Patrizia Gentile’s article "Contesting Indigenous, Immigrant, and Black Bodies" looks at local and national levels pageants, as she seeks to identify how beauty pageants reified both the white settler and the multicultural imaginary nation. She explores how Black and indigenous women negotiated white settler codes of feminine respectability through the beauty contests. The contradictions of pageant development and participation include the focus on these women’s bodies, which can be seen to threaten settler societies simply through their continued existence. While to some extent the winners can portray respectability and wholesomeness, their abilities are limited by the pre-established ways that their bodies were imagined—including their sexualization.
The essay addresses the ways beauty pageants changed beginning in the late 1960s, and coordinates those changes with Canadian national multicultural policies. The author addresses the goals of participants and the groups that organized the pageants, as those both supported and contested national racial ideologies. She argues that the politics of tolerance and diversity were enacted to stabilize white supremacy.
Gentile connects the outgrowth of diverse pageants to historical developments of the 1960s, which included First Nations activism in the Red Power movement and Quebecois separatism. Especially notable were the assimilationist policies of Pierre Trudeau’s government. Gentile explores the ways in which national integration was promoted through simultaneously downplaying political rights and expanding attending to culture.
Specifically regarding nationalized concepts of the ideal female, for First Nations women, a new Indian Princess Pageant was connected with the Centennial. Other sections of the chapter detail specific contests that were restricted by race, national origin, or regional origin. She explores the development of the Miss Malta of Toronto, Miss Black Ontario, and Miss Black Caribana. The author elaborates the connection of these specific pageants with the larger national programs around the Centennial and Expo 67, the world’s fair in Montreal. The author explores the ways through which the segregation of specific types of female bodies was carried out in conjunction with reifying nationalist visions, which emphasized whiteness, in Miss Canada or Miss Centennial pageants.