It is a Catch-22; the qualities that contestants are most judged on in these beauty pageants—physical beauty—are the things a winner must distance themselves away from while wearing the Miss Kigali crown.The New Times does not think any one individual needs to be reminded that physical attributes run merely skin-deep and that judging any people based on their looks—be it skin color, nose length or eye shape—is something this country has done away with long ago.
Yet still, ‘innocent’ superficiality such as the culturally and commercially successful Miss Kigali beauty pageant, grows ever stronger and illuminates a very telling symptom of Rwandan culture, and world culture in general; we hold beauty in very high regard.
Is there something wrong with this? Yes, if it begins and ends at physical beauty itself. The future of the beauty pageant in Kigali at least—and let us hope that is a regular annual mainstay here in the capital—should be one that progressively removes itself from an image of image.
What makes Miss Kigali 2008 should not be just her body, but the things all Rwandans, fat, tall, thin or small wish to embody. Does Kigali and Rwanda as a whole want to be represented both to itself and the outside world as smooth dark skin with a pretty but empty smile?
Not only as contestants, but for whoever wears the crown, Miss Kigali should be seen as not only a privilege but an important responsibility, not dissimilar to social activists and civil leaders. Miss Kigali must be politically, socially, but most importantly intellectually active. During her year of wearing the crown, Miss Kigali should face extensive and intensive tours, promotional volunteer work and speechmaking to most exploit her noticeable place in society.
This means only that the selection process leading to the choosing of a pageant winner must be as scrupulous as her following year-long tour.
Candidates must exhibit more than simply looks; extensive knowledge of Rwanda’s history and desired future are musts, along with genuine interests and hobbies as well as a noticeably colorful personality.
Role models are those we all look up to, and certainly the bright shiny jewels of physical beauty are more than enough to draw our eyes and hearts. Miss Kigali must draw our minds too.