Recently, a 20-year-old Manushi Chhillar brought home the Miss World Crown seventeen years after our last win. Barely three days after our crowning moment, people are questioning the relevance of this win. It seems like we do not seem to care about beauty pageants anymore. Quite unlike what it was until sometime back.
In the late 90s and early 2000s, beauty pageants were a phenomenon in India. There were songs dedicated to Miss India pageant, and young girls would revere Aishwarya Rai and Sushmita Sen, dreaming to achieve their poise and grace, and represent the country on the world platform. But somewhere between Priyanka Chopra and Manushi Chhillar, have the beauty pageants became redundant?
Our girls traded the dream to become beauty queens with becoming entrepreneurs and artists. And somewhere deep down, the very beauty queens are responsible for this paradigm shift.
The aficionados still argue that beauty pageants aren’t as shallow as they are made to be. That the winners are a combination of beauty, grace, intelligence and the best of human traits. Their job is to endorse humanitarian causes and use the platform to make the world a better place. Yet in our country, most winners chose a fat paycheck, and end up romancing Bollywood heroes twice their age. I can’t remember a single Indian beauty queen from the recent past, who kept away from Bollywood and pursued a career in science, literature, business or social work instead.
I am not taking away the credit due to those who indeed gave back to the society. Many past winners, who are now popular actresses, actively associated with UN peace projects and UNICEF, and also have charities of their own.
Moreover, there is nothing wrong with wanting to pursue a career in films. But if to be a beauty queen in India only leads to working in the movie business, then that can be achieved via being a supermodel, or a star kid or supremely gifted as well. Why bother going through the gruelling pageant training? Or waving and smiling till your cheeks hurt, at hoards of strangers gawking and assessing your every feature and move?
The new winner of the Miss World title has a golden opportunity. She can bring the problems Indian women face on a day-to-day basis, into global focus.
Manushi can continue pursuing her medical studies and do humanitarian work, hence setting up a good and path-breaking example for our little girls. She can prove that the title and the pageant, she represents can also be used to make a difference, as it is in many other countries. Unless her dream is to sign a big budget masala movie.
Pic Credit: Times Now
Dr Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.