Curious to see what life was like for young New Zealand women of a different era, Alex Casey turns to a 1969 special about beauty queens for a historical wake-up call.
It’s hard yakka being a woman sometimes, with everyone screaming at us to hide our bra straps, contour our faces and clap for all the brave men on the top 50 CEO list all at the same time. But how do things in 2016 compare to 1969? What did the ideal woman look like back then? Thankfully, the 1969 “pictorial magazine” (old timey speak for telly show) Looking at New Zealand: Beauty Queens was there to answer all my questions.
You’ll recall this was long before Lord of the Rings, so we had a slightly different way of selling beautiful Godzone to the world. “The natural beauties of New Zealand include its mountains, its lakes, its beaches and its girls,” the narrator drawls as the camera pans across to a woman in her togs. But he’s not done yet.
“They could all be the girl next door, but they’ve all got that little extra something. It’s more than just good looks. Charm, personality, deportment, intelligence.” I paused to Google “deportment,” mistakenly thinking it meant they were being deported for being too poised and really, really, ridiculously good looking for this humble land.
The objective of the short documentary is to “find out what particular qualities make up the typical lovely New Zealand girl,” like some creepy pervo version of David Attenborough. To answer this age-old question, we are invited to meet beauty queens around the country. I sat with my notebook and assembled the characteristics of the dream kiwi woman in 1969.
MUST GO CRAZY FOR LETTUCE SALAD
“I LOVE LETTUCE SALAD,” declares Lorraine, 17 from Waitara. “I COULD EAT LETTUCE SALAD ALL DAY.” Ah yes, and as a modern woman I too enjoy both a lettuce salad and a bread sandwich. But Lorraine’s not done yet. “I like curry and rice, I like that too. I could eat that as much as lettuce salad, I think.” What a combo.
MUST LIKE SPORT, BUT ONLY BECAUSE IT MAKES YOU MORE HOT
Deirdre from Waikato has a hell of an appetite, so finds herself swimming for an hour every lunchtime to keep herself thin. Someone should tell Deirdre about the newfangled foodie trend of lettuce salad. Wendy from Southland also loves playing tennis, because she finds it a fitting “opportunity for deportment.” Deport me straight outta here.
MUST LOVE A HORSE AND EVERYTHING ABOUT A HORSE
Gail loves a horse, Vivienne loves a horse, Deirdre loves a horse. If only they knew then what would become of the equine kind a mere 47 years later.
MUST ONLY LIKE VERY SIMPLE BROWNISH CLOTHES
The absolute loose cannon Gail from Hokitika maintains that she only enjoys “simple-styled clothes in subdued colours, my favourite being blues and browns.” She’s not alone in this pursuit of the plain. Old mate Lettuce Lorraine takes a breath from her salad to declare “I don’t like fussy clothes, I like simple styles.” But in 2016 we have fussy lettuce dresses Lorraine!
MUST WORK AS A BANK CLERK AND BLOODY LOVE IT
It won’t be a surprise to anyone that even the most poised, beautiful, simply-dressed women didn’t appear to have a heck of a lot of opportunities. The majority of the women interviewed are either typists or bank clerks, with one lucky lass working in a shop mounting jewellery.
It’s not all bad though – Lorraine sings the praises of her job as she got $20 as a gift from her employer to say congratulations on her beauty achievements. That’s $322 now, or approximately 60,000 heads of lettuce. A stunning perk for a clerk imo.
MUST HAVE A WEIRD OBSESSION WITH NIGHTIES
“I adore frilly nighties and cant resist going to see the latest selection,” says Jan, fervently flicking through the racks at her local nightie boutique. I enjoy a trip to Cotton On Body as much as the next codger, but how many nighties does a woman need?!
As we reach the end of our journey to finding the perfect kiwi woman (apparently white, young, thin, meek, clerk, lettuce), the male narrator looks toward the future as they head into the national finals. “Some of these girls will be transformed, their personalities opening up like flowers as they gain poise and polish.”
Ah well, at least we don’t have to put up with any of this tripe in the 21st century, right ladies?
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