Talk Around Town
Teens flock to spiced-up beauty contests
by Khanh Linh
One evening, I found my 16-year-old sister squinting into the computer screen, scrutinising her own pouty-lipped image as she uploaded photographs to a website.
In response to my teasing, she insisted that she had to choose the photos carefully so that she would stand out among the other fresh-faced contestants in an online beauty contest.
As her thousands of competitors testify, my sister is hardly alone in her ambitions of beauty queen glory.
Online beauty contests have become the talk of schoolyards across the country. Websites like www.bangaivn.net, www.rap.vn and www.my.opera.com let visitors gaze at an endless supply of images of teenagers, with personal profiles included. Viewers can even post comments and vote for their favourite candidates, creating an online battleground for the beautiful.
It all started with VTC Games Online’s Miss Audition two years ago. While the games were supposed to be the focus, the talent round stole the show, letting beautiful young women show off their personal interests. When the show was broadcast on VTC1 in November 2006, teenagers nationwide were captivated by the diverse, modern lifestyles on display.
High school beauty competitions began to incorporate girls’ talents, and online competitions fuelled girls’ dreams of wooing viewers with their good looks and personalities.
While youthful beauty queens were formerly expected to appear innocent and demure, the new contests value edgier competitors. In the final round of Miss 2skul 2008, sponsored by Music Passion Joint Stock Company, last April, HCM City high schooler Thu Hang performed a flashy dance with a gold tray while Le Phuong Thuy made waves with a belly dance.
Now, Miss Yan 2k8 is inviting candidates to enrol before the June 14 deadline.
“Attending this kind of competition is very liberating. It creates an arena where young women can show off their talents and personalities,” says Ngoc Huong, a student of Viet Duc High School in Ha Noi.
Huong says participating in a high-school beauty contest helped her come out of her shell.
“I used to be a timid girl; I didn’t dare share my feelings with other people. But my classmates pushed me to participate in the beauty contest because of my height, and I couldn’t refuse. Now I am no longer like I used to be,” Huong says.
Pham Thu Tra, a student of Ha Noi Private High School, agrees that the contests can be valuable for young women and believes that Viet Nam should hold an equivalent to Miss Teen USA for 15- to 19-year-olds.
“As long as its in line with morality and traditional values, there should be this kind of playground for schoolgirls like me,” Tra says.
Of course, these contests come with a unique set of hazards for winners and losers alike. I remember how the girl who was named the “Most Charming Student” at my high school, Phan Dinh Phung, so enjoyed the attention that she started training to become a professional model.
Sadly, after numerous modelling courses, competitions and semi-professional gigs, her glowing natural beauty was replaced by a stiff, made-up doll’s face.
Parents, meanwhile, are wondering what happened to the old standards of beauty.
“The beauty of teenagers should be a combination of five elements: intelligence, youthfulness, character, cheerfulness and pure beauty,” says Nguyen Mac Chinh, a resident of Dong Da District and the mother of a 16-year-old girl.
Chinh also worries about her daughter and her friends becoming caught up in these contests and the aesthetic concerns they espouse.
“Children shouldn’t be banned from taking part in these contests; however, they will spend too much time on them and ignore their schoolwork if their parents don’t monitor them. They’ll become obsessed with being more beautiful than others when they’re still just children!”
Nguyen Thi Thu, a retired teacher of Phan Dinh Phung High School, agrees that adults should ensure that these contests don’t get out of hand.
“What we have to do is ensure children understand the limits and context of these activities, so that they can have fun and participate while keeping up with their studies – their main duty and a more worthwhile goal,” she says. — VNS
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