Beauty, grace, poise...and tolerance

Israeli model set to compete in the Miss Global 2015 contest: “I would like a chance to show the world what Israeli culture is all about."

Israeli model Bareket Drori (photo credit: Courtesy)
Israeli model Bareket Drori
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Israeli model Bareket Drori is one of 50 women from around the world set to compete in the Miss Global 2015 contest, but her motivations to participate in the beauty pageant are selfless. “I see this competition as a great chance to drive positive publicity to Israel and its nation, showing its beauty and culture – a different side to the negative media bias against Israel,” Drori tells the Magazine.
“I would like a chance to show the world what Israeli culture is all about: From the beautiful beaches of Tel Aviv to the soaring heights of Masada, to delicious falafel and the warmth of its people. I would love nothing more than to present the best that Israel has to offer,” she enthuses.
Beauty pageants are often ridiculed for their superficial focus on appearance, and it’s not rare for sometimes- ignorant responses to judges’ questions to go viral. Though the format of the Miss Global pageant is similar to others, with swimsuit and evening gown contests, this pageant seeks to offer a more modern and progressive platform, reaching out to a wider age range, a more diverse selection of participants and looking further than physical beauty. “The contestants are encouraged to express their individuality with poise, grace and wits,” the organization’s mission statement reads. The pageant is held in a different location every year, and the winner embarks on a year-long journey around the world, participating in charitable fund-raisers.
Drori has been living in New York for the past seven years, where she works in fashion merchandise planning, but she was born and raised in Rehovot.
“My mom was born in the former Soviet Union and moved here with her family at the age of 18, not speaking a word of Hebrew. She met my dad shortly after.
“My dad was born in Iraq and moved to Israel with his family as a baby. His dad was a rabbi who died when he was young. His mom raised him and his 13 brothers and sisters in Rehovot on her own, not even knowing how to read and write.”
Drori served in the navy before a friend suggested a post-army trip to New York, during which she fell in love with the Big Apple and decided to move there.
She says she was enamored with the energy of the city and drawn by the large pool of professional opportunities, which contrasts with Israel’s slimmer pickings.
Though the 30-year-old model has been in New York for the majority of her adult life, she considers herself an Israeli in every respect and is excited to represent her homeland in the Philippines, where the 2015 Miss Global contest is taking place. Drori expresses a sense of frustration at the negative image of Israel she comes across so often abroad, and says that people are often surprised to discover she is Israeli and Jewish. “How am I supposed to look?! Am I supposed to have horns?” she asks.
“I want to be able to make any small difference in the minds of people about what Israeli culture and people are like, and if I can make a positive impact that would definitely be my reward,” she emphasizes, looking ahead to the October 24 pageant. She does, however, note that participation in the contest is a significant financial burden since she is paying expenses out of her own pocket, and thus she is on the lookout for sponsors who share her vision of attracting positive attention to the Israeli nation.
Drori says one of the most exciting aspects of the contest for her is the opportunity to create her outfits together with designers, and particularly, the “national outfit,” which requires contestants to model a fashion-forward outfit that showcases the country they are representing. Though she is still on the lookout for a designer to collaborate with on this, she says she is seeking a professional that will be as passionate about her outfit as she is. She hopes to “embody Israeli culture and beauty” with their creation.
Drori is not a regular pageant-goer, having only participated previously in one in Herzliya at the age of 18. She notes that it was important to her to thoroughly research the Miss Global pageant before signing up, and she was drawn by the Miss Global organization’s heavy involvement with charities that spoke to her. These include the Senhoa Foundation, which works to combat modern slavery, and Global Angels, which seeks to aid disadvantaged communities around the world with sustainable solutions.
Fifty to 60 contestants are selected from hundreds of applicants by a panel of judges and experts. They say they seek well-rounded passionate applicants who are proud of their heritage and background as well as being open to learning about other cultures. The pageant website says : A strong Miss Global competitor is a woman who embraces her inner strengths and qualities and has no qualms about expressing who she truly is.
“We carefully and thoughtfully chose each contestant based on an application process. We receive hundreds of applications yearly, which are processed by the Miss Global staff. The staff carefully selects one young woman to fit the role for the nation of her birth or heritage,” says Miss Global pageant coordinator Laurie Anning.
The pageant motto is “Empowering Women, Embracing Culture, Embodying the Beauty Within,” and it welcomes single mothers and divorcees, in contrast to other pageants.
Miss Global’s emphasis on its diverse range of candidates is particularly pertinent now, following the recent uproar over racially discriminatory remarks made by Miss Universe owner (and Republican presidential candidate) Donald Trump about Mexican immigrants: “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.
And some, I assume, are good people.” Mexico responded to these comments by pulling out of the contest, and NBC announced it would not air another Trump Miss USA beauty pageant. On the heels of this fallout, the Miss Global organization said it plans to offer contestants dropping out of Miss Universe another opportunity to compete on the international stage.
“We are saddened by the fact that these women have worked so hard to get to where they are, only to be left without the opportunity to compete internationally and represent their countries with dignity,” said Miss Global director Tea Mak. “These women should be honored and respected for their decision to drop out. With this in mind, the Miss Global organization is announcing that we will immediately accept any of the Miss Universe contestants to compete in Miss Global this year.”
The organization states that it is the first major international pageant to accept both an American and a Native American to compete for the international title that it offers.
“We look forward to continuing to grow this pageant while emphasizing that we embrace women of all cultures, races and beliefs,” says Mak. “The world is changing, views are changing and we are changing with it.”
The Trump debacle is not the first time politics has gotten in the way of the Miss Universe pageant. Earlier this year, Miss Israel Doron Matalon found herself at the center of a “selfie fiasco,” after Miss Lebanon Saly Greige accused her of “photobombing” a picture the latter had taken with Miss Japan and Miss Slovenia. The accusation came after Greige received harsh backlash from her countrymen, for posing in a photo with the representative of an enemy state.
With applicants from “enemy states” of Israel, such as Iran, Palestine, Lebanon and Iraq, Drori admits that she is apprehensive about meeting pageant participants who may have negative attitudes towards her due to her nationality. If she is faced with any hostility, however, she says she will be non-confrontational while staying true to her beliefs. “If something is said wrongly in my eyes, I will be educational and informational but I think this contest overall, and how we’ve been instructed to be, is to help each other, empower each other and be gracious with one another.”
Pageant coordinator Anning reinforces this, telling the Magazine that each contestant is expected to act with respect and grace. “Part of the overall score is judged by the Miss Global staff for participation and overall potential in being the next Miss Global. If there are tensions between contestants that are out of line, it will hurt the offender’s overall score,” she notes. “We have not experienced it yet and don’t anticipate it to happen in the future.” She further stresses that in the judges’ interview section of the pageant, contestants are not asked any political or religious questions.
“We can prove that young women of all countries can come together for two weeks and embrace each other’s cultures and differences without politics being a factor.”