To qualify for the world’s biggest beauty pageants such as Miss World, Miss Earth and Miss Universe, one has to meet certain stringent conditions and go through rigorous vetting. In Kenya for example, to pass as a Miss World participant in Kenya, one should be between 18 and 24 years, have no tattoos, traditional markings or scars.
She should also be taller than 168cm and must have a bust size of 32 inches, waist 28 inches and hips 32 inches. She should also have a near-perfect dental formula and flawless skin. In short, the slimmer you are, the higher your chances of winning. Further, if you want that ‘Miss’ title, you should be unmarried and childless. But these rules may act as stumbling blocks for anyone who dreams of wearing that crown but posses the unconventional beauty. This kind of thinking is what is pushing for alternative beauty pageants which are more accommodating and diverse.
But times are changing and the world of beauty is now embracing this new kind of model- big, bold and beautiful. From Miss Plus-size to Miss Curvy pageants, the demand for plus size kind of models taking to the runway is on the rise in Kenya and beyond. To demonstrate this, last Friday, fans were treated to Miss Curvy event in Nairobi where 15 plus size women battled it out for the crown. They came in all sizes and shapes as they put their heavy foot forward. Madam Edith Awuor won the main title, with Amondi Wendy and Phoebe Olivia coming second and third, respectively.
The plus-size pageantry demand in Kenya has gained popularity evidenced last year when five different organisers hosted curvy women to glitzy runway shows. “I have always wanted to debunk the myth that runway models should be slim and tall. That is why I came up with the Miss Kenya Plus World pageant,” says Neomi Ng’ang’a, the Executive Director of Miss Plus World Pageant in Kenya.
Ng’ang’a says the vision of the Miss Plus World Pageant is to showcase the diversity, creativity, leadership, style, grace and beauty of women worldwide. After South Africa, Kenya is the second country in Africa to host this franchise. “The full-figured African black woman has never truly been celebrated and showcased as an icon of beauty. African women are rising up and demanding to have their space at the table, from fashion to politics, to business and other spheres of life,” she says.
Donnah Obera, the mind behind the Curvy Curve beauty pageant in Norway and Kenya says it is time the plus-size woman got her place on the runway. She says the restrictions that come with most beauty pageants are discriminatory hence the reason she came up with a pageant that opens doors to all women, regardless of their size, shape, colour, marital status and age.
“The curvy woman is hardly celebrated in most international beauty pageants and my event is meant to change that narrative. I am making every effort to ensure that the event goes global as I seek to partner with like minds. I want the whole world to start appreciating and celebrating women of diverse ethnicity and size,” Ms Obera noted.
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According to Maureen Mutheu, a sociologist, beauty pageants should stop objectifying women sexually and instead appreciate them wholesomely. “I don’t see why most beauty pageants insist on showing nudity and pushing the sex agenda. Beauty pageants should be platforms for women to speak out on pertinent issues that affect them,” said Mutheu.