While beauty pageants were once derided for objectifying women, they now claim it’s all about promoting women — both cerebrally and aesthetically.
The journey of the winner doesn’t end with a crown on her head;it begins there, with the social causes she has pledged herself to. The beauty queens of yore, such as Lara Dutta and Sushmita Sen, are well known for their philanthropy.
While Lara has worked extensively with various causes across the country and is a goodwill ambassador with UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund), Sushmita Sen is known for having adopted two girls and was recently conferred the Mother Teresa International Award by NGO The Harmony Foundation for her efforts towards achieving social justice.
The younger crop of winners now have a long way to go before they deserve the ‘Beauty with a Cause’ tag and while some have their priorities straight, others get affected by the glitz and glamour and forget their real responsibilities.
Simran Kaur Mundi, Miss India Universe 2008
Two Bollywood and one Telegu film old Simran has another project lined up for Bollywood. But, she insists she’s still finding her footing. “Participating in Miss India was never the plan. I was working a multiplex in Mumbai when I got noticed by a make-up artist, and was trainer at the pageant.
I took it very lightly — I was a tomboy who had to be taught how to do make-up and walk and hold the fork a certain way — and then the unthinkable happened and I won. My voice suddenly had meaning.
It’s not all fun and frolic though; it’s a lot of responsibility, as people want to emulate you. As for showbiz, you cannot say that you need to follow this path or that path to get somewhere. Unlike most Miss Indias, I had no intention of acting, but then my first film had all the ingredients I was looking for and the performance bug bit me,” says she.
Hasleen Kaur, Miss India Earth 2011
Though her debut movie released recently, Hasleen insists that a beauty queen’s work doesn’t end with her one-year tenure.
“I did my post graduation from Indian Institute of Mass Communication and was doing some part-time modelling. Being a student of IIMC, I got some very good job offers but I wanted bigger and better things.
So, I got busy preparing for Miss India. While my debut Bollywood film, Karle Pyaar Karle, released recently, this protocol of beauty queens entering films is a cliché. Just that, winning a pageant gives you an edge over others, but then you have to be on your toes. My title also involves raising awareness about the environment and I also do a lot of work with Navjyoti, Kiran Bedi’s NGO. Our work doesn’t stop with the crowning of a new winner and an instantaneous entry into Bollywood,” says she.
Vanya Mishra, Miss India World 2012
Awaiting the release of her debut Tamil film, Vanya Mishra says Bollywood is not the way forward for everyone. “I was an engineering student at Punjab Engineering College (PEC) living a normal life, though I’d always known I want to participate in Miss India.
When I won, it almost felt like rebirth; I was suddenly representing the entire country. I am a stronger and more confident person after the win, but the true change was my outlook on life itself.
I am still completing my education, as that is a priority for me, and I will also be making my foray into acting in a Tamil film directed by Suresh Krishna. But, I don’t think the film industry is the only way forward after being crowned. You’re an achiever only when you follow your dreams and those can be anything. It is not right to stereotype someone,” says Vanya.
Navneet Kaur Dhillon, Miss India World 2013
Though she says she’s looking forward to acting, and is in talks with some production houses, Navneet Kaur Dhillon refuses to divulge any further.
“Before the pageant, my life was that of a typical army kid. I have had the fortune of interacting with a lot of different mindsets and growing up amongst different cultures. Life after winning was almost the same for me, as I’m still travelling a lot and meeting new people, though most are from the glamour industry now.
I am a student of BTech in TV, Film Production and Media Technology at Punjabi University, Patiala, right now and wish to open my own production house someday. Though there are projects under discussion regarding a launch for me in Bollywood, I am equally interested, if not more, in being in the director’s chair,” says Navneet.