Column: Miss World is back, aged 49, frazzled and tired

THE LIGHTS were purple and the music was loud as out came most of the 94 contestants for this year's Miss World competition to face the press.

All of them, from Miss American Virgin Islands to Miss Zimbabwe, smiled their shiny smiles and tossed their big hair. The look of the day was that of a transvestite in a Pedro Almodovar film: scarlet or pink skirt suit, high patent heels and the full-on make-up mask beloved of air hostesses. Under their teased hair and smudgy eyeshadow, the women looked tiredly into the flashing bulbs of the cameras.

"Is there anything you don't like about doing this?" I asked Miss Brazil, an 18-year-old also known as Paula Carvalho.

"Sitting like this, looking like this all the time," she said, and we looked around the press room, where her fellow contestants were all sitting with expectant faces and neatly crossed legs, waiting to be asked boring questions. "It's not really me."

Once upon a time, Miss World was something to get angry about. In August 1968 young women protested against Miss America by crowning a sheep and throwing bras and curlers and women's magazines into a huge bin outside the venue. In 1970 a bomb exploded in a BBC van outside the Miss World event, and five women were arrested. The protesters' pamphlet, Why Miss World?, put the contest at the very centre of women's exploitation: "We have been in the Miss World contest all our lives ... we've all been through it."

Now, at the age of 49, Miss World looks so frazzled and tired, it is hard to believe she is still going on. A spokesman from the production company Initial tried to turn the whole thing into knowing pastiche by quoting Austin Powers at the press launch yesterday: "Groovy, baby." But it didn't quite work, partly because the contestants are not in on the joke. They make you feel more dispirited than giggly. Because

they are looking for something, but it's something that you know they are not going to get from beauty contests. "Beauty pageants can build up confidence and esteem for young women. I want to be a pioneer for young people," Miss Botswana, also known as Alimah Isaacs, said to me seriously. "Young people need role models in life that they can look up to." Yes, at least 94 young women the world over still think that the way towards confidence and esteem must involve pouting your stickily glossed lips at the Miss World judges, or that being a role model must mean frolicking in your silver bikini to the accompaniment of "You Sexy Thing". Still, at least the contestants, not one of whom is older than 25, will grow out of Miss World. In 10 or 20 years most of them will be leading lives in which beauty contests look as they do to their audiences: hilariously uncool attempts at creating glamour in a television studio. But what can you say for the people who mastermind it, judge it and bring it to our screens? The judges include Lennox Lewis, Eddie Irvine and Terry O'Neill. Oh, boys, boys, boys, what a time you will have of it. And there are no excuses for Dawn Airey, director of programming at Channel 5. Let's hope she has some sleepless nights wondering how she could have got up on a catwalk to say: "Miss World will be the last great television event of the millennium", or to claim that Miss World is not only glamorous and exciting but relevant. Ms Airey, why don't you just say that you are screening Miss World because you hope it will make you some money? Or did you keep stumbling over your words because your tongue was so firmly pressed into your cheek that you could hardly speak?

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
The cartoon depicts the UK (far left) walking around a Syrian child refugee
newsIn an exclusive artwork for The Independent, Ali Ferzat attacks Britain's lack of 'humanity'
Life and Style
Man taking selfie in front of car
health
Sport
footballManager attacks Sky Sports pundit Jamie Redknapp after criticism of Diego Costa's apparent stamping
Life and Style
food + drink
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Manager - OTE £40,000

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This web-based lead generation ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Intervention Teacher Required To Start ASAP.

£125 - £150 per day + Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: A 'wonderful primary ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Maths Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Our client is an 11-16 mixed commun...

Recruitment Genius: PHP / Drupal / SaaS Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly developing company in...

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore