Last week we saw the launch of the Miss Uganda 2013 beauty pageant at the Serena Hotel, and if the mood was anything to go by, this year’s contest already has a good feeling about it.
The organisation seemed that much slicker, and although not everybody that was invited turned up (lots of empty chairs around), one felt that, yes, this is the year everything goes alright.
This will be the third year Brenda Nanyonjo leads the organisation. Redds is back as the main sponsor, and is this time joined by the Kampala Sun and the Kampala Serena Hotel, so corporate Kampala seems to have started believing in Nanyonjo.
Fenon are back as the production people and you could not have asked for nicer guys to work with, although they still have to figure out the lighting for beauty pageants, which is different from music concerts.
But this is Miss Uganda and for some reason things never turn out as expected. Over the years the national pageant has come under criticism for all kinds of reasons. Much of the criticism dwells around the kind of girls picked by the organising team, and almost every year the public will complain about the girl chosen as the winner.
It was no different last year, although the winner, Phiona Bizzu, is a pleasant enough person. Miss World, under whose auspices it will be held, have been trumpeting that it is all about ‘beauty with brains’, or sometimes ‘beauty with a purpose’. What exactly does that mean?
Among the criteria used to choose a pageant winner are the following:
*Can communicate effectively in interviews and be smart enough to answer any question.
*Must have some talent or skill, like singing or dancing, perhaps can play the piano or something else.
*Should have grace, poise and elegance on the cat walk.
*Should have a ‘body to die for’, as judged in the swim wear contest.
*Should have a beautiful face that can ‘launch a thousand ships’.
In Uganda, we have seen that it is usually the ability to answer questions, more than any other factor, that determines who wins the crown, and all the other prizes that go with it. But there is supposed to be a private interview, where the judges have a long tête-àtête with the girls, where a contestant’s intelligence and ability to speak well is judged. They also want to see if she is approachable and genuine, comfortable in her own skin and passionate about what she does.
The onstage interview, on the other hand, is to see how the girls handle the pressure of being in the spotlight, whether they are confident and speak clearly. This is the only part the public sees and, which as a result, caused the controversy. So just as done in the Miss World finals, Brenda and her team have to include all the other sub-contests, to show to the public that the finals are the just the end of a long process. Which brings me to the judges.
There was a lot of criticism last year about the judges and their decision, and whether they actually knew what they were doing. So you have been playing tennis all your life, does that make you a connoisseur of beauty, they asked? There are no hard criteria for choosing a judge for a beauty contest, except maybe their celebrity status, but they should have a good idea of what they are doing. Do they know what beauty is? Can they spot poise, elegance, and grace? Do they even know what those are?
Beauty is a relative entity and its description varies from place to place. Miss World, where Miss Uganda will end up, has its criteria of what the girls should be like, how tall or how big. But there is one standard of beauty that is universal — before you start answering any questions, whether you are black, white, yellow or green, you better have a killer smile and some pretty eyes.
However, the most telling fact is that many of the organisers and, especially the sponsors, forget to fi gure into the equations what happens after the pageant. This is when all that hard work over the months is supposed to pay off.
As supposedly the most beautiful girl in the land, she should be everywhere, on the cover of magazines, on billboards and on adverts. People should be fighting over themselves to pay for the Miss Uganda to appear at their events and functions. Isn’t that what the sponsors pay all that money for?
If that does not happen, then maybe you got it wrong. Seeing Miss Uganda when she is announced winner, and then a year later when she gives up the crown to a new girl does not cut it. So we hope you will all get it right this time round, best of luck.
Lastly, Brenda, when you have two girls left after announcing the second runner-up, it means one of the two left is the winner. If you have watched Miss World and any other pageant, that is when they announce the winner and we obviously know the other one is the First Runner-Up.
But for you to insist on first announcing the First Runnerup, crowning her and then announcing the only girl left as the winner was not, shall we say, not very smart? That is why you got the boos last year.