'Orientals may be pretty but in the West they may not see them as that great'
HONGKONG has yet to walk off with a major international beauty pageant, and organisers and beauty competition insiders say the odds on a local beauty being crowned Miss Universe or Miss World are pretty long.
They cite cultural factors, height, personality, the fact most contests have an all-Western board of judges and a ''limited choice'' in contestants as the main reasons behind the lack of success on the international beauty pageant circuit.
''I think it is a question of standards. For us, Oriental girls may be pretty but in the West they may not see them as that great and feel Western women are much more beautiful,'' said Ms Iris Lam, of ATV's public relations department.
ATV is the organiser of the Miss Asia pageant, in which all contestants are Hongkong Chinese. In its eight years, ATV has yet to see a Miss Asia winner take a top international title. The greatest achievement was when a Miss Asia won prizes for best costume and best figure when the Miss World pageant was hosted in Hongkong.
''A lot of the time Asian girls are kind of short and if they stand with a whole bunch of girls they don't really stand out. But recently, a lot of girls joining the pageant are of pretty good quality,'' she said.
Ms Lam said personality - or the perceived lack of it - of Asian women had much to do with the outcome.
''Asian girls are a little more reserved and shy. Some people may like that, but in the West, standards are different. Also, when they join an international pageant, they may not be very familiar with a place so they don't present themselves as well. If they are at home, they know more about the environment and do much better,'' she said.
This explains why ATV is focusing on ''other things'' instead of spending too much time grooming winners to take a major title.
''We want to build up the image of Miss Asia as healthy and doing a lot of charity work. The international contests aren't so important,'' she said.
''We prefer to have these girls visiting Taiwan or mainland China as the goodwill ambassadress from Hongkong.
''Of course it would be prestigious for someone from Hongkong to win a title, but it is not always easy to go out and present themselves. We have tried to back them by designing good costumes, training them and making them look perfect.'' Ms Olivia Cheng, the president of the Wah Yin Club, a non-profit making association made up of Miss Hongkong winners, finalists and semi-finalists, said the lack of success so far of Oriental women at international beauty competitions was due to ''cultural factors''.
''The judges are usually Westerners and they have a different culture. To them, it is completely different to look at a Chinese girl, because they think all Chinese girls look the same. I think it is a question of appreciation of Oriental girls by Westerners,'' she said.
Ms Cheng is confident a Chinese girl may one day win the Miss Universe or Miss World title, but said this would probably not happen until after 1997.
''There are so many beautiful girls in Hongkong and even in China, and they do very well in modelling. But Hongkong is still a small place with a small number of girls. After 1997, with a lot more very beautiful girls in China, we might have a better chance. Oriental girls are also getting taller and taller, so there is still hope,'' she said.
Former Miss Hongkong runner-up, Ms Deborah Moore, said the lack of success by Chinese women in overseas pageants might be due to an emphasis on ''international flavour''.
''They need to travel around the world to represent the title, and the judges are told that in selecting the girls beauty is a minor factor as opposed to their character and education. That may be one of the reasons Asian girls aren't so lucky,'' she said.
Ms Moore agreed Asian girls may not be as outgoing as their Western counterparts.
''They are a bit more reserved and Western girls are more willing to express themselves. Asian girls have to be brought out more.
''But there will come a time when Miss Hongkong wins Miss Universe. Contestants are coming to join Miss Hongkong from Canada and the US and they are more outgoing and even a little taller. There is definitely hope,'' she said.