Photographs Of Pageants That Will Twist Your Views On Beauty
October 31, 2017|María Isabel Carrasco Cara Chards
These strange photographs definitely show another side of beauty.
In your favorite section “Creepy but Pretty,” we’re going to explore the deep and obscure history of beauty pageants. I guess you're thinking that even today they’re really creepy, but let me tell you, my friends, that today’s pageants are absolutely normal and dull compared to what they used to be in the past. It’s quite interesting to see how beauty ideals have shaped our society, but I assure you that, at least since the twentieth century, that obsession with matching the ultimate standards was such that it was outright crazy, as you're about to see.
Miss Lovely Eyes - the 1930s
The thirties were a strange decade. The Great Depression had a huge impact on the global economy. However, even when the situation of most people was miserable and most countries were on the verge of another World War, some came up with interesting activities to cheer everybody up, but to be honest, I'm not that sure they succeeded. Anyways, this was the time of beauty pageants, but not as we know them today. These were really specific, as the title of this one suggests. Miss Lovely Eyes, as you can imagine, was a contest to see who had the most beautiful eyes. However, in their efforts to be trustworthy and righteous, they thought the best way to objectively judge that was by concealing the rest of the face, so the judges wouldn’t be biased by the participants’ features. As a result, you have images like this one, with women wearing extremely disturbing masks. The success of this pageant was such that they were even thinking about focusing on other features of the face, like the ears or nose.
Miss Beautiful Legs / Miss Prettiest Ankles - 1930s to 1950s
Now, you can see where this is going. For two long decades characterized by a political and social instability, something proved to be stable and that was the weird beauty pageants. In this one, the focus was on the legs and the ankles (because there isn’t a more beautiful and enticing part of the body than the ankles, right?). Here, the participants were hidden behind some curtains, so the only part the judges could see were their legs and ankles. However, if you thought that was the creepy part, let me tell you that’s not even close. In order to determine which one had the prettiest ankles, they measured them and touched them to see how firm they were. So, if you wanted to participate, you had to be okay with some random guy touching you. These pageants were part of a broader show, including contests to determine who had the prettiest shoulders or arms. These were highly popular in the US and in Britain, which adopted this tradition almost as soon as they began.
Miss Perfect Posture - the 1950s and 1960s
Oh, my favorite, Miss Perfect Posture of the fifties and sixties. I mean, we’re entering new times in history, so technology had to play an important part on these pageants. This one was focused on the participants’ postures. However, to judge that, the participants weren't told to stand in front of the jury, but their spine and bones were seen through an X-Ray machine. Here they weren’t really judging a woman’s looks or visible features, but the beauty of her skeleton. Obviously, the judges were professional chiropractors who used a wide variety of tools to make an informed decision, including weighing scales and plumb bobs, a sort of pendulum to determine how right they were standing. This pageant was basically organized by the society of chiropractors to promote their craft and the importance of a healthy spine. They tried to organize a Mr. Good Posture, but it was a huge flop.
Marilyn Monroe Look-Alike Pageant - 1950s
Well, we can’t deny that Marilyn Monroe was and still is an icon of beauty, and for that reason, many thought she was actually the perfect woman in both her facial features and body measures. For that reason, some smart guy came up with the idea of organizing a Marilyn Monroe Look-Alike pageant, but unlike the ones we’ve seen, these were taken with absolute seriousness. To start with, the participants were selected according to their physical resemblance, and the finalists were asked to stand next to real-size cutouts of Monroe’s measures. As in the Cinderella story, if the cutout fits, you were crowned as the new official Marilyn Monroe look-alike. Well, it actually wasn’t as glamorous as it sounds. This was an event cosponsored by the Sam Goody music store and the Twentieth Century Fox, and to make it less fancy, it actually took place at the parking lot of a Sam Goody’s outlet store, so... Yeah, those were the fifties.
Miss Atomic Bomb - 1950s
This is probably the weirdest pageant of them all, and it’s hard to say that, since those child pageants like the one Honey Boo Boo came from are quite something. This was thought to be a touristic event to promote the capital of sin, Las Vegas. The war had just ended, but most of the locations where the atomic bombs were manufactured and tested were still there. Naturally, because we’re really weird beings, this became a huge touristic spot in the city. So the organizers decided to mix the best of both worlds and create an event that would promote the city and its most popular venue. They came up with Miss Atomic Bomb, a pageant where the contestants had to wear accessories and clothes allusive to the bombs, and since the image of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs was seen by almost everybody in the world, you can see how they adapted the theme into their attires.
Since the invention of photography, we’ve been witnesses of modern life's evolution. But there are some unknown photographs that definitely show another side of humanity, take a look at them: