“Miss Europe” and “Miss Romania” 1929
Beauty Pageants Between Aesthetic Aspirations and National Propaganda
Keywords:beauty pageants, feminine beauty, gender, identity, nationalism
This article aims to expose the connections between feminine beauty, nationalism, and political propaganda that have characterized modern beauty pageants since their creation in the 1920s. By surveying the ways in which gender and national identity were socially and culturally constructed through the “Miss Europe” and “Miss Romania” competitions, it will be argued that beauty pageants played an important role in affirming national unity, cohesion, and solidarity as well as in bringing diplomatic tensions to the fore of Romanian public debates. These debates were triggered in February 1929 when the first title of the most beautiful woman in Europe was awarded to “Miss Hungary”. The Romanian weekly magazine “Realitatea Ilustrată” [“Illustrated Reality”], one of the most read publications in the 1920s and 1930s, covered this news extensively, investing the European competition with a patriotic meaning and seeing it as the battleground for a symbolic encounter between the Romanian and Hungarian nations. Thus, the European pageant translated political, ethnical, and propagandistic discourses in terms of feminine beauty and identity.