Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Far Away From Tibet, A Beauty Pageant Begins

Dharamshala,10October :It's glamour time again in this Himalayan abode of Tibetan spiritual and temporal head, the Dalai Lama, and Hollywood stars like Richard Gere and Goldie Hawn have nothing to do with it!The sixth edition of the Miss Tibet beauty pageant, being held against the backdrop of the imposing Dhauladhar range, will announce a winner Oct 14.The spirit of the pageant and its organisers is not dimmed by the low turnout of the contestants or even the fact that they have to hold the contest in exile - thousands of kilometres away from their homeland Tibet, which they say is under Chinese occupation.Not getting patronage from the Tibetan government-in-exile or support from Tibetan organisations struggling for Tibet's independence has also not come in the way of holding the contest.Five lovely Tibetan girls - one of them having just completed schooling in the southern state of Karnataka - are vying for the title this year. The number of contestants is one less than the six who participated in 2006. But the figure is still better than the hopeless situation of having just one contestant in 2003 and 2005.But the chief organiser of the pageant, Lobsang Wangyal, is upbeat about the event this time.'Tibetan people are very traditional. We also do not live in our own country. Some people think that we are harming the traditional Tibetan culture. There are all kinds of doubts. But that is not the case. The participation of last year's Miss Tibet contest winner in the Miss Earth contest in Manila gave a lot of recognition to our contest,' Lobsang told IANS.The contest has been labelled as 'un-Tibetan' and 'copying of bad and cheap things from the West' but that has not discouraged Lobsang and other organisers. The exiled government does not support the pageant but it has not imposed any ban on it either.The pageant was launched in 2002 with four contestants and had Dolma Tsering as its first winner. - Enthused by the response from the people and the media , the organisers have even made the swimsuit round open for the public. This year, 10 Tibetan girls applied for the contest but only five came for it. They will go through weeklong training followed by seven rounds of contest.All contestants this time - Deeki Dolma, Tenzin Dolma, Tenzin Pema, Tenzing Dolma and Tsering Yangzom - are between 19 and 25 years of age. Some are students while a couple of them are working as well.Yangzom has just completed her schooling and hails from the Tibetan settlement of Kollegal in southern state of Karnataka. Others are from Gangtok, Dehradun, Dharamsala and New Delhi.'The number of hits that we get on the website shows its global popularity. Ours is a private event and like the Miss Universe, Miss World and Miss India, we don't need the patronage of the exiled government. I know that the government and some others are against the pageant,' Lobsang pointed out.In 2003 and 2005, Tsering Kyi and Tenzin Nyima were the only contestants and were declared winners. Kyi even met Prince Charles during his visit to the Tibetan settlement in New Delhi in October 2003.'My participation in the contest is to encourage Tibetan women to come forward and express themselves,' 19-year-old Tenzin Pema from New Delhi said.'I want to represent Tibet at the international level through this contest,' said another contestant Deeki Dolma from Gangtok in Sikkim.But others like firebrand Tibetan independence leader Tenzin Tsundue are against the pageant.'No one can deny history. To be modern one can move forward by modernising one's own traditional culture. The Miss Tibet beauty pageant is a photocopy of Western culture and it's a poor and cheap attempt to claim modernity. Lobsang's film festival, however, is a commendable programme. We can use our brains in a better way to internationalise the Tibet issue,' Tsundue said.