Miss Danmark - a contradictory ideal

Student thesis: Master Thesis and HD Thesis

  • Josefine Løvig Rasmussen
4. term, Communication, Master (Master Programme)
Although beauty pageants have never had the same mass appeal in Denmark as they seem to have in countries such as the USA, they haven´t completely faded into vague, kitschy nostalgia either. The pageant “Miss Danmark” seems to have been thriving on its own in the periphery of the public eye for almost a century. This thesis investigates the pageant seen as a platform for a gendered performance of a feminine ideal.

Additionally, this thesis sees the ambassadors, judges and contestants of the pageant as cul-tural manufacturers, who construct and reconstruct the competition’s feminine ideal through a relational discourse about looks, styling, clothes, behavior, values etc. I apply a discourse analysis of the communication originating from Miss Danmark’s website and Facebook site, as well as of interviews with contestants, mentors and judges found in the documentary Miss Perfect (2019). I am interested in investigating which understandings of ideal femininity are expressed as normative, which qualities are emphasized, and which are reprimanded.

Furthermore, I investigate the structure of the pageant. The feminine ideal is also construct-ed and reconstructed through the pageants structure, as it contains certain mandatory requirements for participation, a number of disciplines in which the contestants’ performance can be judged, a number of rounds with different dress and rules, and a system in which certain performances are celebrated through sashes, prices and high placements in the com-petition, while others are not.

In examining the competition’s structure and discourse, I have found that the feminine ideal presented in the pageant is ridden with internal contradictions: The participants are required to be confident yet humble, sweet but driven, sexy but not sexual, gentle yet competitive. They must adhere to a discourse, where beauty is articulated as coming from within, yet they must be very beautiful. They must praise the competitions inclusiveness in relation to body types, but must simultaneously appear toned, slim and tall. They must be ambitious and driven in everything they do, and yet still express humble gratitude in the face of any achievement.

By examining this feminine ideal through the lense of Douglas Holt´s theory of Cultural Branding, I have found that this ideal may present some identity value to a certain group of consumers. The beauty pageant as an institution can be argued to serve as a platform on which myths related to female success are played out. I can conclude that the Miss Dan-mark pageant offers a myth related to female success, which appeals to young women by supporting a narrative in which perfection is obtained rather than innate. Through hard work, dedication to the right values and through the correct dress and styling, ordinary girls are transformed into queens and subsequently take center stage in the spotlight at a public event, where they are celebrated and adored. Furthermore, the myth can be used by certain consumers to smooth over tension between their identity project and the national ideology: The ideal Miss Danmark has the confidence to disregard her peers’ and general society’s attitude and criticism. The pageant offers a space in which women can live out their girl-hood fantasies without being judged or constricted by the Danish society’s pressure to con-form. Lastly, the pageant represents a strong community of women, who share similar interests and find companionship with each other.
Publication date2019
ID: 310631099