Traditional vs. Cosmopolitan: Idealized Femininity and National Representation in Nigerian Beauty Pageants

Oluwakemi M. Balogun, Sociology

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11/4/10 CRG Forum: The Construction of Femininities & the Racial Politics of Beauty
"Traditional vs. Cosmopolitan: Idealized Femininity and National Representation in Nigerian Beauty Pageants ," Oluwakemi M. Balogun, Sociology

Drawing from interviews, ethnographic observations and content analysis, this talk compares two different pageants in Nigeria. The first pageant, the Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria utilizes “international standards” to select and send contestants to Miss World and Miss Universe, the top pageants in the world. While the second contest, Queen Nigeria whose winners do not compete outside of Nigeria, brands itself as a Nigerian-based socio-cultural pageant. Through an analysis of the various discourses surrounding these pageants, I map two distinct ideologies of idealized femininity, one based on a traditional model and another based on a cosmopolitan standard, onto specific strands of national representation, situated at the local and transnational levels. I argue that national representations can exist at multiple levels within the same country, and show how gendered discourses, specifically representations of women play a role in crafting nationalism. I examine the content, structure, beauty standards and associated bodily display of these pageants in order to substantiate my argument.