Cheer on quirky contestants, including animals and aliens, at these unconventional beauty contests.
Not all beauty competitions involve swimsuits and evening gowns. In countries like Vietnam, New Zealand, and Venezuela, locals can participate in amusing pageants that abide by the old adage: “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”
These curious contests flip the audience’s expectations of what it means to be a beauty queen. One popular pageant is dedicated to senior ladies, while another celebrates the scowling Star Trek Klingon species. Some events give the top prizes to Chinese goldfish and Saudi Arabian camels. In the case of the Miss Barbie contest, even plastic dolls can strike a pose for a chance at a crown.
Smile and wave at these 10 whimsical beauty competitions, which take place every year in countries around the globe.
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Miss Klingon Empire
WHERE: Atlanta, Georgia
The Star Trek convention Treklanta puts on a beauty contest that might make you furrow your brow. All of the competitors look like Klingon—the show’s ferocious warrior species are complete with high ridged foreheads and bushy peaked eyebrows! Each contestant is announced by their sci-fi name, such as “T’aror of the House of Daa’maq.” The judges rate her futuristic makeup and costume, which might include silver spiked armor and a bat’leth (a weapon with a curved blade). In the talent portion, you might hear Klingon ladies reciting poetry in their fictional language. True to the species’ hostile nature, it’s not unusual for the scowling contestants to play-shove each other, or storm off the stage in mock fury.
INSIDER TIPBrush up on your Trekkie trivia for a better chance of winning Miss Klingon. The judges may ask show-specific questions such as, “Do you prefer to drink raktajino or bloodwine, and why?”
WHERE: Guwei'iyya, Saudi Arabia
At Saudi Arabia’s most prestigious beauty pageant, every contender has four legs and a humped back. Tens of thousands of camels take part in Mazayen al-Ibl, an annual contest run by the Qahtani tribe that specializes in camel-rearing. The animals are judged according to strict criteria such as the shape of the nostrils, roundness of the hump, and length of the eyelashes. In true Saudi style, the winners of Miss Camel receive prizes worth over $50 million, including dozens of luxury cars. The most beautiful ungulate of them all is named the Bayraq, which can fetch a sale price of $3 million.
Fun Fact: It is against the rules to cosmetically enhance the contestants’ looks. In 2018, a dozen camels were disqualified because they received Botox injections to inflate their heads and lips.
WHERE: Auckland, New Zealand
Auckland’s Miss Pin-Up pageant lets you feel as if you had time-traveled back to the 1950s. The beauty queens doll themselves up in such mid-century fashion as wiggle dresses with long gloves and pearls. You’ll see plenty of victory roll hairstyles and bright red lipstick with cat eyeliner. Since Miss Pin-Up prizes confidence, all shapes, sizes, and ages are encouraged to strut the stage. Cheer on the retro ladies as they perform burlesque or cabaret, and answer questions that reveal their swell personalities.
WHERE: Manila, Philippines
At first glance, Mister Earth appears to be all about eye candy: a parade of young muscular men in swimwear. However, it takes brains rather than brawn to win this title, as it goes to the best ecological activist for youths. The men are quizzed on environmental matters, such as how they would reduce plastic waste or carbon emissions. The triumphant Mister Earth spends the year leading eco campaigns, which might include posing for shirtless photos while cleaning up a beach.
Ms. Senior America
WHERE: Atlantic City, New Jersey
Who says beauty pageants are only for women in their early twenties? Since 1972, Ms. Senior America has celebrated “the gracious lady who best exemplifies the dignity, maturity, and inner beauty of all senior Americans.” Watch women aged 60 and older, which they dub the “Age of Elegance,” work the stage in sequins and stilettos. Ms. Senior America rates contestants highly if they have decades of accomplishments and a positive outlook on life. Be astonished by grandmothers who perform athletic talents like pole dancing, proving that age is indeed nothing but a number.
Goldfish Beauty Pageant
WHERE: Fuzhou, China
The Chinese began selectively breeding goldfish over 1,000 years ago. Today, the colorful fish remain prized symbols of luck and wealth. Every year, breeders bring their most beautiful spawn to the International Goldfish Championships in Fuzhou. Attendees can gape at over 3,000 fish with radiant patterns, colors, and odd features such as bulging eyes. The goldfish are judged not only for their appearance, but also for their graceful and powerful swimming abilities. Fuzhou’s “heavyweight champion” tips the scales at over 3 pounds, while the “fairest goldfish of them all” can sell for $1,500 or more.
WHERE: Caracas, Venezuela
Venezuela may have one of the highest rates of cosmetic surgery, but the contestants of Miss Barbie take “plastic” to a whole other level. Caracas holds an annual beauty contest for Barbies, which puts dozens of dolls on a tiny yet meticulously-designed stage. Like contestants in conventional pageants, each Barbie has a name, profession, and unique personality. The doll owners spend hours preparing for the show, often creating elaborate custom headpieces and dresses. Between the rounds, they frantically change up their Barbie’s hair and makeup and bend her limbs into fabulous poses.
Ugly Face Competition
WHERE: Bilbao, Spain
Every August, Bilbao presents a lively Aste Nagusia (Great Week) festival that involves fireworks and cultural entertainment. One of the most highly anticipated events is the Concurso de Feos, a pageant that celebrates the opposite of grace and beauty. Instead, the goal of the “Ugly Face Competition” is to come up with the most disagreeable visage possible. One by one, contestants contort their facial features—think rolled eyes, twisted tongues, and wrinkled noses—to make the audience roar with laughter.
Miss Russian Army
WHERE: Moscow, Russia
The women of the Miss Russian Army apply makeup of a different sort: green-brown camouflage and black grease strips under the eyes. Female soldiers in the Russian Ground Forces join this competition to demonstrate their military abilities, as well as increase interest in recruitment. Rather than modeling swimwear, they don combat uniforms and compete in drills. The pageant categories may include crawling through obstacles, assembling weapons in the fastest time, or marching while singing patriotic songs.
Miss Milk Cow
WHERE: Mộc Châu, Vietnam
Vietnam has a bizarre beauty contest that judges entrants on how much milk they produce. Miss Milk Cow brings together over 100 beautiful cattle. Before the contest, the (dairy) cows are pampered with massages and baths and encouraged to relax to soothing music. Then, they are dolled up in red floral headdresses and get ribbons and braids in their tails. Their owners walk them twice around a circular arena to show off their solid builds and long legs. A trophy goes to the cow with the most plentiful milk supply: one of these beefcakes produced a whopping 13 gallons a day.