The value of beauty crowns is exaggerated and this exacerbates the pressure from preparing for pageants and competing against talented rivals, insiders say.
The 2020 Miss Vietnam Do Thi Ha cried on stage when she passed her crown to the 2022 winner and talked about the relentless pressure.
Her predecessors as Miss Vietnam like Tran Tieu Vy and Do My Linh have also spoken about the pressures they faced.
When Ha won the crown in 2020, she was disparaged for her appearance and her country accent. She even regretted signing up for the contest because the nasty comments affected not only her but also her family.
The 2018 winner Vy was disparagingly described as a “beauty without brains.”
The 2022 winner Huynh Thi Thanh Thuy had to face rumors that she paid to buy the title.
In 2014 Miss Vietnam Nguyen Cao Ky Duyen was dubbed unworthy of the crown because of her unremarkable appearance and academic profile. Her every move was watched closely and attracted attention online and, inevitably, criticism.
There is a theory that people becoming beauty queens at 19 or 20 are more affected by public opinion.
Pham Kim Dung, CEO of Sen Vang Entertainment, which organizes major beauty pageants, says these girls become famous overnight but are young and inexperienced, and are easily overwhelmed by the newfound fame.
Two years of wearing the crown is also challenging for many of the winners. They have to sign a contract with the organizing agency saying they will maintain their public image and decorum, participate in charity activities, not make controversial statements and continue their studies.
“The terms are not too tough, but can create pressure on those young girls,” Dung says.
Ha has said there were times when she could only get two or three hours of sleep a day because of her packed schedule, which included studying and attending events and other activities. Designer Do Long, who worked with Ha, used to be sad at clearly seeing her lack of sleep.
Vietnamese beauty queens participating in international contests also attract enormous public attention.
Tran Viet Bao Hoang, CEO of Unimedia, the agency that manages the 2022 Miss Universe Vietnam Nguyen Thi Ngoc Chau and first runner-up in 2019, Nguyen Huynh Kim Duyen, says the high expectations surrounding major international beauty contests like Miss Universe and Miss World heap pressure on them.
Before an international contest, they have to go through long training courses in physical and other skills.
Beauty queens at a charity auction event in September 2022, from right to left: Tuong San, Luong Thuy Linh, Bao Ngoc, Do Ha, Do My Linh, Mai Phuong, Phuong Anh, Tieu Vy, Phuong Nhi, and Dang Thi Kim Thoa. Photo by Sen Vang
But many people also think that the importance of beauty titles is exaggerated, creating more pressure about social values on winners.
In Vietnam, beauty contests are held one after the other throughout the year, and there were nearly 30 of them last year. Their attraction stems from exploiting commercial factors and building brand and personal image.
Pham Duy Khanh, beauty training expert, executive committee member of the Vietnam Modelling Association and CEO of Five6 Entertainment, says international beauty contests have been around for a long time, and most audiences only think of them as a competition related to looks.
But it is different in Vietnam where fans create forums to discuss and compare contestants and cause controversies.
“Many audiences praised the contests, but when things didn’t go as expected, they turned their backs. On the other hand, the organizers and beauty training units also partly contributed to this problem, which is why the playground for beauties in Vietnam was called a market.”
Regarding the pressure of beauty queens must have the responsibility to contribute to society, many opinions said that beauty queens are also celebrities like singers, actors and models. They will contribute to society according to their ability and the plan of the agency.
Bui Bich Phuong, Dieu Hoa and Ha Kieu Anh, Miss Vietnam in 1988, 1990 and 1992, say they too were under pressure but it was nothing like what beauty queens face now.
The Internet, media and social networks were not ubiquitous during their era and their activities would find mention in printed weekly newspapers.
Phuong says organizers then did not place any great responsibilities on beauty queens or have expectations.
Nevertheless, Hoa believes modern beauty queens can manage the pressure.
“These young beauties are academically equipped and smart and use the Internet regularly. With support from their families and management agencies, I think they can maintain their composure when facing criticism.”
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