Thursday, June 26, 2008


I'd like to tell two further stories about Tuesday's extra-curricular Miss Universe event, the Most Charming in Áo Dài competition. One today and one tomorrow. We arrived in the auditorium about twenty minutes early and took our seats, which were really excellent (thanks to one of Sunshine's coworkers): third row, dead center. Since the first row of our section was reserved for the judges, there were plenty of notable people milling around the orchestra pit before the show. Sunshine was helping to identify them. At one point a woman in a red velvet áo dài and gold khăn đóng (the traditional áo dài turban, made by wrapping a ribbon dozens of times around to make a reel capping the top of the head1) came down the aisle, earning some hubbub from the assembled photographers. "Is that Miss Việt Nam," I asked, sensing she was maybe someone important. Sunshine pointed out that her áo dài, though nice, was nowhere near the caliber we were expecting to be onstage that night. There was no way she could be a contestant. Who did she end up being when she finally turned around? The current Miss Universe, woefully underdressed for the occasion. I've been carping all along about how this pageant rarely elects black or Asian people. Pageant wonks argue these claims by pointing to the latest ambiguously orange-gray Latina or deeply-tanned Swedish type. Lately, they've brought up the current Miss Universe, last year's Miss Japan, only the third east Asian woman to win the title since the day I was born.* The thing is, while she looks somewhat more Asian than the Swiss Miss girl, she also looks less Japanese than a Cherokee croupier. In Tuesday’s áo dài she could pretty much pass for a Vietnamese usher though, so that's something. [Cavin]

Then, a 1 sided conversation ensued...

To which Blogger Mr. Cavin added:

* What about black people? There have only ever been three African countries to hold the title of Miss Universe; and of those, only 1999's winner from Botswana, Mpule Keneilwe Kwelagobe was black. For the record, she was elected in a year hosted by Trinidad and Tobago, one year after Wendy Fitzwilliam, Miss Trinidad, etc., also black, was crowned in Hawaii and twenty-two years after Janelle Commissiong had first won the Miss Universe title for that country, becoming, coincidentally, the first-ever black woman to wear the sash and tiara back in 1977. In the middle of all this, Chelsi Smith, Miss Texas and Miss USA 1995, became the second-ever black Miss Universe in a ceremony hosted by the nation of Namibia. So the answer is four.

Saturday, June 28, 2008 9:07:00 PM  

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