Nomalanga Mhlauli-Moses, the reigning Mrs. Botswana 2010/2011, recently wrote an open letter to David Marmel, owner of the Mrs World Pageant, to express her disapproval with the lack of black or African women named as top 14 contestants in the competition, as well as the lack of diversity among judges on the panel. The women recently wrapped up the competition in Orlando, but the experience left a troubling impression in Nomalanga’s mind.
On behalf of the women in the competition she writes:
I will not assume that you are as aware as we all were that there was not a single black woman or a woman of African descent/heritage amongst the top 14 contestants and I am writing to bring this shocking detail to your attention. On the night of the finals at Mrs World 2011, shortly after the announcement of the top 14, several women voiced their disappointment at the way they were so grossly insulted by the blatant disregard of their presence in the pageant as well as the lack of acknowledgment that black women are beautiful, accomplished and worthy of consideration of the Mrs World crown. My suggestion was that upon our arrival back home, we should take a dignified approach to making you aware of our concerns regarding the issue of the top 14 not including any woman who is either African, black or identifies herself as having African heritage. That is the purpose of this letter.
Mr. Marmel, the omission of the above mentioned women in the top 14 makes such a strong statement that I feel that I would be remiss if I did not bring it to your attention; it says that no African woman is beautiful enough to be Mrs World; it says that our foundations, charities and the causes that we are passionate about are not important enough; it says that the Mrs World organization has such a narrow definition of beauty that we have no hope of ever fitting into it.
My research has found that in the history of the Mrs World pageant, no African woman or woman of African descent has ever won the pageant and to my knowledge, they have never even been in the top 3. I was told that the reasoning for this was that the pageant historically did not draw a large enough pool of women of color but I was present this year and I saw for myself that there was a large enough pool! I had the pleasure of meeting some of the most beautiful women that I have ever seen and amongst them were some intelligent, accomplished, passionate and gorgeous women of color!
Nomalanga made it a point to say her thoughts are “not the angry ramblings of a discontented woman (or group of women) who feel(s) sour that she or they did not win,” but rather an effort to bring a serious issue to owner’s intention. That can be a hard point to prove when it comes to competitions.
Check out the rest of Nomalanga’s letter on Your Black World and tell us what you think. Is she right about the message the pageant judges are sending?
Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.
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