In A Nutshell
There are quite a number of odd and bizarre events you might encounter when you visit Thailand. You could opt to eat fried creepy-crawlies on street corners, for example. Even more bizarre is Thailand’s annual Jumbo Queen Beauty Pageant, where any lady can join provided she’s healthy . . . and we mean really healthy.
The Whole Bushel
Beauty pageants for plus-size women are nothing new, and they’ve proven to be quite a sight indeed for audiences in Malaysia and the Philippines. In Thailand, however, the concept has taken a big bounce ahead as it aims to provide awareness for one of the country’s proudest animals—the elephant.
In the Jumbo Queen Beauty Pageant of Thailand, contestants have to weigh at least 80 kilograms (175 lb), and those are merely the featherweights. The competition jiggles off to a mouth-watering start in a local zoo where the audience and the contestants partake in a buffet—no, not for them, but for the elephants. The rotund ladies hand-feed the gentle giants fruits, vegetables, and various tasty treats. Contestants would later take the (specially reinforced) stage and showcase their talents.
Winners are given the title “Thi Da Chang,” literally “The Daughter of the Elephant.” Past winners include Miss Jumbo 2001, Soraya Srmitr who weighed 102 kilograms (224 lb), with measurements of 40–44–52, who wowed the judges with her Latin dance.
The responsibilities of the winner are not over until the fat lady sings.
The program aims to raise awareness for the elephant population in Thailand which has been steadily declining. Winners become ambassadors, touring the country for a year to promote wildlife conservation for the dwindling herds. Indeed, everything centers on the majestic animals to the point that one of the key criteria for judging is how well the contestant “exhibits the quality of an elephant.”
Those not lucky enough to win the crown are given special prizes as well. The Miss Jumbo Universe award goes to the heaviest contestant such as Thanchanok Mekkeaw, who tipped the scales at an impressive 182 kilograms (401 lb) some years ago.
Another special prize seeks to celebrate (for lack of a better term) Thailand’s economic collapse and the aid given by the International Monetary Fund (or IMF). The IMF Award, however, stands for “I’M Fat.”
Show Me The Proof
BBC News: Finding Miss Elephant
LiveLeak: Jumbo Queens feed elephants in beauty pageant (video)
Jumbo Queens of Thailand
Summer in Siam, by John Borthwick