpit festival in Nevada (yes it’s a thing) women compete for the sought-after title of Miss Armpit. Hair is allowed, and the event takes place between deodorant throwing competitions and a sweaty t-shirt competition (see what they did there?!) Look, it’s gross, and I can’t find pictures so let’s just accept that it’s a strange world, people are into weird things and despite the millions of starving orphans out there, there is still enough money to sponsor a prize for the world’s Armpit queen. Someone bring me a Xanax.
1. Miss Landmine survivor
Artist Mortan Traavik was inspired to help the women of Angola and Cambodia who were victims of each region’s landmine problems, and thought that pitting amputees who had suffered horrific trauma against each other in a beauty contest might empower them and remind them that they’re beautiful. Cambodian authorities quickly banned the contest because they thought it was distasteful and exploitative. They’re not wrong. The best part about all this though is that, once banned in Cambodia, the competition flew the women to Norway where they got to compete for, wait for it, NEW LIMBS. Now if I have to explain to you everything that is wrong with that, it is likely you are beyond help. Seriously.