THE beauty pageant industry in Zimbabwe once blazed with glory from the 1980s through to the 1990s before fading after 2005. And, walking in town these days, one is overwhelmed by the number of posters advertising numerous beauty pageants. There is an aggressive advertising of pageants on street and wall posters, church conferences and social media networks.
A listless number of pageants organised by different individuals and organisations have mushroomed across the country.
What makes it puzzling is that pageants are mushrooming at a time when the industry is fading and losing its lustre.
Little wonder then that the mushrooming of beauty pageants has triggered many questions.
Is modelling becoming a more lucrative occupation such that more women, and even men, are rushing into it?
Has it also become kind of El Dorado for the organisers, most of whom are going out of their way to form their pageants which bear all sorts of names, from the funny, the bizarre, the odd, you name it?
While in the past, locals were used to the Miss Zimbabwe, Miss Harare and Miss Bulawayo pageants, the trend has of late shifted and modelling shows like Miss Universities, Miss Curvy (Diamonds of Africa), Miss Legs, Miss Bikini, Miss Cholera, Miss Aids, Miss Global Zimbabwe, Miss Parade,
Miss Summer and Miss Carnival among others, have been coined and are still being coined every day.
Do some of these titles have significance in society, if so what have they brought to the nation?
Unlike the Miss Zimbabwe pageant, which was annual, coming only once a year, these days such is no longer the case, with some of these pageants happening almost every month to the extent that one is left wondering whether people will always remember who won in which pageant the last time it was held.
“I think it is a good analysis, because we are confused each month when it comes to modelling. Gone are the days when we used to have one beauty queen, but these days if you check on your right or left you are likely seated close to Miss Something during parties or national events,” said a prominent designer who declined to be named.
She said titles are very funny as they don’t tally with the pageant and something should be done fast.
“If we don’t act fast, we shall have Miss Monday, Face of Saturday among others,” she said. “It is the exploitation of women that is worrying and something needs to be done to keep these pageants in check.”
Modelling Industry Association spokesperson Wilbert Rukato recently said there are several pageants which are meaningless and detrimental to growth of the sector.
Of late, one is also left wondering whether the role of beauty pageants which was basically to use beauty as a way of pushing for a worthy cause through fund-raising for the poor and the disadvantaged by luring financial magnates using the looks of the contestants, still holds centre.
“If you go to countries like the United States, the models are seasoned and some of them like Naomi Campbell have been in the business for many years and still manage to gain some respect when on the ramp, despite some having their own social and domestic shortcomings owing to fame having gone into their heads.
“But what this basically means is that they take modelling seriously hence you seldom hear of some pageants with some funny names,” said Sandra Chikwenengere, a model.
Charity work should be at the core beauty pageants just like top international models always do for strife-torn countries or other countries ravaged by natural disasters.
“We are yet to see if the crop of current models who belong to some of these new pageants in Zimbabwe will ever take a leaf from former Miss Zimbabwe queens like Angeline Musasiwa who were known to use their terms positively by assisting orphanages where they donated to, among other charity works.
It also needs to be seen whether they are earning something that can sustain them for their lives and not tokens in the form of beauty hampers which do not sustain them and their families,” she added.
Tare Munzara, executive chairman Miss Heritage World Beauty Pageant and president of Miss Global Zimbabwe, believes that there is nothing wrong in the sprouting of beauty pageants, adding that it was a step in the right direction that reflected the level of progress that Zimbabwe is going through.
“There is nothing wrong with having a lot of beauty pageants in Zimbabwe. It shows progress and development in the industry hence if we had one then girls would be restricted to one pageant, so having many pageants means that girls can choose to enter a pageant they feel comfortable with and also suits them depending on the criteria,” he said.
He said modelling also serves as marketing tool for tourism and is a career. “If you look closely it is somehow a career opportunity for some people,” he said. Munzara said it was important to celebrate the beauty of our women through modelling. But some competitions have dubious credentials. Many girls are duped by fly-by-night organisers who offer non-existent prizes or demand sexual favours.
And it seems, it has become obvious that the success of a beauty competition is no longer based on its brand or influence, but on whether it gets enough sponsorship.