Former Rose of Tralee Clare Kambamettu has told how she believes Irish women are too insecure about their looks to enter beauty pageants.
The stunning London Rose, who was crowned in 2010, said she believes pageants run all over the country every summer are not centred on good looks unlike US contests.
A new TV3 series, Ireland’s Beauty Queens, is set to shine the spotlight on the rural pageants which have often been dismissed as Lovely Girl contests famously parodied in Father Ted.
But the former Rose said she believes pageants such as the Blue Jean Country Queen in Meath and the Lady of the Erne in Cavan are very different to traditional Miss Congeniality-style beauty parades.
“The fundamental difference between Irish festivals and something that is classed as a beauty pageant is that it is not about looks,” said the psychologist.
“The majority of girls and women I met through my own Rose of Tralee experience and through festivals I have attended over the last year, 95% of them, would not enter something where they thought they would be judged on their appearance.
“One of the things Irish women do lack to a certain extent is confidence in themselves and their appearance occasionally.
“I think if I was aware that someone was going to be judging me on the way I looked it would put me off having entered in the first place.”
The fly-on-the-wall documentary features footage of three pageants around the country.
Blue Jean Country Queen founder, Patrick Farrelly, said he spent a year trying to dream up a pageant similar to the Rose of Tralee but he finally found inspiration on his tractor on his Meath farm.
He said: “One day I was out ploughing on my tractor and there was a song on the radio and it was Philomena Begley singing ‘She’s a Blue Jean Country Queen’ and I said ‘That’s the one for us’.”
The documentary also shows a local girl being crowned at the Ballyheigue Summer Festival Queen in Co Kerry.
Ms Kambamettu, an animal welfare activist, said she believed Ireland should be proud of the rural pageants in towns and villages all over the country.
She said: “These festivals are something we should be celebrating because they are unique to our Irish culture.”
Ireland’s Beauty Queens airs tonight at 9pm on TV3.
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