Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Belgium Crowns Miss Homeless

Therese Van Belle, 58, of Schaarbeek, Brussels, has won the first Miss Homeless Beligium contest, entitling her to live in an apartment rent-free for a year.

The main purpose of the competition was to hilight the plight of the estimated 17,000 living in Belgium sans domicile fixe (SDF), one third of whom are women.

The competition was organized by Matilde Pelsers and Aline Duportail. Matilde, who runs Petit Le Portail, an organization that runs five shelters, came up with the idea of a homeless beauty pageant when Aline, her daughter, registered for the Miss Belgium competition.

Although the teenage Aline is a writer and was first-runner up in the East Flanders section of Miss Belgium, she is no stranger to the streets, having spent some time as a drug runner. Her most recent work, De Lijn Is Waar De Liefde Stopt, is a book of philosophical poems. Says Aline about turning her life around, "You do not realize what a comeback it was for me. A beauty pageant can be a tremendous boost."

Competitors were judged on inner beauty and strength, motivation, backstory, solidarity, and their commitment to making a new life off the streets.

Clearly this is a bit of a spectacle, and intentionally so. It does raise awareness, but the outlandishness of the concept walks a fine line - I can't help but think of the Derelicte campaign in Zoolander. It is easy for me to mock the Miss Plastic contestants, but I find it more difficult to do make fun here, and I think I'm not alone. Below is a video from Phara from last year where they cover the competition. It's a serious issue, and the laughter seems more nervous than anything else. What do you think? Is this funny? Touching? Sad? Pathetic?What is your mix of emotions?

Daily Express
Miss SDF Belgium (photos)
Nieuwsblad and again and again
Aline Duportail
De Pers
Google Translate (becuase, frankly, my Dutch is pretty weak)

1 comment:

  1. So, she wins a year in an apartment and then gets kicked back to the curb at age 59?