I would not say that I was the world’s biggest fan of beauty competitions. And yet, last night I was glued to the Rose of Tralee Festival. If you’ve never heard of this, then I take it you’re not Irish (or Irish-American, or Irish-Australian). The best way I can explain it is to say that it’s the real life inspiration for the Father Ted Lovely Girls competition where they walk around cones (see above).
In other words it’s a wholesome personality/beauty pageant for Irish women or those of Irish descent. The Roses tend to be biochemists and engineers, wear evening dresses rather than swimsuits and are judged on their lovely personalities and their party pieces (tin whistle playing, Irish dancing, singing, magic tricks – I’m not making these up). Typically they come from all over the world and will talk about their Irish parents and families (all of whom make up the audience). It’s all very ‘modren’ now; we had the first African-Irish-American Rose in 2003 and unmarried mothers were allowed enter as of, ahem, 2008. The prize is 25,000 euro to be spent on a world tour as an ambassador for the festival. It’s a bit like the Eurovision Song Contest: it’s lame but people still love it.
It’s open to women of Irish descent aged 18-27, which means I’m now officially too old to be a Rose. Depressing. You can catch a snippet of last night’s Rose of Tralee here. (The presenter Daithi o Se is meant to be sort of sex symbol and is married to a former Rose who he met while he was judging the festival. Is it me or is that a bit creepy?)