Are Beauty Pageants Just A Marketing Gimmick?   

Ritwika Gupta, April 30, 2018

Biplab Deb’s bizarre statement about Diana Hayden received a lot of flak but does he have a point when he says beauty pageants are nothing but marketing gimmicks? Ritwika Gupta opines.

A bit of methi and a bit of mud. This is Biplab Deb’s formula to achieve the great Indian beauty. He is neither a beauty blogger nor a cosmetic expert but the Chief Minister of Tripura feels that “Indian beauty” should be like goddesses Lakshmi and Saraswati. While addressing an event for handloom artisans at Prajna Bhavan in Agartala, the BJP leader said that former Miss World, Diana Hayden lacks “Indian beauty”. According to him, it is a joke that Diana won the Miss World title.

I have a few questions for CM Biplab. Has he met goddesses Lakshmi and Saraswati in person? Does he know how they look like? Does he, himself, bathe in methi and mud? Are irresponsible politicians today, now calling the shots on beauty standards?

It is embarrassing to read such bizarre statements from the leaders of the country in 2018. Throughout history and up till the present day, many continue to believe that women should look a certain way. And besides, what is “ideal beauty” in India? People from Tripura do not look like people from Punjab. People from Tamil Nadu do not look like people from Jammu and Kashmir. A lot has been written about how patriarchy, society and the media have reinforced a skewed definition of “ideal female beauty”. It is one thing to question the process of judgment in a pageant, but no one has the right to belittle someone’s appearance on a public platform. His remark about Diana Hayden just goes to show the kind of regressive mindsets that still exist in our society. And this needs to stop.


Diana Hayden

I wish my article today was just about bashing Biplab Deb but there was a point he made about beauty pageants which I would like to talk about. Biplab Deb claimed that Indians are no longer winning pageants because the “international marketing mafia” has already captured the Indian beauty market. In the past, many have speculated that the main purpose of pageants has been to push and establish beauty businesses in different parts of the world. Back in 1994, when Sushmita Sen and Aishwarya Rai won the Miss Universe and Miss World titles respectively, beauty brands realised that India was a lucrative market to set up businesses. So, it is not all wrong to say that these pageants are well-disguised marketing strategies. They are used as platforms to market cosmetics around the world by selecting an ambassador to sell their products. Today, India has a booming cosmetics market. According to a joint study by Assocham and research agency, MRSS India in October 2017, the current size of India’s cosmetics industry is USD 6.5 billion. With consumption of cosmetics increasing rapidly, the market is expected to rise manifold to USD 35 billion by 2035. Indian women, today, are aware of the best products and grooming facilities. There are beauty salons at every nook and corner in major cities. Well-known cosmetic brands have partnered with salons in India, including neighbourhood parlours, to place their products. There are fashion weeks that happen regularly and there is also an increasing interest in beauty pageants in smaller towns and rural areas. Amidst all this, one cannot help but notice a certain co-relation between the rising beauty businesses in India and a drop in the number of wins at the ‘Big Four’ pageants. Quite obviously, these pageants are more than just a game of crowns.

However, condemning beauty pageants just because they are making way for international cosmetics does not make sense. Despite the influx of foreign beauty brands in India, the cosmetics industry’s major share is still enjoyed by homegrown brand (though owned by Hindustan Unilever), Lakme. Patanjali reaches nearly 53% of Indian households in the personal care segment. Brands like Himalaya, Shahnaz Husain and Lotus Herbals are very popular among Indian women. Biplab Deb praised Aishwarya Rai for representing “Indian beauty” in true sense. But the irony here is that Rai, herself, endorses the international beauty brand, L’Oreal – a point which he conveniently missed.

Pageants are marketing ploys but one would expect the CM of Tripura to have other pressing issues on his plate. If this is Biplab Deb’s way of getting attention, then rest assured, he did get his 15 minutes of fame. Besides, how can I forget that this is the same chap who claimed that the Internet has been around since the time of the Mahabharata!

Honestly, I am still recovering from that one.