September 12, 2011

Miss Universe Canada in a headdress

Adrienne Keene is among several people who have commented on Miss Universe Canada's costume this year:

Oh, (Miss) CanadaSo, apparently, Miss Universe Canada Chelsae Duroche decided it would be appropriate to wear a headdress for the "National Dress" portion of the competition. Her stereotypical stoic Indian pose is helpful too.

From what I can find, I don't think Chelsae is Native. But honestly, that wouldn't have mattered. That's a straight-up costume shop headdress right there.

The sad thing is, she had an opportunity to do something cool. Look at her dress (once she moved the cigar store Indian arms):
Her dress is a stylized Northwest Coast design (which, again, way to combine distinct cultures--Plains headdress with NW coast dress?).Time magazine, which labeled this one of "Miss Universe 2011's Most Bizarre National Costumes," quoted a blurb:Miss Canada considers her First Nations-inspired cocktail dress a work of art. Her official website describe[s] it as “A Homage to Haida—Its People & Art.”Comment:  The headdress isn't the only problem with Durocher's appearance. The werewolf-style teeth and tongue look fake to me. Indeed, the whole thing looks fake to me: like a child's arts-and-crafts version of Pacific Northwest art. I'd be surprised if a Native fashion designer had anything to do with it.

For those who are unfamiliar with this artistic style, see:

An Overview of Pacific Northwest Native Indian Art

Also, I suspect the skirt is supposed to represent a teepee.

"Homage" = mockery

So it's an "homage" to and "inspired" by Haida art? In other words, it's some non-Haida version of Haida art. And not a good one.

Maybe one of the elementary-school children she loves created it for her. A kid saw a chief, wolf face, and teepee in an Indian coloring book and put them all in a costume.

The polite term for this is cultural appropriation. Another term might be "mockery" or "ripoff."

As you may recall, last year a Miss Universe Canada finalist also appeared in a headdress. A few years ago, Miss USA appeared in a headdress:

It's hard to say which of these costumes is worse. Miss USA's sexy showgirl outfit turned her into an Indian princess, fantasy figure, and potential abuse or rape victim. But Miss Universe Canada's outfit bastardizes a real culture's artwork by 1) copying it badly and 2) mixing it with the stupidest Plains stereotypes. I wonder if Durocher did a war whoop or dance to go along with her dress.

For more on beauty pageants, see Male Warriors and Female Princesses and Native Girls Judged on "Poise," Makeup.


Harvest said...

These costumes are just ugly. People shouldn't pretend--it is not becoming; and it shows a lack of respect for their own ancestors and for ours.

Anonymous said...

To be fair, it's a beauty pageant. They're not known for their enlightened views.

And the stupidest plains stereotype, the stupidest Indian stereotype in general, is actually that we can transform into animals.

Anonymous said...

Harvest/Anonymous: You mean we CAN'T transform into animals? Well, darn.