Tue. Jul 23rd, 2024

The French beauty pageant has been actively working on increasing diversity in recent years. Online, critics slammed the results as pandering to “woke culture”.

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For the first time in the 100-year history of France’s top beauty pageant, Miss France has short hair.

20-year-old Eve Gilles, who won the competition over the weekend sporting a pixie cut, hailed the achievement as a “victory for diversity”.

“No one can tell you who you should be,” she told the audience.

Gilles promised to “defend the values of strong women”. After her victory on Saturday, she added, “we’re used to seeing beautiful Misses with long hair, but I chose an androgynous look with short hair (…) every woman is different, we’re all unique.”

Gilles, who is studying mathematics and statistics at university, represents the northern Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France, the fourth contestant from the region to take home the crown in 10 years.

The aftermath to her victory was hostile. On social media, critics viciously attacked her thin frame, made videos comparing her to other competitors with “more beautiful” long hair and implied she only won to appease “woke” culture.

Paris-based financial researcher Philippe Herlin wrote on X: “Miss France 2024 doesn’t look like much, but she says the right things. Want to bet that next year Miss France will be trans?”

“People criticising me over my hair doesn’t bother me, because I can change my hair,” Gilles told the French daily Le Parisien in an interview after her victory. “I chose this hair, but I didn’t choose my body, or my metabolism. I don’t understand how someone can criticise a person over something they cannot change.”

Gilles has said that she wants to use her platform to encourage children – especially young girls – to pursue maths and science. She hopes her own passion for the subject can help to make it seem less intimidating.

“For me, there’s an issue with the way maths are taught,” she told French broadcaster TF1. “Young girls and boys are told that maths is complicated, maths is hard, you need to hang in there. No! You should tell them, listen this is a challenge, you’re going to have fun, there’s a problem and you need to find the solution. That would change the entire dynamic!”

New rules for a “modern” beauty pageant

This year was the second edition of the Miss France pageant since the rules were changed, to allow for a greater diversity of contestants.

The age limit, previously capped at 24, was removed. Candidates are now also allowed to be married, to have children and visible tattoos. The competition was previously opened to trans contestants in 2019.

In practice, however, the contestants of Miss France 2024 were still fairly homogenous – there were no mothers onstage, the median age remained more or less the same and there were no tattoos to be seen.

All the contestants still had to be at least 1.70 metres to compete (a question of camera framing, according to organisers). And although no weight limit exists for the competition, there wasn’t a single plus-sized contestant.

Gilles’ short hair was the only physical attribute that could be considered remotely “avant-garde”.

But the young beauty queen said she doesn’t want to be known exclusively “as the Miss with short hair.”

“I want to be a strong woman, I want to make people realise that no matter where you start, no matter what path you take, you can achieve your goals,” Gilles said. “I want to show people that women are diverse, that we’re all beautiful, that we’re all different and unique. I’m not unique because of my hair, I’m unique because I’m Eve.”

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