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Miss Tibet Wins Pageant Held in Exile Community


Miss Tibet 2017 Tenzin Paldon poses for a photo after winning the crown on 4 June 2017. Paldon won the crown from among nine contestants. (MissTibet.com)

A 21-year-old flight attendant has won the 2017 Miss Tibet pageant in India.

Tenzin Paldon competed against eight women. Pageant officials announced the winner on June 4.

“My feet aren’t touching the ground at the moment,” Paldon told VOA’s Tibetan service after the win. “I hope to inspire people to be a good role model for younger Tibetans.”

Despite the pageant’s name, neither Paldon, nor any of the other women, live in Tibet. Tibet is a partly self-ruled Himalayan area of China.

The competition was held in the northern Indian hill town of Dharamsala, where the Tibetan government-in-exile is based. It is also home of the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s Buddhist spiritual leader.

The Dalai Lama fled Tibet in 1959 after a revolt against Chinese rule. China accuses him of trying to separate Tibet from China. The Dalai Lama has repeatedly said he seeks greater self-rule for Tibet, not full independence.

All the pageant competitors belong to the Tibetan diaspora and most of them live in India. Tenzin Paldon is from Kollegal, a Tibetan agricultural settlement in southern India. She currently works for the Indian-based air carrier Spice Jet Airlines.

Contestants are seen at the 2017 Miss Tibet beauty pageant at the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts in Dharmsala, India, June 4, 2017.
Contestants are seen at the 2017 Miss Tibet beauty pageant at the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts in Dharmsala, India, June 4, 2017.

The pageant was held in several parts over three days. Judges rated the women on their looks as they appeared in swimsuits, gowns and traditional Tibetan clothes. The competitors also had to demonstrate a skill, such as singing or dancing, and answer questions on a mix of issues.

The winner received a money prize and free travel award. She is expected to make event appearances and represent Tibet in international pageants. In the past, some winners withdrew from international competitions after Chinese officials demanded that they compete as Miss Tibet-China.

Paldon gave a statement to the Tibet Post she said was meant for the Chinese government. “I wanted to say China, look at us, we are staying in another country, but we are intelligent and we are representing our country in this way,” the statement said.

Contestants are seen at the 2017 Miss Tibet beauty pageant at the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts in Dharmsala, India, June 4, 2017.
Contestants are seen at the 2017 Miss Tibet beauty pageant at the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts in Dharmsala, India, June 4, 2017.

She also expressed her desire for females in Tibet to be able to show the “harmony” and “peace” that exists among people there. “If the Chinese government would give us a chance to showcase our peaceful state, we would proudly do so."

The pageant’s website said the competition is a way for Tibetan women to show the many different skills and interests they possess. It is also meant to help publicize efforts by groups attempting to improve conditions for Tibet’s people.

The pageant did not escape criticism.

Some conservative Buddhists in the Tibetan community disapproved of the women wearing swimsuits. Critics also said the competition should center on inner beauty rather than body image.

Contestants compete in the 2017 Miss Tibet beauty pageant at the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts in Dharmsala, India, June 4, 2017.
Contestants compete in the 2017 Miss Tibet beauty pageant at the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts in Dharmsala, India, June 4, 2017.

The New York-based Tibetan Feminist Collective criticized the pageant for the way it chooses winners. A statement on the group’s Facebook page said there should never be a single view of what is considered beautiful.

“Holding up skinny women with fair skin and straight noses on a pedestal holds us back as a society, although it is not limited to our particular group,” the statement said. The group added that since the physical features of Tibetans differ greatly, they should be “celebrated and embraced.”

I’m Anne Ball.

Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA Learning English, based on a report from VOA Tibetan and material from other sources. Caty Weaver was the editor.

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Words in This Story

pageant – n. contest in which people judge a group of women or girls in areas such as beauty, talent and speaking skills

inspire v. make someone want to do something

autonomousadj. existing or acting separately from other things or people

contestantn. person who takes part in a contest

diasporan. group of people who live outside the area in which they had lived for a long time or in which their ancestors lived

gown n. formal dress usually worn at a special event

harmonyn. situation in which people are peaceful and agreeable

proudly adv. acting in a happy, pleasing way

compatibleadj. able to exist together without problems or conflict

skinny adj. very thin

pedestal n. the base of a column or other tall object

embracev. gladly accept something

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