April 6, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 98  

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Beauty Queen hopefuls:
Can they end poverty in Alberta?

Marshall Law
Marshall Bellamy

News Editor

Gazette file photo
“IT’S NOT A BEAUTY PAGEANT! IT’S A SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM!” Are you the next Miss Congeniality?

The road to becoming Canada’s Beauty Queen is a long one — the weekend begins with registration, followed by a long line of photo opportunities, unending autograph signings, luncheons, free dinners, swanky cocktail parties and, finally, the actual pageant leading into the Coronation Ball.

But there are also the interviews, during which contestants have to answer questions about themselves and their platforms — which usually involves volunteer work for everything from Tourette’s Syndrome and literacy awareness, to stopping bullies and ending poverty in Alberta.

“We’re not just looking for beauty, [we’re looking for] intelligence, integrity, poise — all those things are very, very important,” says London city councillor Harold Usher, who moonlights as the pageant’s head judge.

According to Usher, contestants are asked questions about their life, their platform, other volunteer work and their plans for the future, but he stressed that no contestants are asked questions relating to politics or religion. “We do it with integrity, we do it with fairness — and no trick questions,” he adds.

“There’s nothing fluffy about this pageant,” said Julie Young-Marcellin, national director of Canada Pageants, the organization running the event.

However, something happens between the aerobic wear competition — this involves the contestants wearing black skin-tight singlets because there is no longer a swimsuit competition — and the moment it’s clear the contestants make too many wardrobe changes to count. It becomes obvious, to even the most ignorant skirt chaser with a brain situated below his waist, that there is a sense of frivolousness and the unmistakable fake atmosphere in the world of pageantry.

“Some people are pageant people and some people are not; I am not,” admits an unnamed contestant, adding she has noticed herself becoming more superficial since becoming a beauty queen.

Indeed, it is pageantry’s blatant superficiality that brought on its decline in Canada. Still, many participants and spectators attending the event felt it may be making a comeback in the country.

A father of one of the contestants explained that other competitions — such as his daughter’s baton team — are more competitive, but there is a sense of camaraderie that makes the event appealing.

The allure of the pageant is enough to bring contestants from all walks of life, including Western. Melissa Marks, the new Ms. National Canada, was one of many Western students at the pageant.

“A lot of our competitors are from Western, especially from [Saugeen-Maitland Hall],” Marcellin-Young noted “A lot of them are on the same floor, so they’ve been talking about their wardrobe,” she says, admitting she, too, attended Western.

Despite the popularity, the superficiality of pageantry still makes one wonder whether it will have a clear future in Canada.



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