When I first heard that Bret Michaels would be co-hosting
the 2010 Miss Universe pageant, it should have been a tip-off that this year's event would be a little less ... traditional. (Isn't pageant hosting a job better suited to somebody with a little more Goulet DNA? Like, you know, an Alan Thicke or maybe an Iglesias?)
And then came the body-painting scandal. After the pageant released promotional photographs of some of the contestants in body paint
, Fox 411's Courtney Friel had a full-on wig-out, calling the photos "a new low," noting that "they even used body paint like the Playboy Bunnies!"
Hey, Courtney! C'mere! I have a secret to tell you! They ARE Playboy Bunnies!
I haven't been around nearly as long as the pageant (which has been around in one iteration or another since the '50s) but clearly the Miss Universe pageant has never really been about me and my pals gettin' together on the couch to see what one of Venezuela's Prettiest People thinks about malaria prevention.
So today, in the wake of the controversy, can we just take a moment to ask ourselves why we're still even having pageants?
Are some people upset that the contestants are semi-nude because, as "Miss Universe," the winner would be our galactic ambassador in the event of an alien invasion? Don't worry, guys! Pageants actually don't mean anything. These women are not responsible for the fate of human diplomacy in such a case.
They are, apparently, pretty much sexy, live versions of the "It's a Small World" ride -- but naked-er. As the pageant's V.P. of marketing and P.R. said in a statement about the photographs
, "The contestants who compete at Miss Universe are diverse, as they represent more than 82 countries around the globe. Many of their cultures embrace nudity." Whoa, not the United States! We're not one of those awesome countries where you can show nipples during yogurt commercials.
But let's talk the photos themselves. True, you can't actually see very much, but they're definitely more Sports Illustrated than Ms. What's the point of asking these potential "role models" to take their tops off? Our naked, painted horse in the race, Miss USA, Rima Fakih, had this to say
: "I've always wanted to do body paint, and the fact that we get to do it with Miss Universe, that just shows you that there's going to be a lot of professional artists." See, guys? Art! I can agree with Rima on this. If being painted to look like the wall of a hippie coffee shop in Portland is so wrong, I don't want to be right.
Besides, it isn't like these women are a bad influence on young women -- because they kind of are no
influence on young women. I can't honestly see anybody "aspiring" to be like one of these women in any real way. This isn't one of those scholarship competitions in which women are forced to compete because they don't know how to fill out a FAFSA form. What does Miss Universe get? A certificate? A Talbot's card? What? Wikipedia
"The winner is assigned a one-year contract with the Miss Universe Organization, going overseas to spread messages about the control of diseases, peace and public awareness of AIDS. Since Donald Trump took over the pageant, the winner has been given the use of a Trump Tower apartment in New York City for use during her reign."
So, spreading peace and an apartment in midtown? Blow me down! What young, malleable girl isn't
going to whip her top off and smear herself with Tempra?
Ultimately, while I think it's ridiculous that these pageants still exist, I don't think we have to be too worried about our impressionable youth. NBC renewed its broadcast of both Miss USA and Miss Universe this year, but as noted by The Wrap
, the pageants "aren't exactly a Nielsen blockbuster, averaging around 5 million viewers," and the pick-up is probably due in large part to media coverage of former–Miss California Carrie Prejean's anti-gay sentiments and subsequent controversy. (And let's not forget Internet superstar/ former–Miss South Carolina Caitlin Upton, who rambled like a sequined Gary Busey about "the Iraq" during 2007 Miss Teen USA pageant.)
All in all, this whole "racy–Miss Universe–photo controversy" controversy sort of reminds me a lot of last
year's racy–Miss Universe–photo-controversy controversy. (Remember the sexy-lingerie photos
that made everybody so mad last year? No?) Which is to say: HMMMM! There's always some kind of controversy right before these things air ... What could it all mean? What, indeed!
I don't think anybody aside from Fox 411 is super-shocked; these events are as known for their subtlety and austerity as Miss Universe Organization owner Donald Trump. Sure, "pageantry" is pageantry, but if you have to drum up a naked-lady "scandal" every year just to get attention, you're probably lacking in fundamental staying power as a franchise. Don't like pageants or painted-up multicultural nudies? Just ignore them, and they'll probably (hopefully) go away.