Colombia’s northwestern Antioquia state has canceled funding for the popular Miss Antioquia beauty pageant and –under the leadership of the governor’s wife — put that funding in a talent show for young women.
The days of bikini-clad women parading themselves across Antioquia’s pageant stages in displays of beauty and aesthetics may be gone as a new challenger has arisen: the Young Talented Women contest.
The contest, which just completed this year’s iteration, is a project to replace the former beauty pageants with a competition that focuses more on achievement.
Lucrecia Ramirez, a specialist in women’s mental health and the wife of Antioquia governor Sergio Fajardo initiated the project in 2004 with the hope of changing the social view of women in Colombia.
“It’s a shame to go abroad and hear that my country is the country of beauty queens and drugs,” she told El Tiempo newspaper.
The project is an attempt to get away from the limiting view that women are best judged by their beauty. Ramirez noted that the beauty contests had a broader social effect, reinforcing the objectification of women.
Patricia Builes, who is now in charge of the project, hopes that that talent contest will ultimately “deconstruct what has been culturally imposed” on young women in Colombia.
A decade ago, Sergio Fajardo as mayor of Medellin withdrew the public funding for local support of the Miss Colombia beauty pageant. Later, after becoming governor of Antioquia, he withdrew the funding at the state level. This paved the way for the “Mujeres Jovenes Talento” (Talented Young Women) to replace it both at the city and regional levels.
This, naturally, resulted in strong criticism from the businesses whose income was greatly augmented by the competition’s demand for and showcasing of physical beauty and related beauty products.
Hector Ruiz, famous for his work in preparing beauty contestants, feels that it is completely unnecessary to do away with the beauty-based contests. El Tiempo cited him as considering it two completely different things for women to compete in aesthetics and talent. For him, the two can stand separate and the beauty pageants should remain.
Others, such as Medellin fashion reporter Beatriz Arango see it as a fruitless endeavor.
“To claim that a ban on aesthetic and beauty-related activities will lead to a new ethical commitment or promotion of talents is to be unaware that from beauty, fashion, and its manifestations it is possible to promote leadership and discipline,” she was quoted in El Tiempo.
However, the fact that the project started in Medellin, the “fashion capital of Latin America,” does say something about its efficacy and may provide some hope that it could have an effect on the social view of women.
More than 2,700 young women participate in this year’s contest, representing 118 different municipalities in Antioquia. After many competitions showcasing the talents of athletes, scientists, musicians, the contest’s judges selected four women to be awarded the title of “most talented.” The award ceremony was, poetically, held in front of the Metropolitan theater where Miss Antioquia is also crowned.