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Last Updated: Friday, 19 September, 2003, 13:03 GMT 14:03 UK
Is Miss Wales still a hit?
Imogen Thomas
Imogen Thomas takes on the crown of Miss Wales 2003
Twenty women from across Wales gathered in a Swansea club on Thursday night to vie for the title of Miss Wales 2003.

At one time, the winner may have been guaranteed fame and fortune, but beauty contests have been in serious decline since the 1970s.

But what will the next year hold for Miss Wales 2003, student Imogen Thomas, 20, a Welsh-speaker from Llanelli?

Opponents slate the contests as sexist cattle markets stuck in the past.

Below a former Miss Wales, an opponent of beauty contests and an organiser of pageants, present their arguments.

But what do you think of beauty contests in the 21st Century? Are they sexist and archaic? Or are they just a bit of harmless fun? Send us your views.

Sophia Cahill, 20, from Pontypool, won the Miss Wales title three years ago. "I say, if you've got it flaunt it, it's your choice and no one makes you enter. It's not degrading at all."

"My mother entered me for the competition when I was 17, and winning it has opened a lot of doors for me and it's pushed me into a modelling career - I've worked in Paris and all over the world.

"Some do take it too seriously. When I went forward to the Miss World competition, there were some girls who went to special schools to train for the competition - a bit over the top. They should lighten up."

Hannah Jones is arts and media editor of The Western Mail. "I think the contest is old fashioned - it's archaic, and inappropriate for the 21st Century. And what's classed as beauty - it's totally subjective and many of them aren't that pretty anyway.

"I wouldn't get my bits and bobs out for anyone. I do think that some of the contestants are slightly one dimensional."

Oliver Cohen is the organiser of the Miss Wales contest. "The contest is making a comeback. We get a lot of girls going in for it who are students and well qualified, they've got their heads screwed on, and see it as an opportunity.

"There is a stigma attached to the competitions but things have changed. We've scrapped the bikini round and replaced it with a gym round, where they can wear jogger bottoms and little tops."

The following comments reflect the balance of views we have received:

Beauty contests merely encourage shallow, vapid women to become even more vapid and shallow. But then again, no one forces them to enter and as long as no one gets hurt we should defend the rights of the shallow to take part in such events!
Steve, Wales

Do people still enter or view these contests!!? How quaint. As for 'sexist' - the world is full of feminists telling us how we should think! As a free thinking individual, who happens to be female - I make my own choices. This type of contest is actually less objectionable than say the Turner Prize Competition - one mans art is another means waste of resources. In the long run these type of contests are 'a bit of fluff' as fashions change and beauty will always be in the eye of the beholder.
J, Wales

People who claim this contest is harmless are being na´ve. While the women involved may benefit, the knock-on effect on women in general is highly detrimental.
\Lyndsey C, England
Most of the comments being made in argument against these competitions are by women I notice?! Women, it must be remembered spend millions of pounds a year in the UK, buying clothes and products to make them selves beutiful. These competitions are merely allowing women to show themselves off to a wider audience, and are neither sexist nor archaic. The only archaic aspect are the people who make comments against them. Are they 'beautyist' or something??
Darren, Wales

There's no point trying to get men into this; for some reason there is generally no many to be made being a good looking guy. Before you shriek, just compare the number and income of male models against female; and we all know why, get over it. We like to look at scantily clad women, whether they talk or not.
Steve, UK

To some extent, these beauty contests portray the women as being beautiful with no brains and no personality. It wasn't until I watched 'The Games' on channel 4, however, that I had to give credit to the judges of Miss World for picking Azra Akin as the winner. In 'The Games', she was so down to earth and far from appearing selfish nor vain. If it's girls like Azra that enter these competitions then I wish them the best of luck. You have to do whatever makes you happy!
Jess, UK

Anyone who is against a beautiful woman with the guts to represent her country for something other than a political view, is just plain jealous.
Richard Hawley, UK
Whether the women are anything other than a nice body is irrelevant. Trying to spin it as a 'personality' thing is ludicrous. The fact that women see the use of their bodies as an economic tool is hardly news, and hardly new. It seems very 21st century to me.
Steve, UK

