Ethiopia: Mengistu Hailemariam From Harrar To Harare By Journalist Temesgen Desalegn On Feteh Magazine
The selected contestants introduced themselves at greater length, revealing themselves to be in college or having just graduated. They expressed how they would introduce Ethiopia if they were to win the crown. They passed to the question and answer round. Most mentioned the un-colonized status of Ethiopia and the diversity of its people while few insisted on changing the global image of the country as impoverished and conflict-ridden.
The talent section, which is usually a staple of beauty pageants, was unfortunately not part of the competition.
International beauty pageants, despite claiming to celebrate beauty and empower women have largely been controversial worldwide. The 1996 Miss Universe winner Miss Venesuela Alicia Machado was reportedly going to lose her title for gaining too much weight. Donald Trump, owner of the pageant at the time, called her ‘an eating machine.’ Contests are judged on strict bodily measurements before entering into the competition and undergo rigorous scrutiny on their physical appearance.
American author Roxane Gay in her essay that looked by on the 1968 protests against the Miss America pageant and the beginning of second wave feminism says of the protestors, “they rejected the double standard that contestants were forced to be ‘both sexy and wholesome, delicate but able to cope, demure yet titillatingly bitchy.’ The pageant represented the elevation of mediocrity – American women were encouraged to be ‘unoffensive, bland, apolitical’ – and instilled this impoverished ambition in young girls.”
The evening’s crowned winners were Soliyana Abayneh for Miss World Ethiopia, Samrawit Azmeraw as Miss Grand International Ethiopia, Firezewd Solomon as Miss International Ethiopia and Bella Lera as Miss Intercontinental Ethiopia. The winners will represent Ethiopia in China, Myanmar, Japan and Philippines for the four competitions.
There is little protest or even question as to how these beauty pageants are playing a role in the representations of women in Ethiopia. Pageants play a role as a source of empowerment for women but also of degradation. National standards of physical beauty and perfection are different in every region, which allows for more diversity of women in these competitions. Even though this week’s pageant had 200 selected applicants from all of the country, it was only one woman from outside of Addis Ababa that was able to enter the top 10 rank.
Pageant winners from the recent past have descended into pop culture obsolescence. But Genet Tsegaye, 2016 Miss Grand International Ethiopia winner has found a stainable means of using her fame and connections by establishing and managing Ethiopian Beauty Queens. Perhaps it is time to question the value of these competitions and the benefits contestants gain from participating, especially when they do not move on to the international stage.