Is it all about the taking the sheer fun and excitement out of watching a live production and cheering for the ladies to the top of your lungs?
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Is it all about coming up with more creative methods in executing the different parts of the competition, however less engaging they may come out to be?
Is it all about doing the entire pageant itself a la quarantine with everything captured online from various parts of the Philippines and cradling the approach as #togetherapart for a more heartfelt spin?
Is it all about an endless streaming of videos with the resolution inconsistent from one candidate to the next?
Is it all about judging the preliminaries via Zoom cloud meetings and becoming a constantly worried (read: irritated) viewer once the connection lags and jumps frequently like tadpoles in the swamp?
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Is it all about the candidates wearing protective masks if an actual pageant with a minimized number of spectators will be held? And in the process, remove them temporarily while facing the judges?
Is it all about physical distancing where the blocking maximizes the space of the stage such that all candidates (and eventual finalists) will be at least six feet apart from each other from the opening number all the way to the announcement of winners?
Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray is a perfect example of using social media way beyond what other successful pageant winners have utilized it for.
Is it all about pushing the envelope as far as social media presence is concerned and requiring the candidates to go beyond encouraging supporters to vote for them as Miss Popularity and trek the extra mile to involve fans and supporters in spreading and being part of their authentic advocacy/ies?
Honestly, I believe it could be bits and pieces of all of the above – plus more – if fresher strategies can be implemented to insure the safety of everyone, pageant media included. Sure, paranoia will be in play if you want to think of it that way. But if the end goal is to come up with the most ground-breaking take on how to conduct national or international beauty pageants according to standards of the “New Normal”, then enter all think tanks so they can share innovations brewing inside their heads.
Some changes might look weird initially. But just like challenging a foreigner to eat “balut” or “dinuguan” for the first time, the “acquired taste” part is inevitable. Resistance is expected. As in any new order of things, you get used to it after awhile.
And it’s going to take a lot of hard work and patience from both the organization and candidates. Not much comfort zones here. At. all.
What I really want is for pageants to evolve beyond physical beauty so we can all focus on the more authentic qualities that we do not traditionally put significant weight on. Miss Universe Philippines 2020 has already started going to that direction. And will hopefully do so every step of the way. Swimsuits and gowns can stay – tweaked with tasteful innovations – but put them in the company of inner character, long-term ambition and relevance. If we start looking at potential winners as Queens who can do so much more than fulfill a year’s reign or grab the country’s fifth Miss Universe or second Miss World wins, then maybe, the essence of it all will not get lost in transition.
As far as binding contracts go, any winner can look at the agreements as probationary periods of employment. If she passes with flying colors, then the title becomes permanently etched to her name no matter when and where future successes may be. It is undeniably a platform which can be wisely utilized even during afterglow. They just need to learn from the masters and use the achievement long after shelf life expires.
Pageantry is not going to be a priority anytime within the year or next. But if it still finds its way to be successfully mounted in front of our eyes without compromising more than half of the entertainment value it promises to viewers and/or spectators, then I doff my hat to the brave ones who will cross the line between the old and the new.