If you were given a platform to speak on any issue, what would you choose? What do you think would happen to you for exercising free speech? For some, the stakes are way higher, and the consequences are great. Over the course of history, beauty pageants have served as national stages for young women to shed light on any cause of their choice with some reservations. For a former contestant, the Chinese-born Anastasia Lin, her call to arms would prove to be extremely dangerous and career-threatening.
In 2015, Lin made international headlines when she used her platform to speak out against the human rights crisis in China. In 2016, she made the news again as she advanced to the final round of the Miss World competition in Washington D.C. Lin’s call to action would put her entire family in China in danger, especially her father, a successful businessman. Since 2015, Lin has scored legions of supporters in her plight, yet she is still at odds with the Chinese government.
In the long line of of pageant contestants over time, have any other queens been named ‘persona non Grata?’ Anastasia Lin is the lone woman that has that distinction. “The Badass Beauty Queen” was the term derived from Andrea Thompson’s article in Marie Claire, where she described Anastasia Lin’s fight for freedom of expression in China.
In Theresa Kowall-Shipp’s documentary of the same name, the production follows Lin through her final shot at pageantry, as well as the many attempts to silence her message by the Chinese government and the Miss World Organization. Lin’s story is extraordinary, and one that showcases the importance of the press, standing up for what’s right, and using your platform for the greater good. Badass Beauty Queen is a documentary of which has been years in the making, and one that deserves to be seen.
The title of the film is true, as Anastasia Lin is a badass. A public enemy of the largest country in the world, Lin walks about bravely, her hair in place, and never ceases to look stylish and calm. Lin mingles with the world’s foremost thinkers, competes in Miss World, and writes op-eds for the likes of the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, the Daily Telegraph, and more.
While many other women view pageantry as a way to win glory and a crown, Lin saw it as a means to advance her message. The film dives into Lin’s background, detailing her ascent to Miss World Canada. It also educates viewers on China’s Communist regime, and the reality that many Chinese citizens face if they speak out against the government.
From childhood, Lin has been ambitious and outspoken, always succeeding in school and her extracurricular endeavors. In her work as an actress, Lin learned about the many atrocities that Chinese citizens face, and decided to do something about it. Unlike many of her acting peers, Lin wasn’t afraid to take on roles that depicted an unfavorable side of China. Her acting work would lead to the role of a lifetime on one of the world’s greatest stages. To Lin, the best way to get her message across was to compete in the Miss World competition. Prior to 2015, Lin didn’t make the final cut, but once she finally earned the title of Miss World Canada, everything would change.
At first, the Chinese government embraced Lin as their winner, but when they realized Lin’s message was, she was immediately blacklisted by the country. Since the 2015 Miss World competition was held in China, Lin was banned from entering the country and was declared persona non grata. Her battle with the government led to the destruction of her father’s life and business, as well as threats to the rest of her family. However, Lin refused to back down, only choosing to speak out more.
While Lin’s journey has been highly publicized, the most shocking aspect of the documentary is the lack of support and the silencing by the Miss World Organization. In 2016, Lin was allowed to speak in the pageant, but the second time around, she chose a more specific issue to bring attention to: organ harvesting. Lin’s voice would prove to be a PR nightmare for the Miss World Organization, as well as Chinese officials. Not surprisingly, Lin did not make the final cut. Fortunately, in lieu of a crown, Lin won the attention of many viewers. Anastasia Lin’s name would be won uttered around the world, as she brought attention to the happenings in her home country.
The documentary follows Lin on her journey as much as it can, but due to the many barriers and red tape surrounding the Miss World Organization, we aren’t able to quite see the extent of the goings-on behind the scenes. Miss World’s motto is “beauty with purpose,” but what purpose do they serve? Badass Beauty Queen explores how China’s tentacles envelope so much media organizations, and how it squeezes them if they dare to deflect. At points, it seems as if Lin stands alone during her mission, as she’s met with countless obstacles in her quest for the truth. In fact, the documentary concludes with the statement that a few of the production’s crew aren’t listed due to safety concerns. If that doesn’t wake you up, I don’t know what will.
Even though Lin has left pageantry for good, she still actively uses her voice to speak against the human rights abuse in China. Despite the many attempts to stifle Lin’s message, she has emerged stronger. She regularly travels the world to speak at human rights organizations, talks with world leaders, and contributes to major publications internationally. Even after the film is over, her words linger…
“Let’s let China know that we can’t be bought like the Miss World Organization.”
Badass Beauty Queen is now available to stream on all major platforms.