Independent Film Challenges Western Beauty Standards

Blonde hair, blue eyes, Barbie doll-like proportions, strutting your stuff in a barely-there swimsuit: none of these will qualify a woman to win the Miss Navajo Nation beauty pageant!

Excerpt from the Associated Press article titled "There she is, Miss Navajo" by Felicia Fonseca:

"On the nation's largest Indian reservation, where tradition reigns, contestants are required to speak their native language, make fry bread and butcher a sheep, the animal that represents life to the Navajos.

"The pageant really gets people's interest because they say, 'Oh my gosh, a pageant where you butcher sheep,'" said Billy Luther, a documentary film maker. "But I think people walk away learning the Navajo way of life and how much the Navajo people respect women."

Luther, whose mother was crowned Miss Navajo in 1966, offers a different take on what it means to be beautiful in his first feature-length documentary, "Miss Navajo," which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year is airing on PBS's Independent Lens.

Beauty is very much internal, Luther says. What Navajos perceive as beautiful might not be beautiful to others, he said.

"It's having the knowledge of your culture, it's having respect for your mothers and grandmothers, it's the language, fluency. As we say, that's harmony, that's what we strive for," said Luther, 32, who is Navajo, Laguna and Hopi.

Luther's documentary follows Crystal Frazier, a now-23-year-old Table Mesa resident, on her quest to become Miss Navajo during the 2005 pageant."

Get more info at the film's website - and watch the film airing this month on a PBS channel near you.

PHOTO: Director Billy Luther and Crystal Frazier, Miss Navajo pageant contestant - Copyright © Idris Rheubottom