Even as beauty pageants have been critiqued as misogynistic and dated cultural vestiges of the past in the US and elsewhere, the pageant industry is growing in popularity across the Global South, and Nigeria is one of the countries at the forefront of this trend. In a country with over 1,000 reported pageants, these events are more than superficial forms of entertainment. Beauty Diplomacy takes us inside the world of Nigerian beauty contests to see how they are transformed into contested vehicles for promoting complex ideas about gender and power, ethnicity and belonging, and a rapidly changing articulation of Nigerian nationhood. Drawing on four case studies of beauty pageants, this book examines how Nigeria's changing position in the global political economy and existing cultural tensions inform varied forms of embodied nationalism, where contestants are expected to integrate recognizable elements of Nigerian cultural identity while also conveying a narrative of a newly-emerging, globally-relevant Nigeria. Oluwakemi M. Balogun critically examines Nigerian pageants in the context of major transitions within the nation-state, using these events as a lens through which to understand Nigerian national identity and international relations.
About the author
Oluwakemi M. Balogun is Assistant Professor of Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and Sociology at the University of Oregon.
"With vivid description and sharp analysis, Beauty Diplomacy reveals the layers upon layers of complexity that surround the Nigerian beauty pageant industry. Seen through the eyes of contestants, producers, and anti-pageant protesters, the pageants are the object of contradictory desires, ambitions and fears. This highly engaging study shows how pageants have become the focal point for debates about the meaning of the nation, global political campaigns, and more."
—Maxine Leeds Craig, author of Sorry I Don't Dance: Why Men Refuse to Move
"It's one thing to describe beauty practices and place them in historical context. It's quite another, bigger challenge to show how these practices embody disputes over national identity, culture, and economic development. Combining deep knowledge of Nigerian society with rich, painstaking field research, Dr. Balogun's book is the best I've read on the intersection of postcolonial nationalism, globalization, and bodies."
—Erynn Masi de Casanova, University of Cincinnati, and co-editor of Bodies without Borders and Global Beauty, Local Bodies
"In Beauty Diplomacy, Balogun argues that beauty pageants are not benign; rather, they are arenas in which young women are trained, transformed, and deployed as beauty diplomats—forging ties among Nigerian businessmen and politicians, embodying nationalism, and serving as cultural ambassadors tasked with repairing the nation's reputation on the global stage. This clearly written and conceptually innovative book is a significant achievement."
—Sanyu A. Mojola, author of Love, Money, and HIV: Becoming a Modern African Woman in the Age of AIDS