Ianardo's comment: Beauty contests have attracted debate and divided opinion for years, and some wondered about the value of introducing these for plus size women. But plus size beauty pageants are very different and very positive and inspiring. Please read Danelle Orovitz's article below to learn more.
With larger women typically neglected by beauty pageants, the Miss Big Beautiful Woman UK pageant brought these women into the spotlight they deserved. While the winner received a luxurious holiday package, the women who participated each took away an invaluable prize: camaraderie.
Most beauty competitions conceal the conflict backstage. The competition is intense, with a large bit of backstabbing and cruelty to accompany it. The Miss Big Beautiful Woman UK lacked this pettiness. Laura Marrod, 2010's crowned champion, pointed out the beauty of her own competitors. “All the finalists here are stunning.”
Every beauty pageant has its required preening and primping. Spray-on tans, hair soaked with hair gel until it doesn't move in a gale, layers of make-up, etc., are only the beginning. All of these can only emphasize the woman who wears them. For many of the women, donning these necessities did not create the confidence needed to utilize them, but enhanced it. Reasons for entering were both personal and universal. Some saw the contest as personally empowering while others, such as runner-up Heaven-Leigh Ellison, recognized its potential to send a message to the entire society. “We needed to let the world know that it is possible to be plus size, intelligent, and beautiful,” she said.
Miss Big Beautiful UK was a platform from which its participants were able to deliberately cast themselves as beautiful, a path they may have previously been denied. As important as the woman-to-woman interaction was the feedback many participants received from friends and acquaintances. Even the internet and Facebook with their well camouflaged trolls managed to behave themselves as well as expected; for several competitors, Facebook was even a source of encouragement. But with its anonymity, the internet is never without issues. Despite her problems with faceless commentators, Dionne Da Costa, the second runner-up, found enough positivity in her day-to-day life to overcome the biased attitudes of others.
There remains, sadly, much social stigma attached to being a larger woman in a culture which believes that to be beautiful is to be slim. Despite that prejudice, each woman who entered the pageant began with the assumption that she was beautiful. Beauty begins with confidence, and confidence is a necessary place to first take action when at odds with the promoted standard.
In such a public place, many of the participants were open about their recommendations to the fashion industry, whose garments can be flattering or detrimental to any woman's figure. The industry has earned rightful criticism: its offerings for larger women are frequently less attractive than for other sizes. As Laura indicated, “we are not all frumpy 70-year-old women!”
The sentiment Laura derided was the same one that lead the pageant's organizer, Linda Koch, to create her Big Girls' Paradise parties. The events foster an environment in which larger women meet for a night out where they will not be judged on either their size or how they have chosen to dress. In a world which still assumes a larger woman will dress to hide her size rather than to flatter it, this is an anomaly.
Both Laura's comment and Linda's action feed from the same frustration. They remain outsiders in a world obsessed with both women who are slender and the ways in which those who are not will join the ranks. Through both the Miss Big Beautiful UK pageant and these clubs, theirs are but a few among many which are beginning to be heard. Even when they are vastly out-numbered, the voices of large women accepting themselves are rising and increasing. For many of the pageant competitors, this was the opportunity they seized. Utilizing one of a woman's best tools—how she presents herself—all the participants have protested against the standard and demanded a place for themselves. They are putting themselves forward as they are, not as someone else believes they should be.
Danelle Orovitz writes for Plus Size Clothes.net.