Beauty pageants are often ridiculed or condemned. The 2006 movie “Little Miss Sunshine” satirizes a family’s efforts for their young daughter, a far-from-typical entrant, to appear in the finals of a pageant. On a more serious note, the tragic death of 6-year-old, JonBenét Ramsey, struck up a reaction of worldwide disgust. Despite occurring more than a decade ago, the death of this young American reverberates as an example of the immorality of the beauty queen industry. More recently, in the U.S. election campaign, there was an unexpected allusion to beauty queens as Miss Wasilla of 1984(aka Sarah Palin) became the Republican vice presidential candidate.
This week, however, beauty queens took on a new form. First, in Beersheba, Israel, where competitors of a larger-than-average size turned out for the annual Fat and Beautiful pageant. Anyone smirking at the thought of lumbering models chafing their way up the catwalk ought to eat pie, humble pie. The Fat and Beautiful pageant this year celebrates its 15th anniversary, and if that is not proof enough of success, the event was rounded out by plus-size girl band, Oh Mama, formed by five former contestants.
ITN released a video of the pageant showing the 20 contestants strutting their stuff on the runway; and tucking into pastries backstage, proud to be augmenting their assets. One contestant, 22-year-old Eliyah, explained that the pageant takes “women from all over Israel that are plus-sized and beautiful and proud to be big and beautiful. It's twenty girls, and we are competing for inner beauty, out beauty, anything, everything."
The winner, 22-year-old Khani Yirmiyah, appeared jubilant in pink chiffon and a tiara. Avoiding the stereotypical “beauty queen speech” about world peace, Yirmiyah focused on self-esteem: “All women should love themselves the way they are."
Amusingly enough, Yirmiyah was one of the smallest contestants, weighing a mere 80 kilos.
The most innovative beauty pageant, however, was in Saudi Arabia where the competitors were a herd of goats. It may be the first Beautiful Goat pageant, but four-legged beauty queens are no new thing in the Arab world. Camels are the true pride of the Bedouins. They are valuable monetarily and recreationally: camel competitions of recent years have proved to be a lucrative initiative, and camel-racing is popular throughout the Gulf.
However, this week "Najdi" goats were in the limelight. Competitors were flocked to the Saudi capital, Riyadh, from all over the Gulf region. There was no sex-discrimination for the contenders: prizes were given to both top male and top female goat. Yet the fine necks and smooth hair of the competitors were appraised by a strictly male-only audience: Saudi laws prohibit the sexes from mixing in public.
Four thousand spectators took up their positions in an auditorium made up of hundreds of carpets lining the desert outside Riyadh. The pageant opened with a fireworks display and a competition for the best poem in praise of goats.
A key difference between this pageant and those in which humans compete (one would hope it is a difference anyway) is that most of the competitors were fathered by one star goat. The billy in question is called Volcano and was bred by the organizer and leading Saudi breeder Sheik Faisal al-Saadoun. Al-Saadoun told Reuters that the "Najdi goat is a pure national product like nothing else in the world. Just like humans, goats shouldn't have fat in unwanted places. They should also be tall."
The proponents of the Fat and Beautiful pageant may beg to differ.
Proving that beauty is in the eye (or ear) of the beholder, the entertainment was a far cry from plus-size girl band Oh Mama; instead, poets recited odes of praise to the goats over loud speakers. According to Reuters, the compere boasted that the Qatari royal family has made offers to buy Volcano. He also explained that the famous billy goat did not make an appearance at the show as it is thought that he could be afflicted by the "evil eye."
The winner in the male category was, of course, one of Volcano’s sons. A beauty goat’s assets are valued according to their economic value. The numbers are nothing to be sniffed at: Good ewes sell for the equivalent of $5,300-$8,000; and Sana, the winning ram, sold for no less than $120,650.
A 31-year-old Saudi, Fahd al-Jinahi, claimed the prize ram. When asked why he chose it, al-Jinahi told The Associated Press: "I loved the length and width of his cheeks, his long neck and how his creamy yellow hair falls down his body."
Forgive me for ending with a cliché, but: whatever floats your boat.