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Miss Deaf UK, in the Guardian

The Guardian is running a piece on Miss Deaf UK, which will be aired by BBC See Hear on Saturday.

Some quick comments from me:

- The Guardian puts this in the "Social Care" section. Why? Perhaps Big Brother should be put in the "Social Care" section too.
- Why does the media air things like this, but not major issues that's important to us such as BSL Recognition? Perhaps an indication of the divide and exclusion that really does take place between the media and us?
- Communication plus a divide is a no brainer for us, and happens all the time. Is the mainstream really that oblivious?

Why can't this be called reality television, because bottom line that is what it is. Instead of being subjected to this, its put under social care.

These are obviously comments before the programme gets aired, and my opinion may shift.

Via Fintan Ramblings.

Charm offensive

Far from being a showcase for talented deaf women, Miss Deaf UK only served to highlight how ignorant the hearing community remains

Annie Kelly
Wednesday April 18, 2007
The Guardian

In June, the first Miss Deaf UK will pack her tiara and head off to Prague to compete in the international Miss Deaf World 2007, leaving a trail of acrimony in her wake.

According to most people involved, last month's Miss Deaf UK was an unmitigated disaster. Instead of its aim of championing integration and showcasing the talents of young women in the deaf community, a new BBC documentary aired this week shows how the pageant, held at a Knightsbridge nightclub, descended into chaos and reveals the cultural divide that still separates the deaf and hearing communities.

At times, the documentary makes for uncomfortable viewing and will give non-deaf viewers a painful insight into aspects of life outside the hearing community. For deaf and hard of hearing viewers, it will be a stark reminder of the challenges that still exist for young deaf people struggling to reconcile their dreams and ambitions with the attitudes of the mainstream.

Throughout the film the organisers of the event display a startling lack of awareness of the logistics of organising an event for a deaf audience. One stylist who insists she does not differentiate still describes the event as "doing her bit for charity" and tells her team to "be louder" in order to communicate with the contestants.

The deaf comedian scheduled to perform is cut at the last minute, just before the young women parade in front of a panel of all-hearing celebrity judges with no experience of the deaf community. The contestants and their parents are visibly distressed at their treatment at the hands of the stylists who shout at them to get in line and roll their eyes in frustration.

But the most excruciating moment is reserved for celebrity judge Bobby Davro as he attempts to lead the mostly deaf audience in a singalong to Sinatra classic New York, New York.

"That was maybe the most embarrassing moment of my life," says Nikki Goba, the well-intentioned but inexperienced 26-year-old deaf studies student who launched and organised the event. "We were supposed to be promoting intelligent, beautiful deaf women and boosting self-esteem within the community - but I think we ended up doing the opposite."

Goba, who says she is still recovering from the ordeal, says she conceived Miss Deaf UK as more of a talent competition, something to promote the skills and accomplishments of young deaf women.

Asked why she felt the deaf community needed its own beauty queen at a time when beauty pageants are hardly considered beacons of female empowerment, Goba said she just wanted to help the girls achieve their dreams.

"We thought it was wrong that there was no Miss Deaf UK represented at Miss Deaf World, and thought let's try to put it on," she explains. "There are so many deaf girls who so desperately want to get into the beauty industry but don't know how. But the whole thing went totally wrong."

Terry Riley, editor of See Hear, the BBC's magazine programme for deaf people which is screening the documentary, says it reveals uncomfortable truths about attitudes towards the deaf community.

"What is highlighted is that a clash of cultures exists and shows a total naivety of the deaf community, its culture and requirements," he says. "The documentary isn't really about deaf issues but what happens when hearing people think they know what's best. It happens all the time."

Goba says she initially faced hostility from sections of the deaf community; website forums were buzzing with debate about whether the contest was making fools of the contestants.

"Some people were saying, 'we don't want our girls laughed at by hearing people', but I just saw how excited the contestants were and I thought, 'why shouldn't they be able to do this if they want to?'" she says. "I always thought we could do this in a way that wasn't tacky."

Goba acknowledges that she did not think carefully enough about the challenges the event would throw up in terms of the requirements and needs of the deaf contestants. "It's hard as a hearing person because you're used to explaining things and although I've been involved in the deaf community for 10 years I'm still not good enough at being visual."

The programme also shows Goba struggling to reconcile her vision of a small event held in a local community centre with the expectations of the girls themselves, who see Miss Deaf UK as their route to fame and a career in modelling.

Kellie Moody, the new Miss Deaf UK, says that although she is angry at the way they were treated during the show, she is thrilled to have won. "When I was a little girl I watched hearing beauty contests on the TV and I saw all these beautiful women with fabulous hair and clothes and I wanted to look like them," she says. "My mum told me, 'one day that could be you', but I didn't believe her because if you're deaf that just doesn't happen. But now it has."

As well as representing the UK in Miss Deaf World, Moody now has a six-month modelling contract and is hoping that the title will lead to more opportunities to expand her career as a make-up artist.

