Today, I found myself accompanying friends and coworkers to “Miss Teen Nepal 2010”. I’ll be honest, I didn’t take it seriously at first. Part of the reason I wanted to go was because I was eager to mock the girls parading themselves in front of us as “beauty queens”. Instead, I found that I was sympathetic towards the girls (though not all of them) and that my anger and annoyance lay not with the contestants but with every other aspect of the beauty pageant.
First off, the event started late. It was scheduled for 3 pm but it was around 3:45 that the MCs took to the stage and started to talk. I noticed, at that point, that the hall seemed astonishingly empty. The pageant started and as the 18 young girls came on stage I wasn’t sure how to react to the booty shorts and skimpy tops before me. I had to tell myself that this was 21st century Nepal and that at least paired with chucks the girls were dressed as teenagers instead of porn stars.
Each girl was given the microphone and for a minute the floor was their’s to introduce themselves. Most started with a cheesy quote/line and an introduction that wasn’t worth remembering, I was embarrassed for them, their poor English and the fake accents sunk my faith in the younger women of Nepal.
As each took the mic, I am ashamed to admit that I found PLENTY to make fun of – it took little effort to criticize the girls, then I found that although I was looking for things to scoff at, I was having a hard time hearing the girls thanks to the non-stop chattering of the audience. Half an hour after the show started, the auditorium filled up and as people continued to trickle in an hour and a half after the scheduled time, it seemed everyone was oblivious to the girls on stage trying to maintain their practiced pose.
Then I felt bad. I felt awful for the overdressed girls in the makeup of underpaid whores trying to recite memorized lines in the most beauty queen poise they could feign. I felt sorry that they had to fight for attention even though the stage was theirs, I hated the audience for being rude, and I despised the men in suits who answered their phones and continued a conversation as if there weren’t 18 nervous girls on stage.
Then came the talent round, one girl played a piece on the piano and another sang bits of the Ramayan, and a few gave speeches/recited poetry on “new Nepal” (I’m personally tired of hearing about it), but most of the “talent” was dancing. Most were clad in Nepali clothes (be it modest or something out of a Hindi movie from 40 years ago when women danced for/in front of wide-mouthed men), who danced to Nepali songs. But then there were the girls in too tight clothes rotating their hips and gyrating on stage to English songs. Of that, I was and am appalled.
I then began to question, why were these girls on stage? They all want to win the crown and title of “Miss Teen Nepal” (not that there is a lot of prestige in it), but why were they there?! I don’t know if they win prize money or if they’re there for shits and giggles but I felt humiliated by the whole show.
Even though my school was rampant with beauty queens, I have no clue what pageants in the west are like. I didn’t get to stay for the questioning so I don’t know if we had any Miss Teen South Carolinas with “like such as in the Iraq and I know where America is on a map” but I disliked how unprofessional every bit of this was. The MC’s were unable to get the crowd riled up and the crowd only responded to unfortunate things like a girl shaking her ass more than I cared to see, or when girls fumbled and erred. The MCs said a few things that I found highly inappropriate and it was embarrassing how many technical issues there were. Although I had first come with plans of pointing and laughing at the girls I soon found them to be rather courageous.
Being someone who at 23 still experiences stage fright, I can’t imagine being 18 or under and standing in front of an auditorium of uncouth, disrespectful imbeciles who don’t know how to act in public. I could no longer find it in myself to comment out loud and the comments of those who were sitting around me made me cringe.
Unfortunately (or fortunately) I had to leave the event early and on my walk back to the office I was fuming and internally pondering/bitching about Nepal. I won’t write my list of complaints but as I kept walking (while trying to avoid the globs of spit on the ground and the elbows of men trying to graze my chest), one phrase popped into my head and I hope, eventually, I’ll gain enlightenment: there is so much wrong with my country, where do I start?