“Maybe She Would Win if She Were More Beautiful, Not So Chocolate”

Praguers Speculate Whether a Member of the Roma Ethnic Minority Could Win the Czech Miss Beauty Crown

by Madeleine Overturf and SM Dipali

While the Miss America beauty pageant typically sparks criticism from feminists across the country, this year’s pageant pushed the topic of race to the forefront of national discussion.

When Nina Davuluri, the first American woman of Indian heritage to win the pageant, was crowned Miss America, Twitter and other social media outlets erupted with racially tinged outrage. Several tweets claimed she was not American; some accused her of being a terrorist.

The tweets captured the attention of the nation, and many Americans rushing to Davuluri’s defense, launching a public conversation on racial stereotypes in the United States. In a country founded by immigrants, Davuluri’s crowning and the subsequent tweets raised the question: “What does it really mean to be American?” After all, while Davuluri’s parents are from India, she is a legal American citizen and considers herself as such.

Nina Davuluri received her crown, as well as harsh and racially fueled criticism from the American public.  www.nytimes.com

Nina Davuluri received her crown, as well as racially fueled criticism from the American public.
Photo by Michael Loccisano, courtesy of http://www.nytimes.com

In contrast to the United States, the Czech Republic is a largely homogeneous society, dominated by Caucasian Europeans.

“Maybe she would win if she were more beautiful, not so chocolate” said Dmitri, a shop keeper.

However, the Czech Republic is also home to one of Europe’s largest ethnic minorities, the Roma, who account for an estimate 2 percent of the country’s population. Many Czechs do not see the Roma as true Czechs and tend to classify them as an entirely different sect of society due to their skin color and unconventional social norms. Roma suffer from unemployment, poor education and a high level of criminality, problems attributed to racism and their own difficult transition to a post-communist society.

With the new Miss America in mind, we wanted to see how Czechs would react to a minority winning a national beauty pageant. We asked Czechs on the street “Would a Roma ever become the next Czech Miss?”

Do these girls have a chance at becoming Miss Czech Republic?  www.facebook.com/pages/Česko-slovenská-Miss-Roma

Do these girls have a chance at becoming Miss Czech Republic?
Photo courtesy of Česko – slovenská Miss Roma Facebook

Here are the responses we received when interviewing random occupants of Old Town:

  • “No, the winners are always blonde. Especially since that 23-year-old-Roma girl had five kids and lived off of welfare,” said Svetlana, age 29, a waitress at the Absintherie in Prague.
  • “No, no, no. Get out,” said Jan, age 54, the owner of Coffee Lovers.
  • “It’s possible. It would be a good way to change the minds of people about the Roma. I think it   would depend on the girl,” said Illona, age 58, a professor at Charles University.
  • “Whoa. For me, it wouldn’t be a problem. I just can’t imagine it would happen. Others can’t imagine it either,” said Pavla, age 22, a student at Charles University.
  • “People are just anti-Roma. Even she wasn’t Roma, if she looks foreign, they won’t like her,” said Kristyna, age 23, a student.
  • “It’s possible. People look at beauty, they don’t look at race. 60 to 70 percent  of people will say something, though. They will attack it,” said Peter, age 29, a doorman at an NYU Prague facility.
  • “It would make ignorant people angry. Most people are ignorant. They are not open to minorities, they are against them. I’m totally for it,” said Katrina, age 24, a student.
  • “I think it can be possible – in the last Czech Miss, a half Vietnamese half Czech girl won. Maybe a Roma would not happen now, but in a few years. People’s thinking is changing. The younger generation is more open-minded towards foreigners,” said Eva, age 25, a waitress.
  • “The Roma population is too small, so it’d be difficult. Miss Czech will be a blondie,” said Alex, a shop keeper at Czech Market Souvenir.
  • “Maybe she would win if she were more beautiful, not so chocolate,” said Dmitri, a shop keeper at Czech Market Souvenir, while pointing to the interviewer, an American of Indian descent.

Note: Interviewees requested their last names not be used as they felt the topic was too controversial for them to be exposed to public scrutiny for their opinions.

Madeleine Overturf is in the NYU Tisch class of 2014. Her hometown is Anchorage, Alaska.
SM Dipali is in the NYU Stern class of 2016. Her hometown is Cincinnati, Ohio.

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Categories: Culture, Fall 2013 Issue Number 1, News

Author:The Prague Wandering

The Prague Wandering is an NYU based study abroad webzine- the only one of its kind. It focuses on issues in contemporary Czech culture and the city of Prague, exploring beyond the study abroad bubble.

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One Comment on ““Maybe She Would Win if She Were More Beautiful, Not So Chocolate””

  1. October 1, 2013 at 1:43 pm #

    Hi, a good piece. Keep on asking the unpleasant questions. Helge

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