Beauty Pageants: Does Anyone Actually Win?

Miss World Muslimah winner Obabiyi Aishah Ajibola.

This post was written by guest contributor Nicole Hunter Mostafa (@nicolejhm). When I think about topics that are directly relevant to the lives of Muslim women, one that would probably be pretty low on my list is beauty pageants. Sure, in terms of feminist discourse, it’s not that hard to make the connection—beauty pageants’ primary goal is to make judgments about women based primarily on how they look, while media coverage of Muslim women, even when ostensibly regarding other … [Read more...]

Budding Bedfellows: Islamists and Feminists against Beauty Pageants

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This last week has seen protests in Jakarta, Medan, Surabaya and Jogjakarta over the Miss World 2013 beauty pageant to be held in the next few weeks. Recently, I wrote a post about a similar debate in Malaysia where their Muslim participants were eventually dropped. The Miss World 2013 protests numbered in the thousands and were made up of members of small Islamist organizations such as the Front Pembela Islam (Islamic Defenders Front or FPI)  on the island of Java, and Muslimah Hizbut Tahrir … [Read more...]

Miss Malaysia – Not for Muslims?

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Beauty pageants have gotten a bad rap over the years for objectifying women by putting them on parade and privileging their looks over their personality or brains. Some pageants have actively tried to change this idea, by including a talent segment, and making charity work an increasingly bigger part of the winners’ duties. One such pageant for Muslim women was the 2011 Indonesian Muslimah Beauty competition, which emphasised women who "don hijab, have Internet and technology capabilities, … [Read more...]

Muslimahs in Beauty Pageants

Miss Universe Lupita Jones 1991- Via Critical Beauty.

When I was a kid, I must confess, I used to love to watch Miss Universe on TV. Despite my mom’s dislike for the show, she would let me watch it (not without swearing at the TV once in a while). Beauty pageants in the 90’s gained popularity in Mexico after Lupita Jones won the title of Miss Universe in 1991. Although previous title-holders were Latin American, Jones was the first Mexican to win such a pageant and her success in the American pageant seemed to me kind of an acknowledgement of … [Read more...]

Haters Gonna Hate: the Backlash Against Miss USA

Rima Fakih, an Arab Muslim immigrant, won the Miss USA Pageant Sunday night: She beat out four blondes and set off a whirlwind of media coverage stemming from her “stripper” past to her Shi'a background. On the positive side, one idealist commenter compared her to Barack Obama. Another went so far as to say her win shows the “real face of Arab Americans, not the stereotypes you hear about.” Ah, yes, not the burqa--the bikini! Trading one stereotype for another is not progressive, but … [Read more...]

Tahmena Bokhari: A Study in (How We Talk About) Contradictions

Tahmena Bokhari, a feminist, Muslim, Canadian, social worker, and educator, was recently crowned Mrs. Pakistan 2010 (not to be confused with Miss Pakistan World). Bokhari's accomplishments are varied and impressive: a master's degree in social work, a history of working at women's shelters and other humanitarian initiatives.  She currently teaches social work at two different colleges, and also acts as a diversity consultant.  There's a good interview with her here about her experiences with … [Read more...]

Beauty and the Media Beast: the 2009 Miss Arab World Pageant

Let’s cut to the point: no matter how hard anyone tries to make it deep and philosophical, the word “beauty pageant” will always refer to looks. As variable and relative the definition of “beautiful” might be for a lot of people, some of those who work as beauticians and fashion experts put standards upon which beauty depends. This is applied in all kinds of beauty pageants, including the 2009 Miss Arab World pageant, a new pageant that is causing lots of controversy. The first Miss … [Read more...]


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