In a forward-thinking and ever-changing world, it’s something of a miracle the Miss Universe pageant has persisted.
Then again, when you consider the leader of the free world also happens to be the former owner of said pageant, maybe it’s not such a surprise after all.
This year’s Australian event took place in the ballroom of a Melbourne hotel, attracting a media scrum, a batch of former contestants, some sponsors and a handful of proud boyfriends.
It starts as you’d expect – with a bevy of barely-20-somethings doing a mass choreographed dance routine in matching swimsuits and fake tans.
It’s weird and awkward and yet somehow mesmerising.
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Next, each of the 32 contestants appear on stage to introduce themselves and use their few seconds in the limelight to ferociously promote their various achievements.
One reveals she is a doctor*, a competitive ballroom dancer and, oh, by the way, is also building her own sustainable home.
A number of contestants aspire to be journalists (the journalists in the room audibly groan at this) and other common professions include personal trainers, nutritionists, artists and models.
A few of the more honest girls admit they want to be on television.
Ethnic diversity is low and hairstyle diversity even lower. A large proportion of contestants are white women with long blonde hair.
Still, there are some seriously impressive achievements among them.
In a real sign of the times, one contestant says her biggest achievement is owning two investment properties by the age of 22. She’s clearly skipping the smashed avocado.
One woman speaks five languages, while another is fluent in Auslan and signs half of her introduction.
By the end of the introductions there’s a buoyancy in the room as the crowd grows hopeful this isn’t just a shallow beauty pageant.
Then all this hard work is undone with the next segment of the evening – the bikini competition.
Cameras zoom in on the glossy bodies of 18-year-olds, leaving those in the audience feeling vaguely uncomfortable.
It serves as a timely reminder that, in 2017, having a brain is great – but having a thigh gap can be even better.
Brooke from team #missuniverseTAS in @midnightswimwear at last night's Runway Show 🙌The new Miss Universe Australia will be crowned tomorrow night at @sofitelmelbourneoncollins ✨Who will it be!? #missuniverseaustralia #midnightswimwear #pinktankevents
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If those watching aren’t already squirming in their seats, they are by the time the question and answer segment comes around.
Rendered mute or incomprehensible by understandable nerves, the beauty queens must bumble their way through questions even Malcolm Turnbull would struggle to answer.
Many prove they have a future in politics by managing to avoid answering the question entirely.
Question: “Does the legislation of gay marriage change the meaning of marriage?”
Answer: “In this day and age everything is changing so drastically.” Accurate but not very helpful.
Question: “Should the government ban travel to countries with safety warnings?”
Answer: “We have to show nothing can fear us.” Grammar clearly optional.
Question: “Who’s your biggest inspiration?”
Answer: “Tony Robbins.” Sorry Mum.
One contestant falls to pieces when asked if she’s a good role model on social media. She waffles on about natural beauty before giggling uncomfortably and pleading, “What was the question again?”.
Another controversially suggests many people on welfare are “undeserving”.
“What does freedom mean to you?” one judge asks South Australia’s flaxen-haired Olivia Rogers.
“Freedom to me means having the freedom to do whatever you feel like doing,” she answers, regurgitating the definition of freedom.
An hour later, she’s crowned the winner, beating out a fellow blonde for the oversized tiara.
Meanwhile, the rest of the girls gather up their ballgowns and retreat backstage while the audience files out pondering whether what they’ve just witnessed was empowering or tragic.
* A previous version of this article stated the contestant was studying to become a doctor. She is actually a qualified medical doctor. The New Daily apologises for the error.