years, Africans have emulated Western beauty pageants, which celebrate slender
women. But in Cameroon, some are saying
more is better. A recent contest featured only women weighing 90 kg and
Ntaryike Divine, Jr., reports from Douala, Cameroon, that the concept is
attracting a considerable following.
There's a new Miss Mama
Kilo.She's 24-year-old Palestine
Blanche Manga Maka, and she weights 105 kilograms. The unmarried winner is a mother of
two who works in a restaurant.
The pageant is now in its third year and attracted hundreds
of contestants. But only ten made the final cut. The judges included government officials, journalists,
beauticians and the public.
Weighty topics and tough competition
The Miss Mama Kilo finalists
thrilled the audience with their seductive strutting and dancing.
The women were judged not just on
their girth, but on their ability to talk about serious topics, like disease prevention,
caring for street kids and other social issues. They also had to show a mastery of one of Cameroon's over 250
local languages, as well as more traditional skills – like how to cook
traditional cuisine and do housekeeping.
Winner Palestine Blanche Manga
Maka had some tough competition.
She was flanked on the podium by
first and second runners-up. They were 23-year-old marketing student Line
Tsafack, coming in at 144 kg, and Moumbe Blanche, an unemployed 32-year-old
woman weighing 93 kg.
And a major attraction was a 47-year-old mother of nine,
Rose Tchakomokoueng, weighing 110 kg.
Judges awarded her the fair play crown for her humility and willingness
to compete against younger contestants.
The top winner, Manga, took
home a cash prize of 500 dollars, many cosmetic products, year-long beauty
care subscriptions, a weekend at a Cameroonian seaside resort, a trip for two
to a nice hotel in neighboring Gabon and the promise of a leisure trip to
But the new Miss Mama Kilo says
her biggest prize can not be measured with a scale or measuring tape.
She says the competition has
enabled her to build greater self-esteem and confidence in her abilities.
Palestine Blanche says people now respect her, whereas in the past,
her size made her an object of mockery. The restaurateur says
she can now boldly stand up in public anywhere in the world and express herself
without any feelings of inferiority, and is even hopeful she will find a more
And that's the motivating idea behind the plump women's
beauty pageant, which was launched in 2006 and has been held every year since
then. The concept seeks to change the generally negative public perception of
plump women. Plump men, on the other hand, are seen to
be wealthy and healthy.
Moise Bangteke, a well-known radio
announcer at the state broadcaster CRTV, is head of the Miss Mama Kilo
organizing committee. His wife,
musician Nadia Ewande,created the pageant.
He says it's been observed that plump women are generally
marginalized to the extent some become so shy they can't speak in public. He says in bids to match beauty standards in
the West, some plump African women are following grueling diets or
are consuming alarming amounts of weight-loss medications that could possibly kill them. He says the contest seeks to help plump women surmount their shyness
and begin to build on their hidden endowments.
The Miss Mama Kilo contest has
sparked debate. Doctors say overweight
women are more vulnerable to ailments like cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
But on the other hand, some men avoid slim women out of fear they may be more
sexually active, and carry HIV. Yet other men say as long as a woman is
beautiful and intelligent, size does not matter. Meantime, the concept has so
charmed local and foreign admirers that it may soon be exported to Europe. A
Cameroonian woman now living in Italy is partnering with the creators of the
Miss Mama Kilo contest to organize a similar beauty pageant for African women