Miss Universe Malaysia 2013 Carey Ng (centre) posing with Miss Malaysia Universe 2014 finalists.
Miss Universe Malaysia 2014 will be crowned tonight, but as the girls emerge from the isolation booth to answer their final questions, let’s honour those who have failed to talk the talk.
Beauty pageants routinely face ridicule from feminists who claim they only serve to reinforce and perpetuate sexist perceptions that women should strive to be nothing more than pretty faces on high heels. Defenders, on the other hand, argue that pageants are opportune platforms for contestants to prove that personality and intelligence can exist alongside physical beauty. Regardless of your stance on the matter, pageants are entertaining, and often a rich source of unintentional humour, especially during the Q&A section, when wracked nerves and intense scrutiny can turn stunning Venuses into prosaic babblers.
“We need to figure out how to create education better”
Miss USA Utah 2013 Marissa Powell fielded a question about what she thought was the cause of gender inequality in wages. She could have answered that women still faced discrimination when it came to plum job opportunities, but her rambling reply, delivered with the confidence of a talking doll, concluded with the grammatically-questionable yet quote-worthy: “We need to try to figure out how to create education better.” Almost immediately, the 21-year-old aspiring pop singer became a poster child for exactly why America needs to “create education better”. Needless to say, Powell only managed third runner-up.
“Some people out there in our nation don’t have maps”
Before the Miss Utah debacle, there was Miss Teen USA 2007 Lauren Caitlin Upton from South Carolina, who was asked why a fifth of Americans couldn’t locate their own country on a world map. Upton gave a nonsensical answer that scurried off to South Africa, Iraq and unspecified Asian countries, confusing everyone who was watching. But the cherry on top was this instant meme: “I personally believe that US Americans are unable to do so because some people out there in our nation don’t have maps.” In yet another indictment of America’s worsening public education system, Upton only made it to third runner-up.
“I believe the prisoners that were held in Iraq should… should…”
To be fair, the question that was asked of Miss America Alabama 2007 Jennifer Gilbert would’ve tied the tongues of presidents, much less a pageant queen – “Who should be held accountable for the prison abuse scandal in Iraq?” referring to the infamous incident involving American soldiers and Iraqi POWs. After an unbearable pause, during which one can almost see her brain melt out of her burning ears, Gilbert stuttered her incomprehensible answer. Gilbert seems good-natured about the whole fiasco though: she uploaded a video of the embarrassing moment with the accompanying comment “I messed up.”
“Seeing is the best, because seeing is believing”
Miss Philippines USA 2013 contestant Joanlia Lising from California is a sight for sore eyes. Unfortunately, when it came to answering a judge’s question about which of her senses she would keep if she had to lose the other four, the young lady was an embarrassment of foot-in-mouth non-sequiturs. “I would pick seeing, because seeing is the best sense that we can ever see, because seeing is believing, and believing into what you see is perfect.” Afterwards, Lising explained that it was her first time ever addressing a large audience and her nervousness disrupted her thought process, which led to the unfortunate sputtering.
“The best wave that I can take is the wave that I wait for”
Miss Universe Venezuela 2012 Irene Sofia Esser Quintero started her Q&A so well. She walked with confidence and flashed her high octane smile. After listening to a Spanish translation of the question about what new law she would introduce if she could, she launched into her answer in English, which wasn’t the best idea because she spoke as if she was using Google Translate. Having botched the question, she went on to mention that she was a surfer to illustrate a failed analogy that “the best wave that I can take is the wave that I wait for”. Unfortunately for Quintero, that was one wave she missed.
“I’d rather choose to be beautiful because to be beautiful is natural”
For better or worse, contestant Jeannie Anderson summed up the case for detractors of pageants with her answer during Binibining Pilipinas 2006. She was asked to choose between beauty and intelligence and explain the reason for her choice. Anderson hemmed and hawed, demanded the question be repeated and the audience to shut up, before announcing her choice (beauty, of course) with the reasoning that “to be beautiful, it’s natural” as opposed to the fact that “you can learn a lot of things being smart”. Yes, pageants can be a steep learning curve, if you actually realise it.
Additional reporting by Olivia Lee