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Tea Leaves

Thailand's 'revolution' in beauty standards only skin-deep

Latest choices might break the mold but Miss Universe contest holds Thailand back from broader social change

Anchilee “Ann” Scott-Kemmis celebrates being crowned Miss Universe Thailand in Pattaya on Oct. 24. (Photo from her Instagram)

When the broad-shouldered, athletic Anchilee "Ann" Scott-Kemmis was crowned Miss Universe Thailand in late October, local and foreign media portrayed the moment as a win for Thai women everywhere. "Thailand has grown to appreciate more athleticism in a female body," claimed a regional media report. "The standard of beauty [queens] has been shaken to the core," stated Thai publication Khaosod English, heralding a new era of "real-sized" beauty.

In reality, such claims are misleading, or even disingenuous. For most Thai women who still skip meals, spend inordinate amounts on beauty treatments and diet obsessively in pursuit of the skeletal, pale-skinned ideal, beauty standards still reflect the prejudices we grew up with.

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