top of page
  • That Was Genius Team

Episode 122 - Time Team With Tatties (Showbiz Week)

Tom's Notes:

Beauty Pageants for Showbiz week

Patron feedback:


Hey I have a couple more suggestions.



-feats of survival


-historic journeys

Also jeep up the great work guys, I always look forward to your episodes! Hope you are all well!


Hello Tom ans Sam I have a technical question. Not sure you can answer to me but why not? I upload files in Patreon and I want to ear it in an appli which permits to slow down the sound because I am French don’t forget. I can’t find the uploaded files in the folder Files of my IPhone. I have the impression to be an old man who discovers the phone when I ask questions like that…😅 Bye

This week, I’ve decided to talk about lovely lady competitions, or beauty pageants, where ladies are judged on their most important characteristics like intelligence, kindness… hahaha! Had you going, I means tits, arse, nice shiny teeth, a smile that says “you look like you’ve had a hard day’s work doing things I couldn’t possibly comprehend. Let me fetch you a newspaper, put on the dinner and give you a quick hand job.” Now I’m not going to be completely sexist here, I am going to happily reference male beauty pageants that have sprung up through history, they are just less common than lovely lady competitions, largely I feel because of the male predisposition to settling things with a fight. “Why be judged on what we look like when we could be judged by who can through the ram furthest! Or who can carry a cow quickest up that hill! Or who can suck off the most… hold on… I mean arm wrestling!” I plan to steer well clear of child beauty pageants because there is something dreadfully unpleasant about them.

Let’s start, where we so often do, with the Ancient Greeks. The Trojan War began with a beauty contest; the Judgement of Paris which went something like this; the Louvre is amazing, the breakfasts are fab, the Eiffel Tower is over-rated and surrounded by fag-butts and dog shit and it’s quite frustrating be continuously bothered by individuals of questionable immigration status selling counterfeit tatt. No, that’s my judgement of Paris. Paris never judged Paris, or drove a Toyota Yaris, or watched Richard Harris, or ate a piper maris. Paris was asked to judge the beauty of the three goddesses, Athena, Hera and Aphrodite. Let me set the scene, there’s a wedding taking place. The gods have been invited. All but Eris, the goddess of shit-stirring (no seriously, that’s kind of what she’s goddess of, her Roman equivalent is Discordia; the name says it all). It’s obvious why Eris wasn’t invited, but weirdly, Priapus was. The aggressive midget Alan Titchmarsh doppelganger (which I think should be the episode title) spent the entire time marching around on top of the dining tables preventing anyone from eating the fruit before the speeches had finished (“touch that and I’ll slap your around the face with me nob”). After the wedding, he went away with the bride and groom and gave them encouragement on their first private moments together (“shove it up her nose! Pull her ears. Harder! Give it some umph!”)

Anyway, as the wedding guests are mingling politely with people they never liked, which is why they hadn’t seen them for the better part of a decade, Eris turns up with a golden apple (“where the fuck did you get that? It better not be from my garden. I’ll roger you right and proper if it was!”).

Eris throws the apple onto the dance floor and shouts “this is for the loveliest lady in all of Olympia!” Aprodite, Hera and Athena claim the apple, much to the chagrin of the ultra-feminists in the room who believe that women should be allowed to do whatever they like and be whoever they want to be, so long as it isn’t from the rather extensive ultra-feminist banned list. Zeus wisely steps aside and says sod this, damned if I do, damned if I don’t, and hands the responsibility of judging to Paris. Now what follows I feel was probably written by a male. Paris decided really very quickly that he couldn’t possibly judge them with their clothes on. So the three goddesses very willingly take their clothes off. Paris then pointed out that it was difficult to judge them without baby oil, or jelly wrestling, or in fact saucy dancing (mmmm, Worcestershire saucy dancing, soya saucy dancing, daddy’s saucy… no what, stop it).

Paris is dragging this whole thing out as long as possible and so the goddesses fall back on bribery. Hera offers to make Paris king of Europe and Asia, Athena offers him the skills required to win wars, and Aphrodite offers Paris the most beautiful women in the world; Helen of Troy. The rest is semi-history.

