Beauty pageants and debating are two of my favorite things. My youth was misspent–not, unfortunately, due to too many beautiful girls, but rather because I devoted an inordinate amount of time to competitive debate. These two interests collided Friday night, as 122 Miss World contestants descended on Cambridge University, and in particular the Cambridge Union Society, which bills itself as the world’s oldest debating society. The topic of discussion was the merits of the Miss World competition, and beauty pageants in general:
Unsurprisingly it was a packed chamber, with members jostling to catch a glimpse of the gorgeous girls, and ITV even streamed the event live.
Miss Scotland, Miss Zimbabwe, Miss Botswana and Miss Puerto Rico opened the proceedings with speeches about the fundraising activities of the competition, which have raised more than £300 million for charities worldwide.
After the speeches, the girls took questions from the chamber. Despite some scepticism from the audience, the contestants tried to stress the benefits of the competition.
Given that the typical Miss World contestant is undoubtedly smarter than the average Cambridge student, I am sure that the beauty queens held their own. Here is Miss Dominican Republic addressing the chamber:
The event got quite a bit of press in the U.K. Along with the debate, the girls punted on the Cam. This photo is from the Telegraph:
Other than debating the merits of their pageant, what have the contestants been up to? Quite a lot, as the official pageant site reflects. Both the talent and the Beach Beauty finalists have been announced. However, in view of the fact that there are 36 Beach Beauty finalists, it is premature to draw any particular conclusion. But some interesting photos have emerged. I am not certain whether this one, of Miss Venezuela, is from the talent competition or from a program on traditional dance; all I can say is, you might rather mess with Regis Giles than Miss Venezuela:
With the Miss World finale set for November 6, one week from tonight, it is time to check out the betting odds. Here are the top five, according to the linked bookie:
5/1 Miss Bolivia
6/1 Miss Indonesia
8/1 Miss Belgium
8/1 Miss Puerto Rico
8/1 Miss United States
If the Miss World site had normal photography, we could easily post photos of these young ladies for your edification. Alas, as I have repeatedly noted, the site’s photography is awful. So we have to look elsewhere. I do it, so you don’t have to!
Here is Miss Bolivia–an intriguing favorite, by the way; while Latin America is a pageant hotbed, Bolivia is pretty obscure:
Miss Bolivia is interviewed here. It’s a mixed bag. On one hand, her favorite song is “Imagine.” On the other hand, she mentions God twice, rides a motorcycle and wants to own her own company someday.
I dunno. I’m not really a believer. Based on this interview, I’m guessing they kept her under wraps at the Cambridge Union:
[A]long with her high hopes she has also faced some difficulties. “The most difficult is the hair because I have to have many different hairstyles,” she said.
As I’ve noted before, for some inexplicable reason Belgium has emerged as a hotbed of pageantry. I don’t think a Miss Belgium has won one of the big competitions, but it seems only a matter of time, as that country fields one strong contender after another. Here is this year’s Miss World/Belgium, Justine De Jonckheere. She is, it is fair to say, a doll:
Next, Miss Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico is of course a leading center of pageantry. Having spent a little time there, I would say that an astonishing proportion of young Puerto Rican ladies could be pageant material. This year’s Miss Puerto Rico is Amanda Victoria Vilanova Pérez. She won the “best body” prize in the Miss Puerto Rico competition–’nuff said–but she is also a poet, among other things, and I like this rather soulful pose. I think Miss Vilanova Perez may be my favorite so far:
Which brings us to Miss United States, Erin Cummins, now fifth in the betting. The current Miss World, Alexandria Mills, is an American, and it seems extremely unlikely that two Miss USAs in a row would win. Still, Miss Cummins is a strong contender:
One fun aspect of the Miss World contest is that it has a number of sub-competitions–Miss Sport, Miss Beach Beauty, Miss Talent, etc.–the winners of which automatically advance to the semi-final round of the contest. Those winners will be announced over the next couple of days, so stay tuned.