Beauty pagents are often thought of as outdated, superficial and sexist. Lucky nobody told the folk at Miss Universe New Zealand, who recently gathered twenty of the country’s most beautiful women together to compete for a sparkly tiara and a huge bunch of flowers.
Miss Universe NZ 2016 was a bizarre old night. The audience screamed like they were being murdered, host Stephen McIvor dusted off his best Dad jokes, while Sonia Gray was the glue holding this hot mess together. Stan Walker dropped by to motivate and inspire: “believe in yourself, when nobody else does”. That is some classic Miss Universe wisdom, equally uplifting and depressing.
The winner of Miss Universe NZ is chosen via a complicated process of ritual and sacrifice, involving pre-purchased voting, bonus points and a much coveted immunity from elimination. Those found wanting are thrown to the lions – sequins and all – and the last woman standing wins the crown. It’s brutal, but very rewarding and a great way to make friends.
But surely Miss Universe NZ needs more than just stunning beauty and fabulous hair to succeed in this crazy world of pageantry and posing?
Prepare yourselves: my alternative list of must-have pageant talents will turn the beauty world on its coiffured head. After all, how far will good looks and self confidence get you, if you can’t shout your way through a rock and roll medley while standing on a paddle board?
Spoiler alert: not far at all.
1) She must be able to shout and kick, preferably at the same time
A troupe of shimmying starlets welcome us to the glamorous world of Miss Universe NZ. The dance routine is catchy, it’s kicky, and it features matching sack dresses stolen from Miss Hannigan’s orphans on Annie. It’s a hard knock life, alright.
Let’s meet the finalists. “I’m Tamsyn! I’m giving you all good energy!” one contestant yells. Maybe send that energy to the sackless orphans, Tamsyn, they’re bloody freezing without their clothes. “My name is Emma! God is good!” Amen to that. “I’m Jade, and I hope you all enjoy this wonderful night!” FYI, I’m holding her personally responsible if we don’t.
“I’M TARA AND I’M EATING CHOCOLATE DIGESTIVES IN MY ACTIVE WEAR!” I yell back. The crowd screams. Why don’t we greet everyone like this? I bloody love it.
2) She has the heart and soul of a baby boomer
It’s like Miss Universe creaked open the Giant Wardrobe of Bygone Entertainers and chose the first three acts that fell out: a 1960s tribute group, a James Bond song medley, and Frankie bloody Stevens. John Rowles and True Bliss remain stuck in the cupboard awaiting their 2017 call-up – fingers crossed for next year, team.
Oh What a Night’s medley begins with a stirring reindition of ‘Big Girls Don’t Cry’, probably dedicated to the nineteen women about to go home with nothing but a fake tan and a broken heart. They may as well have crooned ‘Suck It Up, Losers’.
Later, there’s a sultry James Bond theme song pastiche, because nothing says ‘modern New Zealand woman’ like a nine hour musical tribute to a fictional secret agent playboy.
Are you not entertained? Is this not why you are here? It’s hard to know.
3) She can paddleboard for hours without going anywhere
“The swimwear is where it should be – on the beach!” says Stephen, because it’s fine to judge women’s bodies when they’re standing by a pool, but definitely not on stage.
Our favourite beauty queens travelled to the Phillippines, where they were photographed hugging trees, escaping from a giant net, and standing beside a lovely bunch of coconuts. It was as empowering as it was inspiring.
But if we’re judging swimwear, how about a photo shoot of women actually swimming? Climbing out of the pool with togs halfway up their bum, one boob accidentally poking out after an especially vigorous lane turn, a sudden realisation they haven’t shaved their armpits since 2012. Or is that just me?
Either way, that would really give the audience something to scream about.
4) She is a slow walker
The fashion parade is the crucial moment in the perilous journey to reach the Miss Universe crown. Only one woman will survive the climb, while the rest plummet to the bottom in an icy avalanche of tears and rejection.
This is the slowest procession I’ve ever seen. Princess Diana’s funeral cortege was quicker, and arguably more exciting. Seasons change, glaciers melt, comets travel the literal universe in the time it takes these twenty women to walk across the stage in fancy dress.
Kill me now, and wrap me in a soft shroud of sunshine-coloured organza.
5) She knows the answer to any question is “whatever makes you happy”
Rather than tax the tiny female brain with tricky questions about important issues, the top ten finalists are asked why they entered the competition, what their biggest challenge was, and how much cosmetic surgery is too much. I’ll admit I was curious about the last answer, given I had just Googled ‘how to sew your eyelids shut’.
I have questions, too: why can’t Miss Universe be married or have a baby? Which Entrepreneureal Challenge raises more money, a cake stall or quiz night? Also, how much practice do you need before your tiara stops falling off? Definitely asking that last question for a friend.
6) She knows when to call it a night
At last, the moment we’ve been waiting for: Tania Dawson is crowned Miss Universe NZ 2016. Not sure what Tania actually wins, other than a shiny mist of tickertape that follows her wherever she goes.
The credits roll. Executive Director Nigel Godfrey stands on the stage and invites sponsors up for photos. “And after that, we’ll do the raffle,” he says. Somehow, it’s a fitting end to the evening.