Miss Universe Goes Topless

The universal truth – controversy sells. So does sex. Club them together and they are likely to breathe life into a dead beauty pageant.
Once upon a time the ticket to easy fame and money, beauty pageants are now struggling to remain afloat. Even the Grand Slam or Big Four of the pageant world – The Miss Universe, Miss World, Miss Earth and Miss International – are encountering tough times. TV viewers have plummeted and sponsors are hard to come by.

In an age of women’s emancipation, women have so many means to achieve the life of their dreams. Look at self-made hi-achievers among women around the world. They haven’t taken the pageant route-far from it.
This year the contestants are grabbing eyeballs without the twirl of a single gorgeous gown.  In a new form of pre-event hype, some of the contestants are posing topless and/or covered in body paint.
Of the 83 contestants, Miss USA, Miss Japan and Miss Trinidad and Tobago faced the camera with body paint on.
Miss USA 2010 has already stirred up controversy in this year’s Miss USA competition when she wore lingerie and fishnets. When she won the Miss USA crown, “TMZ” reported that she was the winner of a stripping contest in 2007.
Rima Fakih has said that she was well aware that there would be controversy when she decided to pose topless for her publicity shots.
“Well, there were options and we were all asked what we would feel comfortable [doing],” she told “Access Hollywood.”
“I told them I feel comfortable with beauty and with being unique. I’m known to stand out and always wanting to do something different.”
Miss USA Discusses Topless Miss Universe Photos Controversy
At the end of the day, the Miss Universe pageant judges a contestant on beauty attributes. Each one may interpret beauty and what makes them beautiful in their unique way.  Posing topless cannot be a great or unique idea. If anything, it is likely to bring down the already flimsy image of the pageant where contestants pledge to spread peace, tolerance and mutual understanding.
After this, who will take them seriously?
Update: Uh oh. India’s contestant, Ushoshi Sengupta isn’t lagging behind in grabbing eyeballs. For completely wrong reasons though. Take a look at the image alongside. It’s not a gown borrowed from Barbie as the Island Princess. That could be the inspiration though. This is the gown Ushoshi Sengupta wore for the National Costume round of the Ms Universe pageant, in Las Vegas, US, on Monday. Designed by Kolkata-based designer duo Dev R Nil, the dress, which seemed to lack structured tailoring, looked like a gown gone horribly wrong, say Indian designers.
What the designers were aiming for is anybody’s guess. I am wondering why Ritu Kumar, who has been designing for the national costume round at the pageant for years, was overlooked.
This appears to be a pageant India forfeits before it begins.
Main image: Ushoshi Sengupta representing India at Miss Universe, from the Miss Universe official website.
Other images: Lara and Sushmita’s crowning moments at Miss Universe