PR professional Melissa Sterry, who took control of the event, is also adamant that although the show went badly, it was good training for the girls, who would battle serious prejudice in their quest to conquer the beauty and fashion industry.

While she acknowledges that "serious lessons" can be learned from the experience, she also believes that the event has the potential to help redefine the beauty industry's perception of deaf and hard of hearing people.

"There are incredibly narrow perceptions about who can make it as a model. Women from diverse backgrounds, whether it be their ethnicity, age, size or disability, are still discriminated against," she says.

"We did our best to make it as professional as possible. This is the contestants' best chance to experience what it is like to be in a normal beauty pageant, where you'll be working with stressed-out professionals who don't know sign language."

Next year, Goba intends to take a back seat and hopes that the deaf community will take the reins and make the event their own.

As for the new Miss Deaf UK, she is determined to do her best to take the Miss Deaf World crown in July. "I feel Miss Deaf UK can change things for me, so deaf people can go out in the world, meet new people, be more confident and achieve their dreams," she says. "I feel deaf people can have strong role models and now maybe I can be one myself. I think this will change my life."

· See Hear is on BBC2 on Saturday at noon

· Email your comments to society@guardian.co.uk. If you are writing a comment for publication, please mark clearly "for publication"

Comments (14)

Ms Deaf UK was badly run, they shouted at deaf people, Davros was pissed, and the organistion and signing was very poor too. Deflect as you try, this was a shambles...

Don't dispute from what is being reported, that it was a shambles.

Why is this taking place at all? If only people expended the same amount of energy on ...

The deaf meat market what next ? this stuff is for the Americans, brits just do not do this.... we're above that sort of thing as a rule.... who is dragging the UK deaf down ?

MM - Do try to hone down your knee-jerk reaction to anything that Alison writes.

She isn't trying to deflect the fact that the Miss DeafUK was a shambles. For example one of her view is as this:

Imagine two articles are written exactly the same, one is about Miss UK and the other is Miss DeafUK. One will go into mainstream news. One will go into Social Care.

Anyway we all know the show's a shambles...probably why they sticked it into Social Care, a cockup of epic proportions deservingly of Social Care status..

As a mother of a profoundly deaf girl who was going to
enter Miss Deaf UK I can only thank god she wasnt involved,the whole event was a disgrace, the total lack of deaf awareness was unforgivable. I watched the programme on Saturday with a large group of young deaf people and they were all seething at the treatment of the contestants, most of whom they knew .The absoloutely worst part was the cancellation of John Smith the deaf comedian only to be replaced by Bobby Davro a hearing artist who proceeded to ask a predominantly deaf audience to sing along with him..........words cannot describe the anger I felt at such a crass thing to do, as most of the audience would have limited speech ability never mind being able to sing and they were DEAF!!!!! .
The whole event was patronising ,insulting phenomenally mismanaged and has probably damaged the possibility of anyone being able to organise this event next year. If anyone is successful for heaven sake consult deaf people a bit more and use deaf people to help organise it, with the support of good qualified interperators and hearing people not being allowed to hijack the event as platform to further their own careers, it could be the event that the deaf world could feel proud of and deserve.

i missed this (as usual) so will watch it tonight, but did anybody record it? could i have a copy, as i would be v.grateful, ta. S

No sorry Steve. I meant to type some thoughts about it last weekend, but things are really insane this end right now. Did you manage to catch it afterwards?

I had forgot to watch it, but my father in-law had recorded for me.

They don't do repeats of See Hear in Scotland BBC, argh! So still haven't seen it - if I could have a copy I'd be really grateful Fintan; I'll pay postage etc? S

The organiser of the deaf event is non other than the illegal immigrant from zimbabwe Nikki Goba. This was just a way of the dyke wanting to get exoposure for sponsorship to the deaf society then in turn use the money for her own personal use. Nikki Goba is a fraud and i dont understand why the bbc chose to air the contest without checking backgrounds of those organising. I could not watch the show as i found uit sad and humuliating for the contestans. they have done more damage to these girls than they could have imagined.

There are some very hot def girls here in the uk.

I can not believe that in all the show people are only complaing about the organisation and turning a blind eye to the racism that took place. I am disgusted as everybody else that the BBC decided to associate it'sself with this programme. The poor African girls were ignored and seemed to have been included for the sake of political correctness / minus Miss South Africa of course as she was light skinned. The organisers should be ashamed of themselves and for letting the black girls suffer in silence. The gentleman - if i can call him that - did not even go to investigate the allegations of racism when brought to him and chose to ' look the other way. What an embarassing show!!!!!

@ Tali - you're talking about Miss Deaf World in Prague that was shown on BBC 2 a couple of weeks ago? Rather than the original prog, what this post was about?

Agree though, racism should not be tolerated in any form.

my beautiful tender silence was proud of its existence. Gradually I learnt the true meaning of silence. It is a very gentle and efficient sentiment in which lie the sentiments of devotion and dedication. This silence is a true prayer to this vast, gigantic life.38 seconds ago

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