Lecture on Beauty Contests, Feminine Spectacle, and New Masculinities in Barbados


The Caribbean Seminar Series of the Institute for the Study of the Americas and the Institute of Commonwealth Studies will host Rochelle Rowe (Essex University), who will present “Parading the ‘Crème de la Crème’ for the National Good: Beauty Contests, Feminine Spectacle and New Masculinities in Barbados 1959-1966.” The seminar will take place on November 25, 2009, at 5:30pm at the Institute of Education, 20 Bedford Way, London WC1H 0AL (between Tavistock Sq and Russell Sq).

Rochelle Rowe’s work examines the emergence of the beauty contest in Barbados, against the backdrop of the ‘crisis of decolonization’ that shook the British West Indies through the mid-twentieth century. It considers the beauty contest as a parade of racialized femininities, a space for making and remaking paradigms of ideal womanhood, from which a new iconography of nationhood would emerge as Barbados left the British Empire in 1966.

The Caribbean beauty contest, immersed in the “business of feminine spectacle”, played a central role in essentializing a Caribbean glamour. This paper considers the role of the Jaycees, a youth movement favored by socially aspirant men, in organizing the contests, pairing business sponsors to beauty candidates. How was the making of male citizenship bound up with production of the parade of racialized, class-bound femininities on the beauty contest stage? The paper also considers the
effects when this process was seen to lapse, as in the “Miss Ebony” beauty competition of 1964. It draws upon the testimony of three former contestants of Barbadian beauty shows, “Carnival Queen”, “Miss Independence” and “Miss Ebony”, and considers the competing allurements and pressures of participating in the beauty contest for female candidates, posited the “crème de la crème” of Barbadian womanhood.

Rochelle Rowe is a doctoral candidate in the Department of History at the University of Essex. Her research focuses on the changing representations of femininity amidst the cultural ‘wars’ of decolonization in the mid-twentieth century Anglophone Caribbean. She is the author of “Glorifying the Jamaican Girl: The ‘Ten Types – One People’ Beauty Contest, Racialized Femininities, and Jamaican Nationalism,” Radical History Review 2009(103): 36-58 (2009).

For further queries contact the seminar convenors on kate.quinn@sas.ac.uk or mary.turner@sas.ac.uk
Photo of Leah Manville from http://supremebeauty.blogspot.com/2009/10/leah-marville-was-crowned-miss-barbados.html

Photo of a Miss Barbados doll from http://www.ninimomo.com/ipc09barbados.htm

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