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LOSTATSEA.NET > FEATURES >

February 5, 2007
Once in a while, I get that nostalgic feeling about the Internet, making me think that in the beginning it held some promise of true freedom and was a burgeoning vehicle for the free exchange of ideas. No, the Internet was not just another place for advertisement and shopping; it was empowerment. Of course marketing firms and advertising pools infiltrated the online world in short order and the dreams of so many idealists were flushed a little further down the tubes with each pop-up. Then again, even today the internet makes it possible for astonishing things to happen. One of those astonishing tales is the story of Aljona, a former candidate for the title of Miss Russia.

On June 1st of 2004, the Miss Universe pageant was held in Ecuador, South America. The Russian delegate to the event was to be Xenia Kustova, who was crowned Miss Russia with a majority of 849,000 votes in her homeland. Leading up to the Miss Universe pageant, everything went along as planned and, incase you were wondering, Miss Australia would ultimately be crowned Miss Universe at the pageant in Ecuador.

Backtracking a bit, however, it should be pointed out that the election of Miss Russia took place online, for the first time, with the public being able to cast votes over the web. Members of the organizing committee for the Miss Russia event were particularly proud of being able to introduce democracy to the election of the most beautiful woman in the country. After all, with the U.S.S.R. officially dissolved, the awarding of such a title has to truly serve the people, right? In the event that - as could be argued in Russia - democracy falls far short of functional in the political arena, at least it can be put to use in the entertainment sector, where democracy is undoubtedly a safe experiment. Or so the Rusisans thought.

As stated in the official rulebook for the Miss Russia pageant, any girl could apply for the election, and so Aljona, an atypical beauty, did. Much to the annoyance of the organizing committee, the short and overweight girl, without any make-up or glitz or glamour to speak of, received more than 10,000 votes the very first day of the election. A few days later, the cult of Aljona was splitting at the seams and her growing legion of fans began mobilizing, setting up the website www.stopbarbie.org.ru as a weapon of resistance in the battle against what they termed the "barbiefication" of society. To poeticize their cause, the people running the website put it like this: "When one is given a choice of one hundred lighters of the same size but of different colors, we prefer to use the matches. So we lit the match."

With such a fervent level of support, Aljona made it gloriously through all the pre-elections and right to the finals. 17 hours into the polling period she was in the lead and it appeared that Aljona, the black sheep of the beauty cartel, was going to make it all the way to the title. Until a technicality.

The beleaguered organizing committee, frantically searching for a reason to exclude her from the voting, realized that Aljona had just turned 15. As with most non-specific (Miss Teen, Miss Junior, et cetera) pageants, the minimum age limit for contestants in the Miss Russia pageant is 18. Enthralled with their luck, the organizing committee cheered and threw her out.

It was a happy ending for the beauty industry and, with their hourglass-shaped world back in order, the standard beauty Xenia Kustova was voted Miss Russia and flown to Ecuador. Aljona headed back to school, bolstered with the knowledge that she had truly won the public vote. The website remained, dedicated to her and the fight against the bulimic, silicon-loaded products of our culture's beauty models. Aljona's run in the Miss Russia pomp and spectacle parade was embodied in the website's continued fight against corporations forcing upon the masses a corporate modeled culture in order to maximize corporate profit.



A quote from "Ron," posted in the guest book at www.stopbarbie.org.ru:
For a long time I have been annoyed with and ashamed of corporate America and its progeny across the world. It's a pity that the opinion and needs of the single person is ignored in favor of what the corporations force on us in order to generate the maximum profit for themselves. I think it's great that so many people are willing to 'buck' the system and vote for the ordinary person and not the surreal models that too many women aspire to emulate to their ultimate demise.

With their modest beginnings in support of Aljona, the people running the StopBarbie website did not expect the worldwide coverage that their movement attracted, but the response shows the importance of the issue at hand. When parents present a child with a doll they also, whether they realize it or not, are presenting their child with the standards of society, instilling in them from an early age a set of image stereotypes, more often than not unrealistic, to which that child will invariably aspire.

To find evidence of the pervasion of these cosmetic ideas, ask a young girl how she wants to look and the reply is unlikely to conjure up any images of average appearance, or even normalcy. More often than not the girl's aspirations will be Barbie-like, the lure of a 36-24-36 figure and pink house, horse trailer and sports car and, of course, a rippled, inverted pyramid of Ken to keep her. Is the truthfulness of that image giving you the chills yet?

However, the real tragedy sets in when the glitz and pink glamour of those Barbie dreams do not come true. After all, without the perfectly curled blonde hair, navy blue eyes, long legs and waify waist, the rest of the Barbie package often proves elusive.

Analyzing the post-Barbie illusion letdown is a massive undertaking on its own, but we can take solace in knowing that there seems to be hope, after all, for the young girls both blessed and cursed to come of age in the modern world.

"Hello all - my second language is French, but today I wish it was Russian!," wrote John in another guest book entry. "I believe I speak for many Americans who have grown very skeptical and weary of the commercial culture, which unfortunately is now global. I have a daughter, and instead of playing with Barbie she takes Karate, plays sports, and, well, isn't Barbie. Her favorite adult is Diana Taurasi (a professional basketball player), who isn't Barbie either."

---
In addition to the Stop Barbie website, you may want to check out some Aljona Fan-Art, which is in Russian.

SEE ALSO: www.stopbarbie.org.ru
SEE ALSO: www.missuniverse.com
SEE ALSO: www.miss.rambler.ru

--
Samuel Klaus
Samuel Klaus, a native of Zurich, Switzerland, is a legal expert and a contributor-at-large for LAS magazine.

See other articles by Samuel Klaus.

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