The Golden Era of India at Beauty Pageants: Part 1

Osmel Sousa
                                                  Osmel Sousa, the National Director of Miss Venezuela Organisation

If you see a Miss India in final 5 of any Pageant, then rest of the girls should pack their bag and go Home.

Because Miss India won’t let anyone win in the Interview Round”

-Osmel Sousa, National Director of Miss Venezuela Org.

These words were narrated back in late 90s by the Czar of beauty pageant, Osmel Sousa, who is considered to be the Best National Director in the world of Beauty Pageants. Under Osmel, Venezuela has managed to win more than 40 international crowns which no other countries has ever achieved till date. The pageant scenario was mainly dominated by all the Miss Venezuela, be it in Miss Universe or Miss World or Miss International or even Miss Earth. No one would ever forget to check out who is Miss Venezuela at any pageant. If you pick up a random girl and give it to Osmel, he will create such a wonder out of her that the least she will end up in her pageant will be Top 5.

Transformation given by Osmel Sousa to Irene Esser, Miss Venezuela 2011 winner.
Transformation given by Osmel Sousa to Irene Esser, Miss Venezuela 2011 winner.

However, in early 90s, the scenario started changing. The single sided domination of Miss Venezuela started declining when Miss India were equally kicking asses out there. The major strength of any Miss India would be her interview skills, her personality, which worked the best during those days. Although, Miss Venezuela still continued being heavy favourites, Miss India started gaining the momentum in every pageant they went to. In fact the pageant fanatics even came up with a saying,

“Never let a Miss Venezuela Walk and Never let a Miss India Talk,

Otherwise the crown is already theirs to lose”

Beauty Pageants

While I can still keep on throwing light on how there was a sever tug of war between Venezuela and India, let me take you through a brief journey of all the Miss India who won their respective in 90s….

Miss Universe 1994 : Sushmita Sen

Sushmita Sen with her runners up Aishwarya Rai and Francesca Hart
Sushmita Sen with her runners up Aishwarya Rai and Francesca Hart

Sushmita Sen and Aishwarya Rai applied to compete at Miss India 1994 contest. Aishwarya was already a well set model back then, many girls backed out from the contest because she was participating. Sushmita was one of those who almost backed out but changed her mind at the last moment. Sushmita was an underdog and most of the people thought that Aishwariya would win the contest. However, come to the finale now, Sushmita just outran the crowds favourite Aishwarya and beat her in the interview round. Sushmita, winning the Miss India title, got an official right to represent India in Miss Universe 1994. Could you imaging Sushmita Sen who studied in Hindi medium till 9th standard was speaking English like a pro on the stage of Miss India? More than her english, what impressed the judges was her answer’s depth.

Now coming on to the time when Sushmita competed for Miss Universe in Manila, Philippines in May, she was never a hot favourite at the pageant. Infact she was an underdog. The major favourites to win the contest were the girls from Venezuela, Colombia, Philippines and USA. However, Sushmita had one that none of the other girls had it here: The star quality. Sushmita stood 1st in the interview of preliminary and stood 2nd in over all. Later on in finale, she made it to the Top 3 along with the other two favourites- Colombia and Venezuela.  In final round, she was asked:

Question: What is the essence of being a woman

Sushmita’s Reply: I think being a woman, by the very fact itself, is the gift of god. The origin of a child is a Mother, and is a woman. She is the one who shows man what caring, sharing and love is all about.

Sushmita Sen posing, with her runners up from Colombia and Venezuela, after winning the crown of Miss Universe 1994
Sushmita Sen posing, with her runners up from Colombia and Venezuela, after winning the crown of Miss Universe 1994

While Sushmita’s reply got the loudest cheers, the other two girls had lack lustre answers. The final answer of Sushmita impressed judges so much that they were bound to vote her as India’s first Miss Universe. In later interview, judges mentioned that they could see the values of Rabindranath Tagore, Mahatma Gandhi in her answers which is why she was chosen as the new Miss Universe.

Miss World 1994: Aishwarya Rai

Aishwarya during Swimsuit round of Miss World 1994. She also bagged Miss Photogenic award that year.
Aishwarya during Swimsuit round of Miss World 1994. She also bagged Miss Photogenic award that year.

