Ireland: Contestants wore colorful outfits as the Rose of Tralee beauty pageant wrapped up this week. Ball gowns and silk sashes rocked, they sang 19thThe ballad of the century that inspired competition. As this year’s winner paraded through the towns of County Kerry in southwest Ireland, she sang, “She was beautiful and fair like a summer rose,” giving the contest its name. As all 33 contestants left the stage, fireworks exploded overhead and ribbons of ticker tape fell from the sky.

The beauty pageant is back in Tralee and Ireland’s living room after a two-year absence due to COVID restrictions on fanfare from its legions of fans. questions the relevance of pageants in contemporary Ireland and the diversity of their contestants.

Created in 1959, Tralee’s Roses brings together competitors known as ‘The Roses’ from all over Ireland and the Irish Diaspora from around the world. They are all local selection winners that draw thousands of attendees. A 24-year-old law student, Rose, New York, Katerina Collins told her AFP interview that she represented her city’s Irish community, as her grandmother did in her 1965. He said it was “really special” to do. Growing up, I was always listening. She always said what an honor it was,” she explained.

The Rose of Tralee has been a staple of Irish television since it first aired in 1967 and has had to adapt to the changing tides of Irish society in order to survive. Irish lecturer and author Mary McGill said it stemmed from a time when “Catholic purist notions” were “a big part” of Irish identity. Firmly ruling Irish society, femininity was placed “in the form of extreme scrutiny and extreme expectations of morality”.

“I think that baggage is still there because of its origins,” she said. I also succeeded in Because it’s Irish, it’s nostalgic, and it’s connected to a global community. This year, the contestants wanted the pageant to reflect modern Ireland as much as possible.

Ireland, home to about five million people, has traditionally been a country of immigrants, but in the 1990s the economy took off and things began to change, especially with immigration from the EU. Most people still classify themselves as white Irish, but ethnic diversity is increasing. At the same time, we have seen social changes that were once unthinkable, such as same-sex marriage and the liberalization of strict abortion laws.

Bodybuilding competitor Wexford Rose-Joy Quigley, 26, wore a glowing green evening dress to pose muscles to the audience and showed off a sleeve tattoo on her right arm. “I don’t think modern Irish women are the typical glamorous, beautiful princesses,” she said. ”

Airing for two consecutive primetime nights, the pageant frequently showcases its own brand of Irish kitsch. In Tuesday’s finale, a single rose was tipped off by the popular children’s TV puppet after revealing that she worked on the killing line at a poultry processing plant.

An adult man cried openly when a contestant from Queensland, in northwest Australia, read a poem about the missing Ireland that included a crispy sandwich made with the country’s beloved Tayto brand. rice field. The Rose of Tralee also celebrates the bonds created by competition in Irish communities.

The triumphant Rachel Duffy, from Westmeath in central Ireland, said she was proud to represent the rural community that came together around her after her mother died 14 years ago. Meisen Tinkler, from Toronto, Canada, was diagnosed with autism a little over a year ago and spoke about how other contestants supported her. A series of rule changes were announced allowing women to enter and raising the age limit from 28 to 29.

Despite the efforts, ex-Sidney Rose’s Briana Perkins criticized the all-white line-up during a radio debate on national broadcaster RTE. She “seems to lack diversity across the board. It’s not just a race issue here,” she said of the 2016 contestant. “We have a diverse range of people participating, but I hope that number will increase because we don’t think it’s a true reflection of Irish society at this point.”

The executive director of the Rose of Tralee Anthony O’Gara dismissed the criticism as “lazy” and “ridiculous”, noting that three of the past four winners were of mixed ethnic origin. “Frankly, I’m sick of people… finding a different angle each year to attend the Lords of Tralee Festival,” he added.

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