December 20, 2015

Miss Canada in a totem-pole loincloth

Miss Canada and the Free Bin

By Jessica R. MetcalfeWell, I was hoping this wasn't true, but alas, Miss Canada, Paola Nuñez, wore this lil "Totem Pole" number for the Miss Universe Preliminaries held two days ago in Las Vegas. The pageant will be televised live on Sunday, Dec 20, on FOX.

The past costumers for Miss Canada seem to have an identity crisis of sorts, not really knowing how to authentically represent their unique national identity in a flamboyant soundbite of an ensemble.

What makes Canada unique? In the past, they've featured Mounties, maple leaves, and even hockey sticks, but they always come back to old standby: "the Native."
An update:Well, you may or may not like what I have to say. We've found the designer of this costume. He's actually a young Dominican designer who also designed Miss Canada's evening gown and the outfit for her talent portion. In fact, she is also from the Dominican Republic and immigrated with her mother to Canada at the age of 10. As a newcomer to Canada, she was bullied and teased because of her dark skin and big lips. In addition, from reading the designer’s meaning behind this costume, it is clear that he genuinely tried to do research (if only we could all get gold stars for trying) and he found significance in the totem pole; he writes, "honoring these tribes which we pay tribute to the indigenous peoples of these Nations.”

So here we have a young lady wishing to represent Canada in the best way and make the nation proud. We also have a young designer wanting to honor Canada’s Aboriginal population through his garments. Why, then, when we have so many good intentions on the table, do we still come up shorthanded when it comes to representing Native people and our cultures appropriately and accurately? (And, as a sidebar, how does a person, who wants to win a global title, make this kind of cultural faux pas?) What’s the big hang-up? Where’s the glitch in the system? Why are we consistently excluded from having a say in how our cultures are being represented?

Some commenters on Facebook were more scathing than Dr. Metcalfe:This is ridiculous and super offensive...this is an example of why some Canadians need to learn more about our First Peoples...whoever organizes the pageant and chooses the wardrobe is obviously completely ignorant and very disrespectful!

My first problem with this is the use of a designer from the Dominican (as Miss Canada a Canadian designer should have been used). My second problem with this is if they wanted to showcase First Nations culture they should have gone with a First Nations designer. This is offensive!!

Did the pageant committee set her up for fail? Why wasn't her outfit made with a tasty beaded, deerskin dress and head band. I am an Alberta native and the ugly mask outfit is an insult to my Cree heritage. The whiteman wins again.
Dominican totem pole?!

Finally, the Miss Universe Canada organization offered a ridiculous explanation of its ridiculous stereotyping:

‘There’s been a tremendous misunderstanding’: Miss Universe Canada carved over totem pole outfit

By Tristin HopperBut after the 2015 contestant elicited cringes by donning a glittery totem pole costume, organizers tried to head off outrage by explaining that it was a Dominican-inspired totem pole.

“Unfortunately, there’s been a tremendous MISUNDERSTANDING regarding the context about Miss Canada’s National Costume,” reads an official statement by Miss Universe Canada.

“Yes, there are many different totem poles, NOT just First Nations totem poles.”
And:On Sunday, Miss Universe Canada put out a statement responding to “all of the negative comments.”

Despite earlier claims that Miss Canada had been embracing “native culture,” the statement said that they actually meant to say that she was “embracing her ethnic heritage of being a Dominican-born Canadian.”

When a commenter pointed out that the Dominican Republic is not known for its totem poles, Miss Universe Canada responded “her costume was not meant to depict First Nations people but rather the people of the Dominican.”
Comment:  Get freakin' serious, pageant people. The totem pole looks like a touristy version of typical Native totem pole. The animals appear to be an eagle, bear, and wolf--animals not found in the Dominican Republic.

Moreover, the rest of her costume resembles a giant raven--again a clearcut symbol of Canada's First Nations, not the Dominican Republic. If people realized the costume turned this revered being into a sex object, they might be even more upset.

Finally, the designer explicitly wrote that he intended to "pay tribute to the indigenous peoples of these Nations." So he lied? Or he's too stupid to realize what he said? Because his statement blatantly contradicts the pageant's statement.

Somebody's not telling the truth here. I'm guessing it's Miss Universe Canada.

For more on the subject, see Miss Universe Canada in a Headdress.

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