Böske Simon, Miss Hungaria and Miss Europa (1929): Beauty Pageants and Packaging Gender, Race, and National Identity in Interwar Hungary


  • Louise O. Vasvári




Beauty pageants, post-Trianon Hungary, interwar modernity, Lisl Goldarbeiter, Zsazsa Gabor, the Modern Girl, beauty culture, Szinházi élet, Maurice de Waleffe, Sándor Incze, illustrated magazines


In this interdisciplinary article that draws on the intersections of Hungarian and Jewish Studies within a framework of cultural studies and gender studies, Louise O. Vasvári investigates the socio-political role of beauty pageants in 1920s European and—more specifically—in Hungarian social, political and cultural life. The article is structured as a case study of the life of Böske Simon, who was born into a bourgeois Jewish family in 1909 and who won the first Miss Hungaria competition in 1929, soon followed by the title of Miss Europa. Vasvári aims to place Simon’s role as Hungarian beauty queen in a broader focus by examining from a gender perspective the international development of beauty pageants, of the illustrated press, and of commercial beauty culture in the 1920s. She examines the symbolic space allotted to the concept “Modern Girl,” who in the interwar [re]construction of gender and national identities came to represent both the enticements and the dangers of modernity. More specifically, she examines how the problematic gender representation of women in such pageants and their reception by the press and by the public interact in the broader interwar nationalistic cultural sphere in post-Trianon Hungary.






Thematic Cluster: On Hungarian Historical, Literary and Filmic Constructions of Gender. Guest Editor: Enikő Bollobás