Rummaging through my trunk of books this weekend, I happened to chance upon a bank of 250 pageant questions that we were given during my training for Miss India. There were questions about women, life, love, politics, democracy and even death penalty.
Sushmita and Aishwarya struck the jackpot in 1994, bringing both crowns back home, giving little girls like me goose bumps. What followed were Diana Hayden, Yukta Mookhey and then a hattrick with Lara Dutta, Priyanka Chopra and Dia Mirza, bringing home all three international crowns. Though Nicole Faria recently won Miss Earth, the title drought has led to one question: why isn’t the Indian pageant crop as good anymore? Simply because a raw group of girls are representing the country.
Aishwarya and Lara were models already, brimming with confidence. Sushmita was an exception, raw but confident. Her victory over Aishwarya, who was the unanimous favourite, was a stroke of fate.
Pageants now are blamed for pre-deciding the most deserving candidate, leaving nothing to the natural course of events. The winner is highlighted right from day one of training and her path to the crown usually charted in advance. Pageants now bind girls to contracts and capitalise on their career, a bond that girls with potential would rather avoid. Girls need to re-think why they’re representing India and it shouldn’t just be that golden ticket to the Bollywood red carpet.
Beauty pageants without a question and answer round would be flavourless. But it’s ridiculous to put pressure on contestants to mouth only socially relevant and politically correct answers. Questions should be geared towards assessing the participant’s personality, their levels of confidence and oratory skills. It’s personality and inner grace that needs to shine through. So let’s just crown refreshingly beautiful people with minds and hearts of their own. Bring on the real girls!