A new Miss Tibet has been crowned. The beauty contest took place in Dharamsala, India, the de facto capital of the Tibetan government in exile. But the newly crowned winner may be shunned if she attempts to compete on the international stage, due to pressure from China.
A 20-year-old who describes herself as an "ambitious girl" has won a controversial beauty pageant held in the seat of Tibet's exile government.
Tenzin Choezom is the new Miss Tibet, selected over three other contestants. Several other young women withdrew from the competition before the first round of judging. Organizers say they decided not to participate for "personal reasons."
The beauty pageant took place in Dharamsala, where the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama resides.
The competition has caused controversy since its inception in 2002. Tibetan elders have put pressure on contestants and their families, contending such an event, which includes a swimsuit round, conflicts with traditional Tibetan values. In some years, there has been only one contestant.
Miss Tibet 2009, who is from Dharamsala, says she hopes her participation and victory will inspire other young Tibetans to publicly demonstrate their talents.
"I would like to tell all Tibetan youngsters that please come on the stage and show your talent, wit and beauty, especially, Tibetan girls because they are always hiding their talents. Please come on the stage and perform like me."
The four-judge panel awarded Choezom, who speaks fluent Tibetan, English and Hindi and aspires to be a journalist, a prize of 100,000 Indian rupees, about $2,100, at the conclusion of six rounds of competition over three days.
For many of her predecessors, the Miss Tibet crown has been the end of the line.
Many international pageants bar Tibetan representatives from their line-ups as Tibet is no longer a sovereign country. At other pageants, entrants from China, which considers Tibet an integral part of its territory, have refused to take the stage unless the Tibetan competitor wore a sash reading "Miss Tibet-China."
Miss Tibet 2004 said she was thrown out of the Miss Tourism World pageant in Zimbabwe due to Chinese pressure.
China invaded Tibet in 1950. The Dalai Lama fled his homeland nine years later and has lived ever since in India.