Sorority pageant lets entrants shine

Last Friday, the Sigma Delta sorority held its eighth annual Nuestra Belleza, a multicultural pageant intended to demonstrate and celebrate the cultures of its contestants. The Masters of Ceremonies (who were really quite entertaining, and even had a stand-up pun break at one point) explained that the event would be broken down into three competitive portions: cultural attire, questions and answers, and talent. All of the proceeds from the show would be donated to Medair and go towards assisting Syrian refugees.

Before the pageant itself began, the Associação Brasileira de Apoio e Desenvolvimento da Arte Capoeira performed. Capoeira is an elegant Brazilian combination of dance, acrobatics, and music. The audience watched as several performers spun in moves that blurred between sparring and dancing, and the rest of the performers chanted to the beat of drums.

The MCs then introduced the contestants: Miss Ecuador, Lidia Remache ’19, a chemical engineering major; Miss Colombia, Jessica Cabrera ’19, a computer science and business dual major; and Miss India, Shreya Patel ’18, a computer science and games and simulation arts major. Before competing, the three of them performed a group dance, which served to demonstrate their unity and thank the sorority sisters for organizing the event.

The first portion of the main event was a catwalk, in which the contestants modeled traditional garbs from their respective countries. Remache wore a blouse and skirt, known as a pollera. This skirt became well known between the 1620s and 1630s, and it gave women a sense of identity as well in addition to providing comfort. Cabrera wore a Colombian pollera, which is a one-piece skirt that is worn during festivals and traditional celebrations. Colombian polleras are made of different materials and the varying designs reflect the region’s Caribbean influences. Once worn by the lower class, they have become a huge fashion influence. Patel’s outfit, the anarkali, has a story behind it. It is named after a slave girl named Nadira, who was supposedly buried alive between two walls for having an illicit relationship with the Prince; the slave girl wore this attire during performances and acts. The anarkali has been modified throughout the years to symbolize the changing culture of India.

Between the first and second showcases, there was an intermission for dinner. The meal consisted of a chicken drumstick, rice, salad, and water. It wasn’t bad by any means—in fact, I quite liked the sticky texture of the rice—and it was a reasonable serving for five dollars, but I found it to be less culturally themed and exciting than I had hoped it would be.

The second portion consisted of different talent showcases by each of the contestants. Remache sang Katy Perry’s “ET” while accompanied by an acoustic guitar. Her voice was slightly airy and shaky, but that quality in itself added a certain beauty to her singing, akin to the style of Evanescence. Next, Cabrera performed cumbia, a Columbian dance that accompanies the music style. She twirled herself on stage and performed alone for a while, before her partner joined her for a duet. The way they moved was captivating and really displayed the beauty of the Columbian pollera, though it did get a little redundant after a while. Finally, Patel sketched a live model on stage using charcoal and graphite. (I definitely can’t draw like she can…my masterpiece after several months would hardly be as good!) Though it was a bit of a wait, the end result was impressive.

Before the final portion, Sheer Idiocy, RPI’s “best and only improv troupe”, performed with audience participation. They were wonderful as usual, and they really added a nice touch to the night with their hilarious antics. After that, the hosts surprised many audience members who had never attended Nuestra Belleza before with a men’s catwalk. Volunteers from the crowd were called up to strut their stuff in front of the crowd. Among their ranks were Grand Marshal Marcus Flowers ’16, President of the Union Nick Dvorak ’16, as well as a mean, green, crab-walking machine from Sheer Idiocy. All of the men were amazing, and shoutout to the winner, who was a little stage shy but still performed excellently!

The final portion was the question and answer session. Each contestant was asked a sociopolitical question about her country. I didn’t catch everything they said, but from what I could make out, their responses were thorough and intelligent.

While scores were being collected, the hosts played a slideshow of pictures taken while the contestants were preparing for the pageant. There was also another special treat—Sigma Phi Epsilon’s three-man band, Crippled Pimp, performed for us. It was slow overall, but it definitely had a melodic and calming feel to it. At the end, the winners were announced. Remache won the audience’s choice award, and Cabrera won Miss Nuestra Belleza 2015.

I got a chance to ask Cabrera a few questions. It turns out that she joined the pageant only because she saw it on a board, and entered after inquiring about it a little bit. She says that out of the three parts, she enjoyed talent the most because she got to dance. The three contestants also bonded over the course of practice, since Cabrera previously knew Remache, and Patel was also a computer science major.

At the end of the event, the hosts announced that they had raised about $400, which is less than previous years. In all consideration, this event is quite a gem. Although I was initially put off by the lack of attendance, the multicultural awareness combined with all of the other fantastic performances truly made for an evening of fun and surprise. I hope that this event will see greater attendance in the future. It’s a great experience that supports a great cause; what more could you ask for?