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The State of Kenyan Beauty Pageant Industry

A beauty pageant is a competition traditionally focused not only on judging but also on ranking the physical attributes of the contestants. In this era, pageants have evolved to encompass inner beauty, personality, intelligence, talent, character, and even charitable involvement, assessed through interviews with judges and responses to public on-stage questions.

For decades, beauty pageants have become a global phenomenon, with many countries and organizations hosting their own versions of it. The four major Beauty Pageants recognized as the “Big Four” are Miss Universe, Miss World, Miss International, and Miss Earth. Additionally, there are other renowned beauty pageants such as Miss Grand International, Miss Supranational, and Miss Intercontinental.

Participating in beauty pageants can be expensive, not only for the contestants but also for the national directors. However, the rewards of winning make it worthwhile. Before signing up for a beauty pageant, there are three key considerations: the cost, including wardrobe expenses, travel, ownership licenses, national event expenses, and training and preparation costs.

The 2021 pageants underscored the significant role of social media in the beauty pageant world. Following a beauty pageant has become easier and faster through the participants’ social media pages. Many contestants already had a substantial following even before entering the competition. Moreover, winning a beauty pageant crown has often jumpstarted contestants’ careers as models and founders of nonprofit organizations. This industry offers ample opportunities for those who seize them.

African countries like Kenya also host beauty pageants, providing job opportunities for contestants. Interestingly, many Kenyans may not even know the current Miss Kenya due to a lack of attention to these pageants. The focus tends to be on the glamorous gowns, body appearances, makeup, graceful walks, and accessories, with little consideration for what happens behind the scenes to achieve such perfection.

Another noteworthy aspect is the models in Kenya, who often begin their modeling and pageant journeys in adulthood. Factors like height, bust, hip size, and body type are not barriers to participation, offering equal chances to everyone. For instance, the pageant “Beauty Beyond Skin” celebrated individuals lacking pigment in their skin, hair, and eyes, fighting the persecution of albinos in East Africa.

Organizers of beauty pageants in Kenya make efforts to promote their events, but funding can be a challenge, resulting in some events falling short of expectations. The government’s financial support, particularly for international events, is insufficient, often leading contestants to dig into their own pockets or rely on fundraising, as seen in the case of former Miss Earth 2018 crown holder Susan Kirui.

The fashion industry in Kenya is slowly growing, with increasing consumer interest in fashion. However, a major hurdle is the near disappearance of textile production in the country, leading to Western influences dominating. It’s crucial for Kenya to develop distinctive designs that stand out on the international stage.

The government should pay more attention to beauty pageants, as they not only benefit individual contestants but also bring prestige to the country in case of a victory. Pageants serve as a form of marketing for the country and its designers, creating more opportunities and promoting tourism and culture internationally.

It’s also essential to educate the public that being a beauty queen or king isn’t just about physical appearance but also about intelligence. Parents should encourage their children’s modeling careers and design talents, as they could be future crown holders. While Africa has progress to make in this regard, gradual change is possible.

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