According to a book on actor Priyanka Chopra's life, one of the jury members of the Miss India contest thought that she was "too dark" to win the title eighteen years ago.
Chopra was 17 when she participated in the competition from Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh. She went on to claim the title of Femina Miss India World 2000. Lara Dutta won the title of Femina Miss India Universe and Diya Mirza, the second runner-up was crowned Femina Miss India Asia Pacific.
In the book titled Priyanka Chopra: The Incredible Story of a Global Bollywood Star, Pradeep Guha, who was one of the mentors for the contestants in that year's contest, revealed the incident, reported News 18.
Guha recalled without taking the name of the jury member, "Not everybody in the jury was initially in favour of her. One person mentioned she's too dark."
"I said, 'Yaar come on -- look at South American girls. They keep winning and some of them are pretty dark as are all the girls from Africa. So I said what are you talking about? 'I was always very certain about her and as I said this woman never made a mistake twice," Guha is quoted in the book.
Impression on mentors
In the biography by Aseem Chhabra, Guha says that Priyanka had made an impression on him at the very beginning. Though she kept on evolving as the competition progressed, she didn't become an "obvious choice."
Guha said, "She kind of always improved on herself day on day, day on day. I knew that she would give in 200 per cent if she gets in."
He also revealed that Priyanka often felt unsure as she was an outsider compared to other competitors like Lara Dutta, who was already a professional model by then.
"I think she needed a little more confidence. I think she wasn't quite sure initially whether this was the thing she wanted to do. She came in a bit tentatively. By the time the contest started she seemed a lot more collected and definitely more confident of herself."
Sathya Saran was another on of the mentors. In the Rupa Publications' book, she is quoted as saying, "I noticed her at the talent contest, because she sang beautifully. I told Pradeep she is going to win something," Saran says.
Competition between Priyanka and others
The panel of judges included actors like Shah Rukh Khan, Juhi Chawla and Waheeda Rehman, cricketer Mohammed Azharuddin, film producer Pritish Nandy, painter Anjolie Ela Menon, the then founder-chairman of Zee Media Subhash Chandra, fashion designer Carolina Herrera, and Marcus Swarovski, the great-great-grand nephew of the founder of the Austrian crystal company.
At the time of the results, there was a tie between Priyanka and Lara. As both Guha and Saran had already witnessed this type of situation earlier in 1994 with Sushmita Sen and Aishwarya Rai, they were ready with additional questions for both.
The book says, "This time, they were better prepared and additional questions were posed to both Priyanka and Lara. The final results were no surprise to anyone. The suave, elegant well-spoken Lara Dutta won the Miss India title."
Today, Priyanka has become a global star and carved a niche as a very versatile artiste capable of singing, acting and even producing movies. The national award winning actress has earlier spoken about facing issues due to her complexion even in her own family. It's high time we got over our obsession with fair complexions.
Kriti Dwivedi is an intern with SheThePeople.Tv