China Beatuy Pagent Industry

Since the first beauty pageant held in China 30 years ago, the market has experienced  amazing growth through out the years. Today, there are over 300 pageants held every year in China, that equals to almost one pageant a day. What makes industries from tourism, automobile, beauty and even dairy industry so crazy about pageants in China?

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The chaotic situation of Chinese beauty pageants

One of the busiest groups of people in China is pageant-related people. Candidates have more than 300 pageants to attend each year. And the judges are also working tirelessly reviewing the contestants. As one pageant judge complained, “I have 331 girls to judge in only 2 days,” and “there are too many contests that I cannot even remember the name of them.”
However, their efforts aren’t paid off. The terribly unqualified winners of beauty pageants makes this contest anything but beautiful.
Seeing from the Chongqing beauty pageant winners, it’s obvious there is fishy corruption business going on if these are the beauties of China.

Chongqing pageant
Winners from Chongqing pageant

Jokes reach an all time high, when the bulging private parts of the Shandong bikini beauty contestants made the contest more of a ladyboy contest than a traditional beauty pageant.

Winners from Shandong bikini pageant
Winners from Shandong bikini pageant


Winners from Hainan pageant
Winners from Hainan pageant

Beauty pageant craze

Please don’t doubt the taste of Chinese people. We know how to appreciate beautiful women. The judges and candidates are only chessmen in this beauty pageant game. The controller of this game are the pageant hosts and sponsors.

After seeing the ridiculous result of these pageants, people began to question the qualification of winning a pageant. Journalists discovered that you can decide the winners if you pay ¥9.8 million to the organizer. Other fees such as a single item endorsement costs ¥600,000 and scenic area photography costs ¥600,000.

Price list of endorsement
Price list of endorsement

Other scandals such as “sexual escorting”, “compulsory unpaid company activities” are also shedding the darker light of the Chinese beauty pageant industry.

To sum up, it is the economic interest that drives the judges to vote in the likes of what sponsors like. In fact, most results are already made before the contests.

Trace back to 2003, the final contest of Miss World held in Sanya, Hainan takes the same mode. For Sanya, the contest greatly increases its global popularity and image. However, organizers failed to maintain it’s image when they started hosting less appealing and professional pageants.


Miss World Final in Sanya
Miss World Final in Sanya

Who benefits from the pageants?

Although the beauty pageant industry is still highly fixed and crowded with corruption Chinese public still have a keen interests in them. The conservative sex culture in China it is taboo to stare or admire beautiful girls in public. So despite the lacking beauties it is still entertaining and enticing to watch women dressed in pretty cocktail dresses or in scantily clad bikinis. There are still many companies that are willing to invest in beauty pageants to promote their brands. The beauty industry is prevalent in most fields like animation, automobile, tourism and many industries you normally wouldn’t associate this field with.

Beauty industry

From shampoo to plastic surgery, beauty companies are perfect customers for pageants organizers. For example, a senior official from Guangdong TV explained to a journalist that the pageant they held recently was sponsored by a shampoo maker, so the winner was selected according to the positioning of their products. Source: 163 news

Some clinics also sponsor some pageants and decided the winner under table. Then they can promote their clinic with the winners who are their former customers.

For companies from beauty industries, the winners they pick can’t be ugly which is not so harmful to the quality of contest. And people can directly see the result of using the products or service from sponsors. And Chinese people trust what they see. As a Chinese saying goes, ”眼见为实” (which means seeing is believing). For medium and small companies, it was a good solution. But because of the increase prices of endorsements and decreasing quality of these contests, companies in beauty industry such as cosmetics, medicine, and plastic surgery are turning to celebrities or models for endorsements.

Tourism industry

After the 53th Miss World Final held in Sanya, Hainan, people discovered that pageant can strongly boost local tourism. Just from the ticket sale alone the number exceeded $2 million US dollars in the small city with less than 200,000 citizens. During the contest hotels in Sanya had increased by 20.83% in income from tourism. Further more, Sanya has set itself up as a popular pageant city for China and around the world.
Encouraged by the success of Sanya, other cities with tourism destinations also started pageant promotion campaigns. Xi Tang, a small town close to Shanghai, obtained the authorization to hold Miss World China Contest for 3 years from 2004 to 2006. And during these four years, the tourism income of Xi Tang has increased 4 times. (Source: toptour)

Xi Tang Miss World in China
Miss World in China, Xi Tang

Even during the rough time and scandals clouding the pageant industry, pageants are still an important marketing tool to promote tourism spots. One year ago, the 37th Miss Tourism International held in Zhan Jiang brought a lot of attention Zhan Jiang as a tourism spot. Although there are still some rumors regarding the scandals during the contest, it doesn’t bother people seeing and knowing the beauty of Zhan Jiang.

Though the use of beauty pageants to promote tourism is slowly reducing. One major reason is the decreasing quality of the pageants. Another important reason is new marketing tools are becoming more and more influential and cost-efficient. The most important new marketing tool is online tour marketing. In China, online tourism marketing has kept over 15% growth rate since the second quarter in 2010 and the growth continues to accelerate.

online tourism market
online tourism market

It directly reflects the increasing concern from tourism companies and agencies and their increasing budget. See more about chinese tourists.

The beauty pageant industry in China is now experiencing a transition period. It’s foreseeable that the increasing concern for the quality of pageant will push the industry to develop in a more professional and less corrupt so the contestants can be talked about for their beauty not as a laughing stock. At the same time, new marketing tools such as online marketing will also be a useful tool to promote beauty pageants.  The influence of beauty pageants goes to show how important beauty can be for Chinese customers.

What do you think about China beauty pageant industry? Your ideas and comments are always welcomed.

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