As you already read how Aishwarya lost to Sushmita at Miss India but her 1st runner up position proved out to be all worthy for her. Aishwarya was the official representative of India at Miss World in the same year. Now the pressure on Aishwarya was very high because India already won Miss Universe before she went to Miss World. Aishwarya, unlike Sushmita, was an instant favourite to win Miss World the moment she landed in Sun City, South Africa. Her beauty was so outstanding that she was also voted as the Most Photogenic Contestant, Both at Miss World as well as Miss India. Aishwarya, in her angelic gown, in the finale won judges’ heart that she could easily make it to the Top 5 of the contest. In final question, she was asked:

Question: What qualities should a Miss World embody?

Aishwarya’s Reply: The Miss World’s that we have had till date, have been proof enough that they have had compassion, compassion for the under privileged, not only for the people for who have status and stature, who can look beyond the barriers that man has set up for ourselves of nationality, colour. <Loud Applause from the public> We have to look beyond that and that will make a true Miss World, a true person, a real person. Thank you!

Aishwarya Rai posing, with her runners up from South Africa and Venezuela, after winning Miss World 1994
Aishwarya Rai posing, with her runners up from South Africa and Venezuela, after winning Miss World 1994

This answer made Aishwarya a Unanimous winner. All the judges voted for her as the new Miss World. Later on in 2014, Aishwarya received an unique honour of being the Most Successful Miss World of all time by Miss World Organisation.

Miss World 1997: Diana Hayden

Diana hayden

This anglo Indian girl was another hot favourite to win Miss India in 1997. However,she ended up as 1st runner up and went on to represent India at Miss World 1997 in Seychelles. She wasn’t the most favourite to win but she was in the eye of people. She also won the award of Best in Swimsuit (Miss Photogenic) and later on in finale gave one of the best speeches. Diana was famous for her 100 watt smile which lit up the environment.

Diana Hayden posing with her runners up from South Africa and New Zealand just the next day of winning the crown of Miss World 1997
Diana Hayden posing with her runners up from South Africa and New Zealand just the next day of winning the crown of Miss World 1997

She was an easy pick for the crown because competition that year was not strong and Diana had a rock solid personality which had a touch of elegance and maturity. Later on she went on to do few movies like Othello, Lorie/the loving doll, Ab Bass, tehzeeb etc. She also appeared as one of the Big Boss Contestants in 2008.

Miss World 1999: Yukta Mookhey

Yukta Mookhey posing in her famous evening gown designed by an ace designer Hemant Trivedi
Yukta Mookhey posing in her famous evening gown designed by an ace designer Hemant Trivedi

Yukta Mookhey was one girl whom luck didn’t favour in the beginning. She tried twice in 1997 and 1998 auditions for Miss India, but got rejected. She worked on her weakness and came back with a bang. She was one of the tallest girls to every win Miss India (and also Miss World). Again, her best weapon was her interview skills but Yukta also had this matured personality that conveyed the CLASS..!!! Yukta wore sky blue evening gown by Hemant Trivedi which is considered to be one of the best evening gowns ever worn by Miss India at International pageant. She looked regal in that gown.

Yukta Mookhey, posing with her runners up from South Africa and Venezuela, after winning Miss World 1999
Yukta Mookhey, posing with her runners up from South Africa and Venezuela, after winning Miss World 1999

The major favourite of the crowd was the representative of Venezuela, Martina Thorogood, whom many people tagged as ‘Goddess of Beauty’. Had I been judge in the finale, I personally would have been torned between these two girls. However the judges on that night decided to go with India and elected Yukta Mookhey as the new Miss Universe.

Yukta Mookhey later on entered into the Bollywood where she did few movies like Memsahab, Pyasaa, Love You Japan and so. Recently, there was a news of Yukta facing domestic violence by her husband Prince Tulli and both got separated last year in June. She now works as a BJP member and also does social works.

Femina Miss India Universe 2000 Lara Dutta is flanked by Femina Miss India World Priyanka Chopra (Left) and Femina MIss India Asia-Pacific Dia Mirza (right). SN Kulkarni

The year of 2000 was one of the best years of Indian Pageant History. Why? Because all the 3 Miss India winners, Lara Dutta, Priyanka Chopra and Dia Mirza went on to win their respective national title. I feel It would be no justice if I write it in a single post here. Hence, I would continue the story of 2000 in second part where I shall be able to justify all 3 stunner with a proper description of their journey from Miss India to Miss Universe 2000, Miss World 2000 and Miss Asia Pacific 2000.

Pic Courtesy: Times of India, Copyrighted by BCCL

-Dipak Shahi

Founder of: The Great Pageant Community 

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