I'm sure there are worse things to worry about than a group of young, like-minded girls having a good time! What harm are they doing to themselves or any one else? It's not like they are forced into it.
Craig, Wales

I didn't realise there was a Miss Wales contest, but now I know there is, I'll be off to Swansea each September! Lovely!
Russ, England

I didn't realise we had a Miss Wales contest. Hey ho! If some women want a certificate of attractiveness to boost their egos it's their prerogative. The kind of women who enter beauty pageants are of no interest to me anyway. Similarly I am of no interest to them since I am neither a professional footballer, a millionaire businessman seeking a trophy wife nor a minor soap star. So basically live, die ... I couldn't care less.
Chris Hollett, UK

People who claim this contest is harmless are being na´ve. While the women involved may benefit, the knock-on effect on women in general is highly detrimental. The fact that such contests are still taking place reinforces notions about women that should really be consigned to the past. Despite what some people may choose to believe, women are still judged on the way they look to a far greater degree than men, and are under far more pressure to be attractive from our society, particularly through the media. Anorexia, bulimia and other illnesses arising from negative body image are the end result of the culture of perfection that such contests, as well as beauty magazines, and, yes, Pop Idol represent. These illnesses are real, they can kill, and they are the direct result of the view of women as aesthetic objects that this contest endorses.
Lyndsey C, England

I really can't believe that this question is still being asked. We're not in the women's-lib bra-less late 20-century any more. We're in the Ultrabra, Jordanesque 21st century were a woman's free will is celebrated and femininity is celebrated as empowerment rather than simply masculising women in the aim of 'equality'. To all those critics .... get a life dinosaur!
Phillip Holley, UK, London

Why is it worse than entering quiz shows on TV? People enjoy entering contests, people enjoy being entertained. So let the market forces decide. If there are people who want to run the contest (presumably believing it is commercially viable) and people who want to enter the contest, then it is their business alone.
Jonathan Mason, USA

Anyone who is against a beautiful woman with the guts to represent her country for something other than a political view, is just plain jealous. As for portraying them with no brains? If I could make thousands pounds and earn world stardom just by looking good, without working a 48 hours week, I'd consider that smarter and far more intelligent than anyone else on the planet.
Richard Hawley, UK

People should take pride in how they present themselves. These women clearly do - what's so bad about that. It's not their fault it offends some of the people with lower standards.
Martin, South Bucks

Where's the difference between a beauty contest and a "pop idol"-style contest? One is a comparison of looks, and the other a comparison of musical ability.
David Hazel, UK

Beauty contests do a few things that are detrimental to women. First, they teach young girls that their looks are more important than their brains. Second, they put undo pressure on girls to be thin. Third, it objectifies women in the eyes of men which causes men to treat women with less respect. Women who participate in these are selfish and vain.
Elen, Cardiff

Anything that encourages the objectification of women and the prioritisation of "beauty" over all other personal qualities is sexist and archaic.
Lo, UK

Drags women into the dark ages. If we have to have them, let's have competitions that celebrate women's intelligence as well.
Sarah Woolley, UK

These contests are shallow like the women who enter them.
Veejay, UK

Where's the difference between a beauty contest and a "pop idol"-style contest? One is a comparison of looks, and the other a comparison of musical ability. Both are equally subjective and both turn contestants into cattle or pets.
David Hazel, UK

Why shouldn't Wales enter a competitor for the beauty contests? If it were shown on TV, or broadcast on radio, with high publicity, people would become more interested and the event (Miss Wales) would be an even bigger success.
Joe, UK

Beauty contests are shallow, dumb, and yes, sexist. In short, they're just like the concepts of Cheerleaders or "Hooters Restaurants". There's a market for all these things, and where there's demand, you will always find supply. Morality does not enter the equation at all.
Robert, UK

I'll agree with the women who say Miss World is degrading and outdated especially when people agree that male strippers etc are equally inappropriate.
Russ, Wales

Is there a Mr Wales contest then ? How does Wales benefit from this and who pays for it? As long as no public money is used then maybe it should be left to the individuals who run and enter it.
Dave, Wales

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