“MY VERY SHORT ENCOUNTER WITH THE BEAUTY PAGEANT QUEEN”

For a very long time, probably most of my early life, I’ve never really cared for any beauty pageant contests. If you look at me, you’ll probably assume that it has something to do with the fact that I am chubby.

However, that’s not exactly the case. I’ve always disliked the idea of standardised beauty or human objectification. Still, I don’t strongly condemn it either. If anyone wants to take part in it, I won’t even bother. I prefer doing something else, though.

So I was assigned to hunt for a story at this event. They were promoting new beauty products and this beauty pageant queen – let’s call her “Kay” – was the ambassador.

Everything went well at first. Then when the product PR figure started the show, he irked me. I understand that he had to promote the products, but did he have to say something like this?

“You know, Indonesians are obsessed with white skin. If you have dark skin, you’re considered not beautiful enough.”

I sat there, agape. Wow, that’s stereotyping. Me, for example, I love my mocca-coloured tan.

Besides, why did he have to make dark-skinned Indonesians (especially women) feel self-conscious about their appearance? That’s racist and unfair. If that’s how he urges people to buy his products, then I won’t be one of the customers.

Then Kay walked gracefully up to the stage. Of course, as expected, all media people at present – including bloggers – started taking pictures of her. So did I.

After that, the interview with her began. Again, I was miffed. The female host started asking about Kay’s beauty secrets. Kay talked about eating healthy foods and regularly doing sports like yoga and kickboxing. I noticed that these were the typical questions for Kay. I was sure she’d grown tired of them, seeing her suddenly tight expression.

Kay was about to explain her mission and future programs when the host suddenly asked, “Do you have a boyfriend?”

“What?” Kay looked taken aback this time. “Uh, no.”

“Really?” The host snickered and laughed. “You’re lying.”

“No.” I could tell that Kay was annoyed, even when she still tried to smile. “Do you?”

“Of course I do,” the host anwered proudly. “Why don’t you?”

Kay looked exasperated. “Do I have to?”

“You should.”

That’s it. I couldn’t take it anymore. The moment Kay said, “No, I don’t think so”, I started clapping my hands. Really hard, until the audience joined the applause.

Both women on stage looked at me since I was sitting in the front row. Kay smiled gratefully, but the host wasn’t too happy. She smirked.

“Yang jomblo tepuk tangan.” (The singles have just clapped their hands.)

Oh, well. I decided to let that slide. Not worth it. I was satisfied enough.

It turns out that Indonesians still need a long, long way to be enlightened. Many are still stuck in false beliefs that the beauty of a woman is validated just by the fairness of her skin…and the existence of a boyfriend.

What a shame.

R.

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