The first usage of promotional models in motor races was during the late 1960s when model Rosa Ogawa (小川ローザ) was brought in to represent the race winners. It was then that the term race queen was coined. Prior to that, women in motor races were mostly wives and girlfriends of drivers and staff, with the exception of some who were drivers.
In 1983, the sun tan lotion company Hawaiian Tropic sponsored the 24 hours of Le Mans. The company brought its models over from the United States to appear on the racetrack before the race began. These models wore bikinis bearing the company's name. A year later, that practice was imported over to Japan for the Suzuka 8 Hours motorcycle race.
The official job of a race queen is to hold an umbrella over the driver while his car is being worked on.
Campaign girls in other countries are generally looked down upon as the occupation is regarded as "low profile" or disgraceful. However, in Japan, race queens have a higher profile and are regarded as idols varying only by the motor sport event they appear in.
The average age for these girls is late teens to early twenties and demand for them wanes with age. Some go on to become models or even actresses but those who are unable to leverage their career into something larger, sometimes slowly "decline" into AV work, marriage and eventual obscurity. It is not unusual for some of them to have a background as an AV Idol.
Race queens who operate in prestigious events and with a large fanbase can also be found at automobile shows purely to draw crowds where they are nearly as important an attraction as the cars or electronics products that they are promoting.
There is a magazine dedicated to them called Gals Paradise
The models, referred as "grid/pit girls" in Europe, are very common in many series worldwide, but are mostly banned in the United States due to the reasons of being associated with sexism, as many drivers' wives, in addition to women race officials, team public relations staff, members of the media, and in some cases mechanics or drivers are prevalent in the paddocks. Furthermore, because of the manner of dress of these models, insurance companies (Indianapolis 500 driver Larry Rice later became an insurance agent who specialises in motorsport insurance) regard the models as a safety hazard because of stringent dress codes imposed in the garage and pit areas by many sanctioning bodies; in New Jersey, the stringent dress codes effectively ban the models. In DTM and some other events, organizers have started to recruit male models as in startlines, mostly on female drivers' cars.
The term is also used outside of Japan in Korea, China and other Asian nations. The Korean term for a race queen is a "racing girl" (레이싱걸). In Thailand they are known as "pretties" and they are used extensively at events ranging from the Bangkok International Motor Shows to minor events such as openings of shopping centers. There are businesses dedicated to recruiting and providing pretties for events, classifying them into several categories according to skills and experience. A pretty-presenter does product presentations; a pretty-dancer is part of a dance group at a manufacturer's booth; a plain pretty just stands and hands out promotional materials. Wages are lucrative for the most attractive and experienced pretties, several times what they would normally earn in an office job.
South Korean carmakers Hyundai and Kia have recently announced that they would cut down on the number of models in their shows, stating that "We would rather have the spectators' attention on our cars than the attractive ladies."
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