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Neglecting the importance of preserving culture: director of Miss Tibet pageant

May 28, 2009

Natalia Idzkowski
The Tibet Post
May 26, 2009

Miss Tibet crown. Photo: Miss TibetThis year the
annual Miss Tibet Pageant will be held on 5-7
June. In past years it has been held in October.
Director Lobsang Wangyal explains, "In October
the evenings are cold. We must ensure the
comfortability of the contestants, audience and
staff. Autumn is also the season for selling and
purchasing woolen products, and a large number of
Tibetans travel to Ludhiana in the Punjab state,
therefore minimizing our potential audience. In
addition, we urge women of Tibetan descent
residing in foreign countries to enter the
pageant and summer vacation in the West generally begins in June.

Since the inception of Miss Tibet in 2002, I have
funded the pageant personally; it is a
not-for-profit event. Last year a Tibetan
businessman, Gyalnor Tsewang, donated 50,000
rupees. This year we are in dire need of sponsors.

We have faced controversy in the past. Critics,
including the Tibetan prime minister, claim that
the pageant is 'un-Tibetan' and that it 'apes
Western culture.' However, the pageant attracts a
notable audience turnout. It is important because
there is no other medium in Tibetan society which
encourages women to express themselves, publicly
exhibit their talkents, travel or interact with
the media. Our expectations of Miss Tibet as a
role-model differ from those of the West. She
must be aware of the Tibetan cause, exemplify the
beauty of Tibetan women, and actively uphold the
principles of Buddhism. She should be modern and
independent, transgressing the roles typically
assigned to women in our conservative society,
yet devoted to the preservation of the customs
and traditions of Tibetan culture. A Buddhist
nun, for example, could not fulfill the role
because her life differs so greatly from that of the average Tibetan woman.

In 2004 the woman elected as Miss Tibet was from
the Sikkim region, and she did not speak Tibetan
especially well. This sparked much controversy,
but her lack of proficiency in the language
simply reflects the fact that, in that part of
the world, Tibetan society has neglected the
importance of preserving our culture. We should
engage all clusters of Tibetan society.

This year we will have between one and six
participants; all applicants reside in India,
although none are natives of Dharamsala. One
Tibetan-American woman recently withdrew her
application for personal reasons. The winner will
receive 100,000 rupees. The swimsuit competition
was opened to the public in 2006. This year, we
will hold a lottery. Each ticket will cost 50
rupees, and the winner will be awarded the
privilege of having dinner with Miss Tibet."
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