Bishesh Huirem from Imphal will be the first transgender from the region to represent the country at this year’s Miss International Queen to be held at Pattaya in Thailand in November.
The contest is prestigious for transgender women from across the world. This year, 30 finalists have been selected to take the mantle from last year’s winner Trixie Maristela, from Philippines.
Though other Indian transgender women have participated in the past in the contest, held since 2004, no one has been able to bring home the crown till date.
A popular model and actress in her state, the 26-year-old is busy preparing for the pageant with special diets and taking tips from professionals on how to beat the 29 other contestants.
“I am not representing my state or region, but my country. Therefore, I will give my best and hopefully win the crown,” she told Hindustan Times over the phone from Imphal.
A trained apparel designer, Bishesh runs her own beauty salon in Imphal besides acting in movies and Sumang Leela, Manipur’s traditional mobile theatre where men sometimes perform roles of women.
Beauty contests aren’t new for Bishesh as she has been taking part in them since her school days.
“I knew I was different when I was just 7-8 years old as I would feel uncomfortable going to a boys toilet. But it was difficult to convince my parents that I am a transgender,” she said.
Her father, a civil servant who is also a popular actor in Manipur, wanted Bishesh to pursue her studies instead of focusing on acting and beauty contests. She decided to do both.
“I promised to fulfill my parents dream by completing my studies. Once I did that, I chose to pursue my own goals.”
She is undergoing hormone therapy to look more feminine, but has no plans to undergo a sex change operation.
Bishesh hopes her participation in the Miss International Queen contest will change peoples’ outlook towards transgenders, many of whom still face discrimination in her state.
Earlier this month, Bishesh and another transgender friend were manhandled by security personnel of a minister. Following widespread outrage, they later apologized to her.
Besides Bishesh, three other beauty queens from the Northeast are set to represent India at contests abroad.
Pradarishni Chatterjee from Assam will take part at the Miss World 2016 in the United States this December. Imlibenla Wati from Nagaland will participate in Miss Asia Pacific World in China and Rewati Chettri from Assam at Miss International 2016 in South Korea.