India's first talent show for transsexuals was launched on Monday, promising a heady mix of Bollywood stars, glitzy dancing and nervous hopefuls desperate to capture the limelight.
One lucky transsexual person or eunuch will be crowned 'Indian Super Queen 2010' after battling through two weeks of nationwide auditions and a last round of 12 short-listed finalists.
Organisers of the competition hope the prize of one million rupees (22,000 dollars) will help promote awareness of India's marginalised transsexual and eunuch community.
"We were always the invisibles. We hope the pageant takes us a step forward," said Laxmi Narayan Tripathi, a transsexual and activist. Transsexuals and eunuchs - men who have been castrated - live on the fringes of Indian society, often resorting to prostitution, begging or menial jobs that leave them mired in poverty.
They also attend births as uninvited guests and extract money by threatening to strip or resort to violence. "We want them to portray what is inside them," said Bollywood actress Celina Jaitley, a former beauty queen and campaigner for sexual minority rights.
"Speech, poise and confidence to work for the community will be important criteria," she said.
Jaitley, fellow actress Zeenat Aman, and superstar Salman Khan are set to be the jury at the televised finals next month. Last year, India's eunuchs and transsexuals won a longstanding demand to be listed as "others," distinct from males and females, on electoral rolls and voter identity cards.