Activity 2 What is beauty

Here are some pictures of entrants in the Miss Universe Pageant 2005.

 Miss Universe


  • Describe each of these contestants. In what ways do their appearances differ?
  • What features do they have in common?

In fact, these are not real individuals. The pictures are composites of all the entrants in the pageant. The picture of Miss Africa is a blend of all nine representatives of the African countries in 2005. The picture of Miss Europe is a blend of all 28 delegates from European countries in 2005. You will have noticed that the faces in the photos are all very similar.

  • What reasons might there be for this? Record your comments on a classroom blog, shared Google doc. or butcher's paper.

Now consider what sorts of faces are NOT represented in these images.

  • Make a list of the features you don’t see, such as skin colour, eye shape, hair colour, facial bone structure, mouth shape.

The fact that the contestants all have very similar faces may be because the pageant has a history of awarding first prize to women with features similar to those depicted. It probably means that the judges select these features over other, more distinctive ethnic and racial features. Thus the contestants chosen to represent their countries most closely resemble the ‘ideal’ Miss Universe. The important thing to remember is that this representation of ‘beauty’ is fictional — these are not ‘real’ people. And so it is with many of the images of beautiful people we see in the media, who are presented as an ideal for us to aspire to.

  • Why have beauty pageants? What do these images say about global perceptions of beauty? Record your comments on a classroom blog, shared Google doc. or butcher's paper.