Miss KGB and Miss Gulag

Some oddball beauty titles from Russia.

In 1990, 23-year-old Katya Mayorova was crowned 'Miss KGB'. It was part of an effort to put a softer face on the intelligence service. It doesn't seem that there was a competition to select the winner. Mayorova was simply selected by a secret process. As far as I know, she was the only one to ever hold the title.

The Montreal Gazette - Nov 4, 1990
click to enlarge

You can find more info about Miss KGB at Russia Beyond.

And from a totally different part of the Russian security apparatus, many women's prisons in Russia now hold beauty pageants. The winners aren't called 'Miss Gulag,' but that was the title of a documentary about the pageants. More info from Jean Trounstine, "Beauty Pageants in Prison Can Have Positive Effects," in At Issue: Beauty Pageants (2010).

The first prison beauty pageant in Siberia took place in 2000, the brainchild of an inmate. It began simply, with costumes created from everyday objects such as plastic bags and fake flowers. These days, the women work together for months before the pageant, which is hardly the competitive, individualistic event implied by the word "contest.". . .

As a woman who grew up in the sixties, I used to consider endorsing any sort of beauty contest inconceivable—but that was before I saw two short documentaries about the pageants at Camp UF-91/9, The Contest, produced by the Polish journalist Zygmunt Dzieciolowski, and Miss Gulag, produced by Neihausen-Yatskova and Vodar Films. They show the contenders taking the runway by storm, cheered on by their peers, in a parody of the stale rigidity and lack of sexuality of traditional pageants. . .

Beauty pageants are now widespread in Russian prisons. Make up, gifts for the unit, and credits toward early release are the prizes.

The Contest documentary: part 1, part 2, part 3
     Posted By: Alex - Wed Aug 10, 2022
     Category: Awards, Prizes, Competitions and Contests | Prisons | Spies and Intelligence Services | Russia

Siberia: that’s my idea of Hell.
Posted by Judy on 08/11/22 at 06:37 PM
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