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By Pam Burke 

View from from the North 40: Making a silk purse out of a camel's snout


Last updated 12/10/2021 at 12:02pm

In the most scandalous scandal to hit the beauty pageant world since Mary Leona Gage lied about her age and her marital and parental status then won Miss USA 1957 — proving that a married 18-year-old mother of two could beat the sashes off the 20-something-year-old single women — more than 40 beauty contestants at a festival in Saudi Arabia have been banned from competition for breaking rules that prohibit cosmetic alterations that unnaturally enhance the beauty of the contestants.

The camel beauty contestants and their breeders were kicked out of the month-long King Abdulaziz Camel Festival outside the capitol city of Riyadh where $66 million in prize money was on the line, The Associated Press reported Wednesday. The breeders had enhanced their camels’ natural beauty with botox injections and flesh stretching to make their lips and noses bigger, face lifts, hormone muscle-enhancers, rubber bands to inflate body parts and fillers.

Yes, absolutely, no problem. The rest of this column can wait while you take a moment to digest that information about beauty queens of the dromedary persuasion. Reread the paragraph if you want, go slow, sound out the words if you need to — camel beauty contestants, $66 million in prizes, cheating with cosmetic surgery and other enhancements to make camels prettier.

Cosmetic enhancements. Camels. Prettier. That’s a lot to take in, especially when they’re making camels prettier by enhancing the size and floppiness of their lips and nose.

The crackdown had to happen. It’s an outrage.

And I’m not even kidding. This annual festival is supposed to be honoring the traditional Bedouin ways.

Can you imagine the mockery if this behavior was left unchecked? A whole camel beauty industry would overwhelm the festival also offering eyelash extensions, tail-hair extensions, hump implants, hair tinting for that sun-kissed glow, caps to whiten and straighten their cud-chewing teeth and pedicures to give their toes that eye-catching quality.

OK, that last paragraph was just for fun.

The irony with this brouhaha, though, is that the Saudi camels are openly admired in this festival and others throughout the year, displaying their natural beauty and participating in racing and other events showcasing their attributes.

The Saudi women, on the other hand, have only in the last decade been given the legal rights, if not the rights yet by social custom, to be seen in public not fully covered with a black hijab, get an education, access health care, own a home, request government documents, participate in sports, drive a car, not be prosecuted for being the victim of a rape, and other such luxuries of most modern societies. In fact, interestingly in 2011 Saudi’s equivalent of Congress was suddenly required to be made up of 20% women.

Also, 2019 was a banner year when in January Sandi women were granted the legal right to receive a text notifying them that their husband had just divorced them, a good heads up because that gave them at least minutes to arrange for another male guardian which they were required to have by law. But in August that same year, laws were changed to allow women to be their own guardian, and they could seek their own divorce.

The Saudi women are being helped by pressure from human rights organizations and other countries, including the U.S. where women have so many freedoms.

These freedoms include the right to not only participate in their own pageants, but also have all manner of beauty enhancement procedures performed on themselves, from surgical leg straightening to breast enhancement, nose jobs to stomach stapling. They can have it all, so long as they don’t have a professional hair and makeup person the week of the pageant when it’s time to prove that they can take charge of their own beauty while vying for a crown, a year’s worth of travel and some sweet educational scholarships.

The jurors decide the winner based on their dress, posture, and the shape of their head, neck and hump. Oh wait, no, that’s the camels.

The point is, though, in the U.S. where women can have it all, I think it’s time that pageant contestants recognize their person value, hard work, sacrifice and dedication in pursuit of beauty contest glory by holding out for a share in $66 million in prizes and prove to the world that they are as worthy of recognition and reward as an Arabian camel.


Fun fact, from 2011 to 2019, when a record 126 women were elected or appointed to office in the 116th Congress, Saudi Arabia had a higher percentage of women serving as members of its Consultative Assembly than the U.S. had in Congress at .


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