Femina Miss India 2018 concluded with Anukreethy Vas from Tamilnadu walking home with the main crown while Meenakshi Chaudhary from Haryana and Shreya Rao from Andhra Pradesh finished as 1st and 2nd runners-up. I feel compelled to say a few things because a lot of what I am seeing on various social media is upsetting me. The result received mixed to negative review from people. Jon Arenas, pageant expert, from TGPC group on other hand holds a different opinion of the result and he is what he has to say.
“Firstly, a HUGE congratulations to the winners! What they have achieved is hard won and extremely well deserved and has not been easy! These three fantastic young women will have opportunities open up that may have been unimaginable even a few months ago and to me, they represent three different shades of what is wonderful about young Indian women of today!
About the winner, Anukreethy Vas. It is very upsetting to me to see the amount of vitriol pouring out here. Much of it has to do with skin colour, undoubtedly – and indeed many of the comments have been openly racist. Many others are not so, but anyone who has spent more than a few weeks in India knows that for the most part, the definition of beauty in India is synchronous with the lightness of skin. I am sure that if Anukreethy were lily white, there would be far less push back on her victory. For my part, while she was undoubtedly a surprise winner, I am incredibly proud of her and the Miss India organisation. This victory was EARNED – the old fashioned way – with hard work before the contest, discipline every day of the competition and a fabulous, fiery performance on stage in the finale! To me, her win proves that dreams can come true, that hard work can pay off, and that a deserving candidate can win, and it has nothing to do with the connections or money she has. Whether one loves the winner or not in any given year, one needs to feel that the victory is based on merit, even if the criteria for merit differ across audience groups. Anukreethy worked hard for this crown, she had no godfathers, grandmothers and lobbies to advance her cause. If anything, she has battled through this contest against stronger contestants, embedded prejudice regarding norms of beauty and the history of Miss India. Her transformation since her state audition to today is nothing short of extraordinary, and it was all done on her own. She reminds me of Parvathy, who was a hot mess at Miss India South, better at Miss India and a revelation at Miss World. I have no doubt that there is only improvement in store for her, and that she will put in all the work that is necessary. There must have been something REALLY special in her for the Miss India Organization to crown her. Manushi, Rohit, Vineet Jain – they are all incredibly familiar with the MW judging criteria and they would not have given away this title lightly – especially with so many other compelling choices. And do not discount her chances at MW – trust me, she is not going to MW for a vacation. She has the belief, the drive and the confidence. Those are VERY powerful ingredients as she has just shown! Moreover, it is very likely that Manushi will be on the judging panel there and will have a lot of influence over much of the jury, who are mostly MW insiders and alumnae. She will not have made a choice that she will be embarrassed by. I have great admiration for this girl, and while I do feel that she has a LOT of work to do, I think she will put in that work. She will be a much more sophisticated, sleek version of herself come November! A lot of girls people have written off – Vanya, Mansi … have proven naysayers wrong while more favored girls like Manasvi and Urvashi have disappointed. Pageants are not all about the perfect face, and beauty is in any case, in the eye of the beholder!
Meenakshi Chaudhary– What can I say? One of my two sentimental (and critical) favorites for the crown, she was spectacular today! Even though she doesn’t leave with the main crown, I think she can have no regrets! She handled the pressure on her shoulders beautifully – she came, she delivered and she won respect and hearts and a crown. There is NOTHING to regret, other than bad luck. And sometimes – as was the case with Aishwarya Rai, no less, when one door closes.
Shreya K Rao – Once again, the contestant’s favorite finishes in the winning circle! Stunning girl, great energy, her smile and her constant updates lit up the entire month of the contest and I am so proud of her for her attitude and how she performed! Both she and Meenakshi did not make the cut last year at Miss India and Miss Diva respectively and today they leave with a crown each! The power of persistence!
Gayatri Bhardwaj – She’s been criticized a lot as well. I’ve seen people saying she doesn’t deserve to go anywhere since she couldn’t handle the heat. I am sorry – but that girl did a beautiful job today, and her best. There was so much expectation on her, and she is only human in the end. Her answer, although maligned by many was actually very good – she was saying that working hard for something you truly desire is reward enough and success and failure are only labels. She stumbled but she showed so much character and strength in recovering! I wish her the very best and I hope she will return for Miss Diva. She is a Miss Universe girl through and through, I have always felt this.
Stefy Patel – like Meenakshi and Shreya – Stefy returned triumphant to Miss India, showing that one should never give up! Taking a back seat to last year’s hot favorite Maira Choudhary, in her return, she delivered a stronger finish than Maira! In a sense, Stefy lived her final question. She impressed with her consistency and bubbly presence through the contest and finale!
Finally, like many others, I am gutted that stunning Bhavana Durgam did not win. She was really a gem, but she needed more of an investment in preparation – what turned out to be Anukreety’s ticket to the crown was her bete noire in the end!
Author: Jon Arenas