DHARAMSALA, INDIA - “There she is, walking on air she is, fairest of fair she is” … Miss Tibet.
Tenzin Paldon, 21, emerged from the largest ever field of contestants - nine - to take the title of Miss Tibet at the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts (TIPA) in Dharamshala, the city that is home to the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government-in-exile.
“My feet aren’t touching the ground at the moment,” Paldon told VOA Tibetan in comments that echoed the lyrics to the song “There She Is, Miss America” soon after she was crowned. “I hope to inspire people and … be a good role model for younger Tibetans.”
Tenzin Khechoe, 22, a nursing student from Bangalore, India, who wants to become a doctor, was the first runner-up. Tenzin Nordron Zalutsang, 21, a second-year history student, was the second runner-up in the event, which included a swimsuit competition on June 2, "talk and talent" competition on June 3, and the finale with the women, who were interviewed, competing in evening gowns and traditional Tibetan costumes.
Paldon, who has a degree in aviation management, is a cabin crew member with SpiceJet Airlines and a model. Paldon also took the Miss Photogenic title, which was decided by online voting. Out of 14,285 votes, Paldon received 5,161 or 36 percent of the total.
Beyond the honor, the winners received travel and cash prizes.
Paldon, like the other contestants, belongs to the Tibetan diaspora.
She is from Kollegal, a Tibetan agricultural settlement in south India. Although most of the contestants live in India, nursing student Migmar Dolma, 22, arrived from New York City, and Saldon, 19, who goes by one name, came to the event from Vienna, Austria.
All the women participated in a swimsuit contest, which caused waves, or as one headline proclaimed, “Beauty queens' raunchy poses shock ENTIRE country” after the women displayed some flesh.
This year, the contestants ranged in age from 19 to 25.
Lobsang Wangyal, the entrepreneurial impresario behind the Miss Tibet and the Miss Himalaya pageants, described all nine women as “beautiful, intelligent and ambitious" to The Tibet Post.
He described the Miss Tibet contest, which was the subject of a 2015 documentary, as a traditional pageant with a higher calling.
“There is a tendency for Tibetans to be only seen as a people that are in struggle against the Chinese, as a culture that is predominantly made up of Buddhist monks and nuns, as nomads who herd yaks,” according to the event’s website. “Or as people who are on pilgrimage to sacred sites or who live in caves in the mountains of Tibet.
“To have international support for the plight of the Tibetan people, it is important to have many different venues to create awareness,” it continues, pointing out that the Miss Tibet winners may attend international beauty competitions.
"To have representation in events like these will create awareness about the Tibetan cause for a population that may not generally know about Tibet, yet which is composed of millions of men and women who could potentially be Tibet supporters,” the website says.
Lobsang announced the 2017 Miss Tibet pageant would be his last.
This report originated with VOA Tibetan.