clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:


There she is, Miss Moscow, there she is, your ideal. There she is, standing on air she is, fairest of the fair she is, hero of socialist labor she is, Miss Moscow.

Believe it. Starting Friday, hundreds of women began the pilgrimage to Gorky Park, where the organizers of the first-ever Moscow beauty contest are holding elimination trials for the big contest in June.Slathered with bourgeois eye liner and decadent blush, the women took numbers and waited their turn to step up on a stage in front of eight men and one woman who would mark them cruelly plus or minus. Harsh justice. They waited offstage in a stark mirrored room that must have been borrowed from the set for Hell in "No Exit." And when the door finally opened, the spotlights beamed and the temperature went up even more.

"What's your name?" some rumpled old fellow muttered into the mike.


"How old are you?"



"Uh, I'm not sure."

"Fine, fine, now turn around, Galya. slowly."

"Do I have to?" Galya said, turning her wherewithal to 18 unblinking eyes.

"You're doing fine. Now dance around a little."

Galya made some vague, worried motions with her arms as if she were trying to hold a live grouper to her chest. Several judges appeared to write minuses in their little books of judgment.

The finals of the Miss Moscow contest will take place at a local soccer stadium, and the finalists will be judged on the basis of their beauty, their walk and their posture. If the contest is a success, the organizers promise a Miss USSR gala in the future, featuring the likes of Miss Zheleznogorst and other provincial winners.

The pageant director, Mikhail Zlotnikov, said the only other beauty pageant he has ever seen was in Cuba "and as you know, Cuba is known for its beauties" and he has never heard of Bert Parks. But he reckons that he has the experience to succeed. Indeed, Zlotnikov sees himself as an infantryman in Mikhail Gorbachev's perestroika army, ready to pull off an essential ideological mission.

As he peered at a nerve-racked 23-year-old cyberneticist named Svetlana who "really likes to cook," Zlotnikov opined as to how beauty pageants in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics "are an idea whose time has come. We are having a reawakening in our culture, and this is part of it. This is glasnost, this is perestroika."

This is weird.

In the weeks preceding preliminary trials, the local newspapers warned prospective contestants: "Please, do not get too excited."

Contestants showed up here Friday with a certain innocence about the beauty game. And they could not conceal their excitement, directive notwithstanding.