In most countries, the durian fruit is thought to be ugly, misshapen, and stinky. If you remember the story about the Petruk durian from our travels in Indonesia, a durian beauty pageant might seem like a bit of an oxymoron. Rob and I were joking that maybe the winner of the Miss Durian pageant is the ugliest girl, or the one who doesn’t wear deodorant. But of course, this is not the case.
The Miss World Durian Beauty Pageant is one of the more popular events of Chanthaburi’s Durian Festival. Originally a small regional competition, the Miss Durian has boomed in recent years and has now reached national notoriety, attracting girls from all over Thailand. This year’s Miss Durian, a Miss Wilawan, age 23, is from Bangkok. The pageant has been adopted by MCOT Channel 9, and like other national pageants is a media phenomenon. Rob and I had a good time watching a crane with the news camera zoom around overhead, while the announcer, a woman in tall heels and a short swishing white dress hollered into the microphone.
|Her certificate is in the shape of a durian!|
For some girls in Thailand, beauty pageants are a business. “We have so many Miss This and Miss That,” explained Miss Kwan, an employee of the Chanthaburi Province who spoke to me about the festival. She says its a bit like the beauty queen hype of Venezuela, but more relaxed and fun.
She encouraged Rob and I to see the Miss Tiffany Pageant, a beauty
competition for the transgendered. “You know, they are more beautiful
than women,” she said. (view some pictures of Miss Tiffany here.)
According to Thaimiss.com, the main website for beauty pageants in
Thailand, there are multiple beauty pageants a year for “lady boys”.
The Miss Durian competition is limited to Thai women between the ages of 18 and 30 and with a height of at least 160 cm (5′ 3″ ). These ladies are considered tall; the average height in Thailand is 157 cm (5′ 1″). Other requirements are that they be single and have good manners, providing an example of the modest yet beautiful Thai woman. Miss Durian must also have some knowledge about the region’s fruits, with questions like, “If you were to become Miss Durian, what nice things would you say about the durian?”
I ask if Miss Durian likes to eat durian. “Oh, must, must!” exclaims Miss Kwan. “You cannot be Miss Durian without liking durian.” She goes on to explain that after this festival, Miss Durian becomes the figurehead for Chanthaburi’s durian. “She has some responsibilities after this, she must always speak kindly of durian. It must become her favorite fruit!”
The winning prize is 100,000 baht, (3,190 USD), a sash, a certificate, and media promotion.
“No durian?” I say. “No,” Miss Kwan says laughing. “She can eat as much as she wants at the rest of the events this year.”