Away from the myth now, the Greeks actually made a sport of beauty. Competitions were held where women and men were judged on their beauty, they were called kallisteia. The men would have ribbons tied around particularly nice parts of their body. So for me, it might be my never-ending nose. For you Sam, it might be those slender, almost child-like calves. Often beautiful women or men were chosen to perform a ritual task. For a chiselled man, this might be to carry a ram around the walls of the city to honour a local deity, or to lead an animal to a temple for slaughter. At the Panathenaic Games in Athens, a good-looking older man was chosen to carry an olive branch in the procession of Athena (a topic that it is depicted in the friezes of the Parthenon). Winners of female beauty contests might be made cup bearers in a ceremony or something similar. How beauty is judged seems to vary from region to region in the classical world according to Athenaeus the 2nd to 3rd century AD Greek writer. Some regions liked women to be judged on their modest beauty, others on their twerking.

It’s fairly obvious that beauty contests would have been relatively common in many periods and places through history. Let’s now take a big temporal leap forward to the origins of the modern beauty pageants. Oft quoted as the first modern beauty pageants is the Eglinton Tournament of 1839, which, and this will surprise listeners, took place in Scotland of all places. The only way is up. This tournament was a mock-medieval festival inspired by the Romanticism movement, think Sir Walter Scott and Ivanhoe. I might go into the details of this event at some point in the future, but what I will say is that the whole thing was a disaster and a shambles by the sounds of it, a 19th century Fyre Festival. The beauty queen was Georgiana Seymour, Duchess of Somerset. I don’t know much more about this beauty pageant, whether this young lady was up against a load of toothless Scottish peasants from Ayrshire or some proper competition in the form of some wee bonnie lassies.

Only a little while later, in 1854, Mr Barnum, of Barnum and Bailey Circus fame, tried to hold a lovely lady competition but it didn’t go ahead after protests, presumably motivated by religious conservatism in ‘Murica.

Skip forward to 1921 and we’re on to the modern beauty pageants proper. Miss America was first started in this year under the name ‘bathing beauty revue’. There had been a few similar events in the years before. Notwithstanding the obvious controversies over whether such events were immodest or sexist, there were a number of other controversies in the early years. One of the early winners was only 15 years of age. It also took until 1950 for non-whites to be allowed to take part. It took until 1984 for a black women to win the event, Vanessa Williams, but not without controversy. Penthouse published nude photos of her not long after the event. In the 1960s it was the highest rated program on American television apparently.

Also in the 1920s and the 1930s in America, there was the International Pageant of Pulchritude. Snappy title. Despite the word pulchritude meaning beauty, it really is a word that conveys the opposite. This was wound up during the Great Depression but was the first international competition with winners crowned as ‘Miss Universe.’

I didn’t know this but since the Second World War, there have developed four big beauty pageants: Miss World, who obviously is the loveliest lady in the world (started 1951), then there’s Miss Universe (this started in 1952 as a result of pressure from female aliens who wanted to take part), then there’s Miss International from 1960 (which shouldn’t be confused with Miss Unintentional which is a far more chaotic and slapstick show). Lastly, there’s Miss Earth which started in 2001 and judges competitors on how good they are at digging. I was delighted to find on the Wikipedia page for these Big Four pageants a subheading for ‘longest winning streak’ which is held by Miss Fanny Curtains of Cincinnati who managed 5 laps of the auditorium before she caught a chill and had to stop.

The swimsuit element of these competitions have always been controversial, particularly the bikini. In the early 1950s bikinis were banned from the Miss World and Miss Universe competitions. In 1952, Pope Pius XII waded in on the debate and condemned the bikini contest. Presumably because it was too conservative and needed to take a leaf out of Bimbambinabo’s book. In 1964, Miss International went the other way and made them mandatory.

I won’t go any more recent than the 1960s because the controversies all get a bit boring and repetitive. So instead, I’ll finish by returning to classics.

There’s a story recounted by a number of Classical writers about two Syracusan girls who were arguing over who had the best backside. To settle the matter, they mooned a wealthy young man as he walked past their village. This young man falls head over heels in love with the eldest daughter’s peachy bottom and wanders home love drunk demanding his father that he let him marry her. This youth’s brother then wanders down to the village to see what all this fuss is about and falls in love with the younger daughter after she shows him her arse. The two mooners and their new boyfriends get married and a temple is dedicated to Aphrodite of the beautiful buttocks to honour the marriages. Depictions of Aphrodite looking over her shoulder saucily in sculpture have been, for some odd reason, a very popular choice of statue for the better part of 2000 years.

bottom of page