No Half Measures for Beauty Queens: Criteria for Beauty

Territories in Question: Routes in Territories
By Anne Monjaret, Federica Tamarozzi


Based on an ethnographic survey carried out in Salsomaggiore (North Italy) in September 2001, during the Miss Italia competition, the authors compare the figure of the beauty queen and the modalities of her election in different periods (19th and 20th centuries) and places (France and the United States). Beauty contests allow us to discern the evaluation mechanisms and the criteria for beauty that prevail in both civilian and expert juries. These contests, complex and subtle in their organization, use a careful combination of criteria referring to the measurable and the non-measurable, to the body and the soul, to rigorous (objective) norms and personal (subjective) judgements. They are thus extremely useful in observing the formalization of a special norm that evolves with time and culture and is significant both locally (regional and national contests) and globally (international contests).


  • beauty
  • body
  • voting
  • measure
  • beauty queen
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