OPINION: Beauty pageants and the ‘new normal’

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Depending on which country you are living right now, going to your local stores would mean donning that face mask and a heavy dollop of sanitizer to sanitize your hands. That would also mean you have to deal with a possible queue and be mindful of the 1.5 meter floor marks to ensure social distancing. Your Instagram feed, assuming you have one, would probably be filled with indoor photos instead of your usual travels. Or it would be still about travels but this time they are all throwback photos.

Indeed, a slice of throwback is probably what we need right now. Not so long ago, we saw how Thailand triumphed in both Miss Supranational and Miss International pageants. Colored women meanwhile took the Miss World, Miss Universe and Miss Earth crowns. COVID-19 disrupted our life and the economy in such a manner never seen since 1918. The enemy is invisible and no one knows how to effectively fight it.

Under these dire circumstances, humanity is now focused on preserving itself and non-essential things are sidelined. That includes, unfortunately, beauty pageants. Under the current quarantine rules, holding a major international pageant will run afoul with myriads of laws and regulations designed to combat the pandemic. You can’t possibly conduct a pageant under the current restrictions on international travel, social distancing laws and ban on large gatherings.

As restrictions mounted for the last two months, a new – but not that new – jargon emerged: the New Normal. National pageants began to adapt by holding virtual pageants and online coronations. Some are banking on the possibility that restrictions might be eased as some regions are now seeing falling infection rates. Still, it is quite impossible that governments will allow a convention center to be filled with beauty pageant fans.

Miss International is the first Big5 pageant to announce that it will not have a pageant this year. It is in fact the only Big5 pageant to have actually skipped a year – in 1966. Miss Universe also skipped some years (Miss Universe 2014 was held in 2015 and Miss Universe 2016 was held in 2017). The numerical value of a year is now losing its value for major beauty pageants. Probably in the next edition of Miss Universe, the winner’s sash will read 69th Miss Universe rather than Miss Universe 2020 considering the global horrors associated with this year.

What the experts are saying is that COVID19 might come in waves and if history is teaching us anything, the 1918 pandemic lasted 3 years. Can pageant fans live in three straight years without major international pageants? More importantly, can Big5 pageants survive the financial impact that the pandemic has brought? There are so much uncertainties but one thing is for certain: to survive, one must adapt. Major international pageants should find ways to remain its relevance amidst a pandemic. For now though, the pageant fans must be contended with throwbacks. Even a tiny sliver of it should do for now.

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