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Namrata Shirodkar stood out despite inches shorter than Czech Republic
When Sushmita Sen vowed to make India a threat once again at Miss Universe, it was all bark but no bite. The result of India’s 2011 campaign at the pageant is the substantial proof to this. What is happening to the so-called beauty superpower? Why is India no longer “a threat”?
To understand the current status of India at Miss Universe, it is imperative to look back at the genesis of its beauty superpower label. One can point out to the amazing performance of Madhu Saphre in 1992. Then try to remember the 1993 campaign wherein despite having a huge disadvantage (standing right next to the tall Miss Czech Rep.) Namrata Shirodkar emerged as one of the Top 5. Of course 1994 was the feather in the cap (one of the two, anyway) as Sushmita Sen and Aishwarya Rai took home the Miss Universe and Miss World crowns respectively.
Amazed by Venezuela’s back to back win in 2009? Well, India could have its first in 1995 if only Manphreet Brar was judged solely for her answer. Alas, she just finished as second to Chelsea Smith.
Suzanne Sablok was to India as Venus Raj is to Philippines
1996 was a good year for India as well. Both Sandya Chib and Rani Jeyraj made it to the semifinals. The momentum of India was well sustained until the year 2000 when Lara Dutta and Priyanka Chopra brought home once again, two of the most coveted crowns – Miss Universe and Miss World. With semifinalists placements after that momentous victories, India seems to be going downhill from then on.
Femina India decided to forgo Miss Universe after the faltered campaigns of Simran Kaur Mundi in 2008 and Ekta Choudhary in 2009. Now that the I am She pageant, under Sushmita’s direction, is handling the Miss Universe franchise in India, the future seems bleak at Miss Universe. Both Ushoshi Sengupta, the first I am She winner, and Vasuki Sunkavalli the 2011 winner, failed to make it to the Miss Universe semis. The news at Miss World is not good either. Pooja Chopra in 2009 almost missed the Miss World semis if not for her Beauty with a Purpose project. In 2010, despite great looks and personality, Manasvi Mamgai was not on the semis.
For Sushmita to be hubristic without doing much of what is required is an ill-guided policy. One can admire her vision but she need to walk the walk. What Sushmita Sen should understand is that the success of India did not happen overnight. When Suzanne Sablok first penetrated the Top 10 of Miss Universe in 1990 after 13 years of waiting, a comprehensive program of making a Miss India competitive in the international stage was already in place. India is maintaining a beauty boot camp ever since. Preparatory courses are also being offered by beauty schools found in many urban centers.
Manphreet Brar's answer could have gave India a back to back win
I am She, understandably a newcomer in the beauty industry, is not a well-oiled machinery. In 2010, accusations of fashion plagiarism with regards to Ushoshi’s gown and national costume found some traction. This is a clear-cut sign that Sushmita hired the wrong people to groom and dress her beauties. In 2011, Vasuki’s costume has held by Brazilian customs, which is also a sign that those handling her wardrobes are clueless with the intricacies of logistics.
Meanwhile, Femina Miss India must reassess its current status. There is obviously something missing with an institution that produced so many crowns for the country. While the performances of Parvathy and Nicole are commendable, the trend of the organization’s performance lately is without any doubt pointing downward. It needs to review what was working then and how it came to be that the beauty powerhouse status of India is beginning to fade. If the descent will not be arrested in a timely matter, the consequences is that beauty pageants will lost its lure in the country. Less and less women will be interested, beauty schools will close, and the wisdom of having a beauty boot camp will not longer be viable.
India should look at its dark decade of the 80s and study how the turn around in the 90’s happened. My take on this, and I could be wrong, is that India became complacent and has relied more and more on the power of sash factor. It is perhaps only when the people behind the country’s pageant industry realize that hard work must be alongside great vision, that India can recoup its diminishing glory.