A Myth Called ‘Miss India’

Miss India mentors
L-R: Pooja Hegde, Pooja Chopra, Neha Dhupia, Rakul Preet. Out of the 4 mentors of Femina Miss India, only 2 were actual winners. And yet, laymen often confuse them all as being “former Miss Indias”.

Who is Miss India? Is Miss India the girl who represents India at Miss World or Miss Universe? Or is she any girl who represents India at any international pageant? Unfortunately even a girl who was an appointed winner of a fake international pageant would also be called Miss India. A girl who represented India at a pageant which was scrapped after only one messed up edition is also called a Miss India. And even a girl who was given a made-up title as a consolation prize is also a Miss India! Our own TGPC conducted “Best Miss India of the year” contest recently for which it had listed over 35 Miss India titleholders as contestants. But who among them was really worthy of being called as a Miss India is the question we must answer.

Unlike pageants such as Miss USA, Miss France, Miss Russia or Miss South Africa which have only one winner, Femina Miss India used to crown three winners during the pageant’s finale. After India stopped performing well at Miss World and Miss Universe during the 2000s, the Femina Miss India pageant shifted its focus on minor pageants. They started celebrating India’s victories at smallest of the pageants saying India is still winning. I remember watching Filmfare Awards of 2015 where Ruhi Singh was introduced as the winner of Miss Universal blah blah. Then I saw a bunch of social media posts where Ruhi was referred to as the winner of Miss Universe, because people obviously didn’t know a pageant called “Peace and Humanity” existed. There have been times representatives were sent to totally random pageants, only for the sake of adding another international title. This has diluted the importance of the main title of the winner. What’s the point in winning Miss India World crown if a girl who wins a throwaway international title is also getting similar opportunities!

When girls like Disha Patani or Pooja Hegde achieve success in Bollywood, we see posts such as “Unseen pictures of Disha Patani from her pageant days”, completely ignoring the fact that she didn’t even make it to the top 23 of that year’s Femina Miss India. When people refer to Disha as a Miss India, nobody will ever come forward and say she isn’t one. Pooja Chopra and Pooja Hegde both have been mentors in Femina Miss India – although the former was Miss World India 2009 and the latter found no success in Femina Miss India in her year. Does that mean every girl who competes at Miss India and later becomes successful can be called a Miss India? If so, then what’s the point in crowning a winner at all!

On the face of it this may look like non-existent problem. The result of this blurry definition of Miss India has given birth to several smaller pageants across India who also provide a Miss India title. Of course they cannot copy the titles given by Femina, so they tweak the name of their pageant a little bit. There are small scale pageants which crown more than ten Miss India titleholders at a time. These girls may not even get a chance to actually represent India at a decent International pageant. But now they can put Miss India title on their resume and use it to get better opportunities while applying to educational institutions or while auditioning for regional movies.

In the world that is becoming more and more brand sensitive; such misrepresentation of Miss India title should be taken seriously. But then again the question “Who is the real Miss India?” comes up. These small scale pageants may announce fake prizes for their winners. They may treat their contestants badly. Contestants may even suffer huge expenses for competing in these smaller pageants. There are pageants which don’t even pay for their winner’s travel expenses for the international pageant. There are pageants which ask for monetary payments in exchange of the title. At the end of the day it’s the Miss India title which is getting maligned due to this.

So for the last time let me ask this question once again. What is Miss India? Is it a cash prize which you may or may not receive? Is it way of getting appointed to a random international pageant? Or is it a platform where you do get publicity but you have to pay for your own costumes and other necessities? In my opinion Miss India is the winner of Femina Miss India; not the runner-up, not a finalist, only the winner. Miss India is only the one who represents India at Miss World or Miss Universe. Miss India Organisation needs to make this very clear as soon as they can. They cannot create a pageant where it doesn’t matter if you win or lose. There should be one and only one girl in the entire country who can call herself Miss India of that year; otherwise the title Miss India might lose its value. Rather it is already losing its importance rapidly. If they don’t act upon it soon, the title Miss India will become just a myth.

Author: Jinendra Aherkar