Penchant for beauty contests churns out some ugly truths

By Linh Do   July 18, 2019 | 08:21 pm PT
​Even in a nation besotted with beauty contests, a new queen’s outlandish title evoked public ridicule. All’s not well.

For several days now, Ms. Spiritual Culture Queen 2018 Pham Nu Hien Ngan, who has been promoted to a position with the Vietnam Association for Anti-Counterfeiting and Trademark Protection, has attracted social media brickbats.

Ms. Spiritual Culture Queen 2018 Pham Nu Hien Ngan. 

Ms. Spiritual Culture Queen 2018 Pham Nu Hien Ngan. Photo courtesy of Ngan's Facebook.

Faccebooker Chung Ha found the title incomprehensible, odd, and funny. ‘Queen’ is a foreign idea to my daily life, he said. "Spiritual Culture Queen' sounds even stranger and so unreal." 

Ngan was appointed vice director of the Vietnam Trademark Development and Anti-Counterfeiting Department, a brand-new entity established in June in HCMC by the Institute of Anti-Counterfeiting Technology.

Amidst the public outcry that ensued, Ms. Spiritual Culture Queen 2018 quickly resigned from her post, citing lack of capability. Three other vice directors followed suit. The department was supposed to have one director and five deputy directors. 

Pham Nu Hien Ngan’s ostentatious title is just the latest in a long line of beauty queen titles in a country where dozens or even hundreds of beauty pageants are held every year.

At the Vietnam Trademark Queen 2018 peagant organized in northern Ninh Binh Town by the trademark organization and the Ngoc Minh Auto Joint Stock Company, a car trader, 28 Vietnam Trademark Queen and Deputy Queen titles covering a variety of disciplines, from media to agriculture, were given.  

A wide range of big and small beauty titles, either locally created or organized as part of international pageants, have shot up to follow in the heels of the classical Miss Vietnam contest.

Some examples are: Miss Universe Vietnam; Miss Ocean Vietnam; Miss Grand International; Miss ASEAN; Miss Tourism Vietnam; Mrs. Photography Vietnam; Miss Southern Vietnam; Miss Central Vietnam; Miss Jewelry Queen; Miss College Student Vietnam; Miss Vietnam Heritage Global; Miss World Vietnam; Miss Traditional Dress Vietnam; and so on.

And apart from all the Miss Beauty contests, there are other shows that exploit the concept in handing out awards to attract public attention and make profit.

Lure of the lucre

Since the Vietnamese population avidly follows beauty contests, they have become a good business. Beauty contests attract tens of billions of dong (VND23,300=$1) in sponsorships from businesses; some organizers even have to turn down offers from sponsors because they have already received enough money, according to local media.

Awardees at the Vietnam Trademark Queen 2018 peagant. Photo courtesy of AutoVina.

Awardees at the Vietnam Trademark Queen 2018 pageant. Photo courtesy of AutoVina.

During the contests, organizers and candidates fulfill their obligations to sponsors by advertising for products, be it cosmetics, food supplements or beverages.

With particularly popular contests, organizers continue to reap profits after the show ends, by representing their top three winners.

After getting the titles, beauty queens have countless ways to make good money. 

Hundreds of thousands of women flock to beauty contests every year with a common dream: becoming a beauty queen showered with fame and money, which comes from lucrative advertisement contracts, event invitations, Facebook posts, fashion and TV shows, and men.      

Pham Huong, who won Miss Universe Vietnam 2015 after painstakingly competing in seven beauty contests, has transformed herself from an ordinary person into a wealthy woman with an expensive apartment, luxurious car and a milk tea shop located in downtown HCMC, local media said. 

Miss Vietnam 2006 Mai Phuong Thuy has also become rich with a restaurant chain. She once revealed that she had earned as much as VND10 billion (some $430,000) in just two years after getting her title, according to local media.

Thuy Nga, President of Elite Vietnam, which has the license to send Miss Vietnam winners to various international contests, conceded that the quality of beauty events of all sorts in Vietnam is all over the place.

She told local media: "There are events in which 90 percent of guests are called up to receive beauty queen and king titles."

go to top