When 22 women from across Germany went head to head February 24 to take home the coveted Miss Germany crown, they followed in the high-heeled footsteps of decades of ladies before them.
The first beauty pageant in Germany in what was then the German Empire — was held in 1909. The title at stake was no less than Miss Universe. Even at that time, there were scandals and chick wars — not unlike what we see today in Heidi Klum's casting show "Germany's Next Top Model."
Gertrud Dopieralski's competitors poured alcohol into her makeup since she was buddy-buddy with the organizers - but that didn't keep her from winning nevertheless.
In the early 20th century, the hourglass shape was considered ideal. It wasn't until the 1920s that hair and skirts got shorter and women even starting drinking alcohol in public (gasp!). In 1927, Hildegard Kwandt won the first official Miss Germany pageant — chosen by a jury that included no less than "Metropolis" filmmaker Fritz Lang.
In the Weimar Republic (1918-1933), the pageants boomed and women saw them as a sign of emancipation. At the very least, they were a ticket abroad, since German organizers would send their winners to international contests in Europe or the US.
Beauty pageant ban
Starting in 1933, the Nazis prohibited beauty pageants. After the war, the first Miss contests started taking place in 1948, but it wasn't until 1950 that the first Miss Germany pageant was held — in West Germany. In communist East Germany, the ban was upheld.
After years of shortages and suffering, being too thin was a sign of poverty and curves were in. Miss Germany winners were not only admired around the country for their elegance and beauty, but were also expected to represent Germany abroad. Germany was not only rebuilding its cities, but also its international image.
Later, in the 1970s, amidst the sexual revolution and rise of feminism, protests against the pageants grew louder and public interest waned.
That changed, however, in 1979, when the Miss Germany pageant was broadcast on television for the first time, on Rudi Carrell's show "Am laufenden Band." In the 80s, the contest regained its popularity.
The re-found significance of the Miss Germany title paved the way for 1990 winner Verona Pooth to use it as a spring board for her extensive public career. She went on to host TV shows, including the erotic program "Peep!," and became a well recognized face in German films and advertisements.
Around that time, supermodels like Kate Moss or Victoria Secret's Adriana Lima of Brazil introduced the controversial waif look, which would impact beauty ideals for decades to come and has just recently started seeing a backlash. Women strove to become as thin as possible.
Since 2000, the Miss Germany Corporation in Oldenburg has been the sole organizer of the pageant (and has also managed to establish the Mister Germany brand). The winners of the contests receive numerous prizes and benefits, including trips, discounts and a car for a year. In return, they sign a 12-month contract with the Corporation for 12 months.
While our image of ideal beauty has evolved for better or worse over the past century, the Miss Germany pageant has remained a constant and proven to be a springboard for quite a few major careers in modeling, TV or business.