This Saturday the newspapers carried large photographs of the beaming beauty Jannatul Nayeem. She had been selected as Miss World Bangladesh 2017 and would go on to represent Bangladesh at the Miss World contest to be held in November this year in Sanya, China.
But the news of the beauty pageant turned ugly the very next day when it was revealed that none of the judges had selected Jannatul Nayeem. It was runner-up Jessia Islam who had been their choice for the Miss World Bangladesh. They deemed her fit in every way to represent Bangladesh at the upcoming international beauty pageant. The organisers, however, had other plans and unabashedly said there had been a mistake and changed the winner’s name from Jessia to Jannatul, saying the similarity in the names had caused the slip-up.
The indignant judges, however, knew full well that this was not their girl that they had selected. In fact, her name wasn’t even among the top three. There was a fracas with the organisers, but the organisers stuck to their guns and it was too late to make amends.
Actually, the entire 'drama' was even a little more ridiculous. The emcee, brought all the way from Kolkata to anchor the extravaganza, first announced the name of yet another contestant, Himi, as the winner. Yet it was Jessia who had won. But then the organisers intervened and gave her the name of Jannatul.
The question is: why the farce? As the judges said, why select these judges when the organisers had already fixed whom they wanted to send on to China?
Rumour has it that the ‘winner’ may even be married. If there is any truth in this speculation, she will be disqualified because one of the criteria for participation in the Miss World contest is that the contestants must all be ‘Misses’ not ‘Mrs’! Many Miss Worlds have been stripped of their title for duping the judges, even hiding their marital status.
The fact remains, the judges voted for Jessia Islam and not Jannatul Nayeem. So, rightfully, Jessia is the one who should be heading out for China, not Jannatul. But what will be done now? Will the organisers go ahead with their fraud, favouring Jannatul for whatever reasons or interests they may have? Will the judges stand up and protest, or let the fraud go through?
Miss World is an international contest and this controversy can tarnish the image of the country. Many may not see this as a major event or even a prestigious one. In fact, this is one area where both feminists and religious-minded are of one view. They both condemn this contest as an objectification of women. The fact remains that it is a globally accepted and popular contest. Since Bangladesh has no bars in sending in a beauty to compete, can at least the minimum dignity be maintained?
Beauty is, after all, not just skin-deep. Poet Keats put it succinctly, "Beauty is truth, truth beauty - that is all ye know on Earth, and all ye need to know.”
We need to know that there is truth in our beauty, integrity in our contests. Let the judges speak out. Let action be taken against the deception. Let the beauty of truth prevail.
* Ayesha Kabir is Consultant (Content) at Prothom Alo English Online.