Photo Credit: Domonique Ramirez /Courtesy Photo
A Texas jury ruled Thursday that Domonique Ramirez, the 17-year-old beauty queen allegedly told to "get off the tacos" after gaining weight was wrongly stripped of her crown. The judge restored Ramirez's "Miss San Antonio" crown, enabling her to go on and compete for the titles of Miss Texas and Miss America later this year.
San Antonio pageant director Linda Woods told reporters that the jury made "a huge mistake" and recrowning Ramirez sends "the wrong message."
Would that message be "it's okay to eat tacos even if you're a beauty queen?" God forbid!
To be clear: Pageant officials say they fired Ramirez for violating a range of terms in her contract, including showing up late to events and failing to follow a physical fitness program. But the controversy began when Woods claimed photos taken of 5'8" 129-pound Ramirez in a bikini were "unusable."
Woods originally tried to make the case that beauty queens have to follow specific diet and exercise regimens "just like any elite athlete." Sure, walking in heels is hard but does it really count as a sport? And does gaining 13 pounds (the amount Ramirez says she was told to lose) really impact your ability to do it well?
Cutting carbs and following a super intense workout program doesn't necessarily confer "elite athlete" status, even if you're doing it for a competition. Sometimes it looks a lot more like an eating disorder. In fact, former Miss America Kirsten Haglund (also a recovered anorexic) now runs a nonprofit dedicated to eating disorder awareness, and research shows that 26 percent of beauty pageant contestants had or were in recovery for an eating disorder, while over 75 percent of contestants had a below-average Body Mass Index
I get that beauty pageants have to employ a certain set of judging criteria to pick their winners -- I'm just not sure that weight should be one of them. Even in our thin-obsessed culture, we have plenty of examples of beautiful crown-worthy women who aren't a size two. Like Christina Hendricks, Crystal Renn, and Lizzie Miller (the famed Glamour belly bulge model), who can all wear the heck out of a bikini.
So I'm thrilled that Ramirez got her crown back, whatever her weight. But I'm a little disappointed that she won by insisting that she hadn't actually put on the pounds. Why didn't she defend herself differently? That just reinforces the idea that it would have been fine to fire her if she had gotten "fat" (which is apparently beauty pageant-speak for "a size four").
What we really need to do is expand the pageant world's definition of beauty so women of all sizes can qualify and be healthy (and yes that means enjoying tacos every so often!) at the same time.