Sunday, August 7, 2011

Beauty Pageant Week: Aishwarya Rai

This past weekend I spent a fair amount of time indulging in one of my guilty pleasures - beauty pageant reality TV. I know that I have been very outspoken on how harmful the narrowing of beauty standards is for both for professionals and for the general public. I know that my love of beauty pageants may seem to contradict that and maybe it does... but something about following all the hard work that it takes to look “beautiful” is really compelling.

In many of these pageants, especially the glitz pageants, a wide variety of body types are on display - what’s rewarded is glamour, not whether the girls meet some arbitrary (and near impossible) standard of perfection. Winning a pageant takes a very different skill set and look than modeling does (e.g. models aren’t asked to speak on topics like “world peace” and models don’t get judged on things like “taste” and “poise”).

Now, I don’t think that models or pageant queens necessarily make the best actresses but going from sash to screen test is certainly one way non-star daughters can break into Bollywood.

Let’s take a look at some of the beauty queens who went on to make their careers in Bollywood... because really, what is filmi
but another word for glamorous!


Runner Up, Feminia Miss India*, 1994

Check out the bonus round of questioning and the crowning!

Judge: “I’m sure all of you watch the soap operas on Star TV. If you had to look for qualities in a husband, would you look for qualities in Ridge in Bold and Beautiful or Mason in Santa Barbara? [Long pause] And why?”

Aishwarya: “The qualities I look for in a man between the two characters that you’ve given to me would be in Mason. Though they do share a lot in common, from what we get to see, Mason does have a very caring side to him and a terrific sense of humor. And that really gels with my character. Thank you.”

I wonder how Abhishek stacks up against Mason from Santa Barbara... hmmm...

[It’s also interesting to note that language plays a huge role - those girls who don’t speak English well really don’t stand a chance to be Femina Miss India.]

Also, watching them try to fit the tiara on Aishwarya’s large up-do is hilarious.

First place that year went to Sushmita Sen!

Miss World, 1994

Start the video about 1:20 in for the good stuff!

Aishwarya in the swim suit competition!

And with her crown!

*Just a note on the competitions - Feminia Miss India is a pageant organized by Femina magazine. The winner is sent to the Miss Universe pageant, the first runner up goes to Miss World.

Miss Universe is the pageant owned by Donald Trump - it’s where Miss USA is sent off to.

Miss World is a British-run pageant and is a more conservative than Miss Universe.

There is also the Ford Supermodel of the World competition and the Gladrags Megamodel Manhunt which technically aren’t beauty pageants but I’m including them anyways.


Amaluu said...

Oooooh fun series! I hope you feature Juhi Chawla - she's my favorite pageant girl turned actress ...

Filmi Girl said...

@amaluu I could only find one picture of her in her crown!!! I'll keep digging, though. :)

Banannie said...

There are videos of Miss Universe which feature Juhi on YouTube. I found a couple some time back!

Archee ologist said...

The Femina group does not send a contestant to the Miss Universe peagant any more. Sushmita Sen's group 'I Am She' sends the Indian representative to Miss Universe.

And Filmigirl, you may not be aware, Aishwarya was already an established model and almost surely would have won the Miss India title. Some people say that this was why she looks so unhappy to be placed second. And Contest Jasmeet went on to be better known as Jesse Randhawa, and we all know the other ladies: Puja Batra, Namrata Shirodkar, and Shweta, who was an item girl for a while.

Yunus Perveez said...

Is it just me or does she look a lot more radiant now than she did in those beauty pageant days?

Filmi Girl said...

@banannie Yes! I found those, too. :)

@Archee Yes, I know. :) At the time they sent one to Miss Universe, though.

And yes, I know she was already a model - and had apparently done Vogue? - but I didn't know that it was concerned an upset when Sushmita won Miss India. These contests are fascinating...

@Asim It's all that life experience... who says the young have a monopoly on radiance... ;)

Speravegan said...

I still feel Aishwarya gave the better answer! She deserved to be first, not second.

Sushmita obviously had no knowledge about the textile heritage. It started with Gandhi's Khadi? In 1930? It started centuries ago. Still cannot fathom how hers was picked as the better answer.

SweetSoni said...

Amazing post aishwarya is really a goddess! Could you please do one on Juhi Chawla too? she is my favourite actress ever!

Archee ologist said...

@Filmigirl: oh yes, it was a big upset. Aishwarya was already a huge model in India (India did not have a lot of models at that time). She had done an ad for Pepsi with Amir Khan (many years later both teh stars did some very popular ads for Coke!). Although she had just been modeling for a year and a half, she had done a lot of visible work.

If you watch some of Sushmita Sen's interviews, she comes out with the story that contestants were pulling out that year just because Aishwarya was competing. It seemed like no one else would stand a chance. In hindsight, many people felt that the upset was probably for the best. Sushmita was the smart one, a better choice for Miss Universe, and Aishwarya, the pretty one was a better choice for Miss World.

Another story I remember from somewhere else: Aishwarya has that 'half-done' hairdo because she did not want to take up a lot of the hairstylist's time so that it did not seem unfair to the other contestants.

(P.S.: I just seem to know a lot of pageant trivia from 1994! :D)

These two together went on to change the way beauty pageants were seen in India. Reams of media paper were written about them, and they were extremely powerful figures for that time when India was still a closed economy. They became symbols of Indian beauty, what a young Indian woman could achieve, and generally gave Indians a lot of confidence.

TimePass said...

Filmi girl, check out this video: Watch from 3:36. This was a single-question round. All the contests were asked the same question: which historic moment would you change if you had the chance. Aishwarya said her own birth. She said that she thought she had enough leadership qualities that if she had been born earlier, she might have been able to prevent wars (presumably she meant the world wars). Sushmita said Indira Gandhi's death. Many people seem to believe that this basically cost Aishwarya the crown. I'm not much of a beauty pageant buff exactly, but this one contest fascinates me. I've read many accounts of the contest and interviews with people in the business at the time. This particular question round precipitated a tie. Apparently a first in the history of the Miss India contest. And they had to do another question round to break the tie, which Sushmita won. If not for that one answer from Aishwarya, a lot of people think that there probly never even would have been a tie. A lot of the accounts and interviews say that Aishwarya was the clear hot favourite, the already well-known name in the circles. However, as the contest went on, Sushmita, who had been the underdog, started coming thru' brighter. She was the more genuine, thoughtful, reflective one, while Aishwarya was the more careful, practiced one. And despite all that practice, with that one answer she probly came across as extremely presumptuous. Ironically Sushmita's answer didn't even seem entirely original. Another contestant had presented almost the exact same answer moments before. But perhaps her genuineness shone thru'.

Been following your blog for a while now and i quite like it (despite your biases against PC and DP ;-).

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