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October 30, 2006

From L to R - Thailand's Ratravee, Mexico's Erica Andrews and Patricia Montecarlo of the Philippines

Big hair, heavy makeup and sequined ball gowns are hardly high fashion. Beauty pageant contestants often take on a certain drag queen quality on stage. They wear over-the-top outfits, perform show tunes and sashay around stage in ridiculously high heels, so all just a little too cabaret for most real girls. The best at being more feminine than female is a shemale, I'd say.

Meanwhile, interest in beauty pageants such as Miss America and Miss Universe have been on decline in North America. Talent competitions and one-piece swimsuits can't compete with reality TV's beautiful girls eating bugs, surviving on desert islands, racing around the world or recorded 24/7 in a houseful of scheming and backstabbing. Beauty contests need a new spin and in Thailand, they found just that.

According to Nancy Bompey reporting for AFP (10/29/06), Thailand just held the hugely successful Miss International Queen 2006 competition to find the most beautiful transsexual in the world. It's estimated to have attracted 25 million television viewers in Thailand alone or approximately 40 percent of its total population of 65 million people. Erica Andrews of Mexico was crowned the winner with contestants from Thailand and the Philippines as the runner-ups.

There are two reasons why such a competition would prove so popular in Thailand. Philip Cornwel-Smith who is author of "Very Thai: Everyday Popular Culture" explains in the article that many Thais are Buddhists and as such are sexually open-minded. For example, they believe that transsexuals are the result of karma occurring to individuals who were adulterers in former lives.

Since everyone will eventually be an adulterer at some point in a future if not past life, there's no negative stigma attached to what is often seen as a sin in other religions. The writer also explains that attitudes towards placing importance on outward appearances are straightforward, "Beauty contests are really popular here because beauty matters. Surface impressions count for much more than they do in the West."

If the three contestants in the photo above are any indication of the general caliber of the competitors, all I can say is that surfaces like that should count for plenty anywhere.

Posted by Will Peters at October 30, 2006 3:25 PM

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Posted by: jawed at December 31, 2008 7:48 AM

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