Being ‘Miss Russia’

PHOTO by Maxim Shemetov / TASS

Every year in April, Russians closely follow the finals of the “Miss Russia” beauty pageant, and then meticulously assess whether the winner is worthy of her crown. And only the few notice how much the appearance of the winners has changed during the years of the contest’s existence. Lenta.ru decided to correct this omission after Polina Popova won the national beauty contest the other day, becoming the first blonde in a decade to be titled “Miss Russia”.

From 1927 to 1939, the "Miss Russia" pageant was held in Paris, as the number of Russian emigres in France at that time reached 200,000 people. The jury was attended by writers Ivan Bunin and Alexander Kuprin, artists Konstantin Korovin and Alexander Benois.

"I've never wanted this! In those days if you were declared a beauty in front of everyone - it was a shame! Miss Russia! What will my friends think? That I was completely conceited?...Other girls were so pretty, so elegant. And they chose me, such a scarecrow..." Marina, the daughter of Russian famed opera singer Fedor Shalyapin recalled her participation and victory in the pageant of 1931.

Since then, the attitude of Russians to the winners of the "Miss Russia" has changed significantly...In the years of war, of course, there was no time for beauty contests. And in the USSR, as it is known, there was no sex, and, accordingly, no beauty contests, too. Everything changed with the beginning of Perestroika. The first since 1939 contest, titled "Miss USSR," was held in 1989. In 1992, as USSR colapsed, the pageant retrieved its original name - "Miss Russia". Since then, it has been held annually.

The appearance of the participants, of course, underwent dramatic changes as standards of beauty evolved. Globalisation played a very important role: contestants from the USSR looked quite original and differed a lot from participants of another pageant with a long history - "Miss America." But in the XXI century standards have become closer, with Russian girls becoming very similar to their Western counterparts.

"International" appearance helped Oksana Fedorova become "Miss Universe" in 2002. However, from 2002 to 2007 typical Slavic beauties used to prevail at "Miss Russia" (except exotic Diana Zaripova in 2005). And one of these blue-eyed and light-haired divas, Ksenia Sukhinova, also managed to achieve international recognition by becoming "Miss World" of 2008.

Under the influence of international trends, Russian beauties look more and more natural every year. Complex hairstyles, hair dyed in bright colours (like platinum blonde or radical black) and artificial tanning disappear into the past.

In 2017, for the first time in ten years, the jury of "Miss Russia" chose a blonde. The 21-year-old girl had quite a bit of make-up on – undeniably, a reasonable trend, allowing to see the new beauty queen "without tricks."