A new generation of Australian beauty pageants are run by migrant communities

“I think there should be more people of color in media, business, politics, whatever you want,” she told SBS News.

“I think I read recently that one in four people are born abroad. One in four is a huge number, and you don’t see that online. You don’t see that in the media and in politics, absolutely. not in politics or business and I would like that to change. “

Global connections

Beauty pageants are also popular in many minority communities in Australia.

One of the most important, Miss Lebanon Emigrant Australia, is part of a global competition that brings together women from the Lebanese diaspora to participate in an annual event. The country winners then participate in the annual Miss Lebanon Emigrant World Contest.

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Monie Gabriel, head of beauty and event management, said the appeal of the pageants in Lebanon and the Lebanese-Australian community reflects the pride Lebanese women have in their appearance.

“Lebanese women are known to be very glamorous,” she told SBS News.

“They always follow the trends. They always love to do their hair, make up and take care of themselves. So when a contest like this happens, they love to be a part of it and cheer on the girls.”

Ms Gabriel said competitors have high expectations of the contestants, with appearance only playing a role in choosing a winner.

Many applicants, she said, have a high level of education, do charity work and also attend Arabic classes to improve their chances of winning.

A step towards success

Daniella Rahme was the 2009 Australian winner and won the title of Miss Lebanon Emigrant in 2010, launching a career as an actor and TV host in Lebanon.

Ms Gabriel said a victory can be a stepping stone to other opportunities.

“So she got into Dancing with the Stars Middle East and she won. She became an actress and she performed among big names and her shows are also on Netflix.

“She also became an ambassador for Loreal Paris Middle East.”

The Assyrian community in Australia also holds a beauty pageant. Many members of the community have been affected by the conflict in the Middle East, with the majority of Assyrian Australians having immigrated from Iraq, Iran, Syria and Jordan.

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Basim Rasho, the organizer of the Miss Assyria-Australia contest, said the contest was a way for the community to embrace the freedom they have in Australia.

“We want to give our young men and women the confidence to feel that they can participate in these activities to demonstrate that they are on par with young Australian men and women and other nationalities,” he said. told SBS News.

“They feel empowered and confident having gained a new life now, that they have reached Australia, that land of opportunity and freedom to do things they might not have been able to do at home. . “

Competition review

Beauty pageants have in the past been at the center of protests that have attracted worldwide attention, with women’s liberators criticizing the emphasis on women’s appearance inherent in events.

Hannah McCann, senior lecturer in cultural studies at the University of Melbourne, said one of the key moments in the so-called second wave of feminism was a demonstration in the United States in 1968 during the Miss America pageant. .

Demonstrators protest the 1968 Miss America beauty pageant in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

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But more than 50 years later, changing definitions of feminism have also produced different reactions to competitions, even among people who call themselves feminists.

“Not all feminists would agree that we should protest the contests and that makes it a bit difficult,” McCann told SBS News.

“There could be people protesting against contests and then there could be other people writing to defend contests or to defend women with enough power to make decisions about their participation and that’s a bit more complicated than that original moment. “

Helen Barcham, a sociologist and final-year doctoral student at Western Sydney University whose research focuses on beauty politics and gender, said beauty pageants can provide opportunities for women to advance professionally and socially that do not might not otherwise be available.

“There are so few of these opportunities, I believe, available to women. Many of them are probably doing this to advance their professional networks. or are offered to women and if there is enough for them. “

Andrea Jaca-Smith was the first Filipina-Australian to represent Australia in the Miss Trans Star International contest in 2016 and runs a school called Andrea’s House of Beauty which helps train aspiring contestants in Melbourne.

Ms. Jaca-Smith has fond memories of beauty pageants while growing up in the Philippines where the tradition remains very popular with female, transgender and increasingly male beauty pageants, all of which are part of the tradition.

Andrea Jaca-Smith represented Australia in the Miss Trans Star International competition.

Source: Provided

For her, participating in and winning several contests a year provided a much-needed stable source of income while living in the Philippines.

“With my case too, since I was a teenager, I used to serve my monetary goals, like studying and having an income, because in every competition or contest in the Philippines there are cash prizes, so every once you win, you get a prize … that’s one of the reasons it’s popular in general. “

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When it comes to the contest’s emphasis on appearance, Ms. Jaca-Smith said there is more to be won than just looking a certain way.

“For me, that’s the total package. If you don’t have the passion and soul in it, then it doesn’t work. To enter a competition you have to be purposeful, disciplined and at the same time you have to have the passion to do it, because you are not there just to compete. You are not there just to show yourself, you are there with a purpose and a mission. “

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