In the world of pageantry, the four big beauty pageants, also known as the Fab Four, are the Miss Universe Contest, Miss World Pageant, Miss International and Miss Earth. Miss World and Miss Earth attract the highest number of participants every year, reaching well over a hundred. While the Americas, Japan and Philippines are staunchly loyal to the Miss Universe Pageant, the Miss World Pageant enjoys similar allegiance in Europe and Africa. Both the Miss Universe and Miss World pageants are the high point of pageantry every year and their winners escalate to stardom not only in their respective countries but also around the world.
The Miss World pageant started in 1951 under the aegis of Eric Morley in the United Kingdom. London presently serves as a base for the pageant and the winner, though forever globe trots, regards London as her operational headquarters. Though it enjoyed vast success early on as it capitalized on the woman liberation front, in the mid 70’s it began to attract protests because of the objectification of women. Following this, the pageant brought about its motto of Beauty with a purpose. This led the winner to devote an entire year to charitable causes and fund raising. By the turn of the new millennia, the pageant brought about a new method of selection- internet voting. The 2005 edition of the pageant was completely based on this method and the winner, Peru, won the crown because she had received the most votes via an online poll. The Miss World pageant also crowns Continental Queens, the best delegates from each continent, in addition to the winners, runners up and sub contest winners. Another highlight of the pageant is the announcment of the winners. Until his death, it was done by Eric Morley and now by his wife Julia Morley, where the winners are always announced in reverse order. The emcees of the show never announce the winners in a long-standing tradition.
India has had a colourful and very successful history at the Miss World pageant especially since 1994. While we have had two winners within seven years of each other, a second place finish and a string of semi-final finishes at the Miss Universe pageant stands as a record for India. At. the Miss World we have five winners, four in a stretch of seven years (1994-2000), two top five finish and a few semi-finalists. The last winner of the crown was Priyanka Chopra in 2000 and the last finalist was Ami Vashi in 2003, who nonetheless deserved the third place but it was given in favour of China, the host. In 2006, Natasha Suri was celebrated as a firm favourite to win but as each continent could only have one representative (and Asia- Pacific group with the toughest delegates) and she had to settle as the semi-finalist. She created history with Miss Australia Sabrina Houssami (who finished second runner up that year) as being the first time when two delegates have finished with tied scores from the panel of ten judges and qualified for the semifinals together.
The 2008 edition of the pageant was supposed to be held in Ukraine in October but the Georgia crisis led to it being hosted in South Africa. South Africa has hosted the pageant the maximum number of times (6 times counting this year too). Sun City played host to the pageant in 1994 when Aishwarya Rai walked away unanimously with the crown. This year Johannesburg hosted the pageant. In all ,109 contestants from around the world participated. The live show was telecast in over 187 countries by 341 telecasters, making it one of the highly watched live shows of the year.
Parvathy Omanakuttan, who not only won the Miss India-World title but also the Miss India-South preliminary contest in 2007, represented India. She finished fifth in the Beach Beauty contest and came third in the Top Model gala. In doing so, she established herself as the strong favourite along side Russia, South Africa, Spain and Mexico. This year the organizers decided to vote in sixteen semifinalists for the final night’s competition. Of these, a pre-judging panel would select ten while the other six would come in through a string of preliminary contest. The preliminary contests were Beach Beauty won by Mexico, Top Model won by Russia, Talent won by Barbados and Fitness won by Iceland. The Beauty with a Purpose title was won by Trinidad and Tobago. A contestant who would have won the internet-polling contest would have also advanced to the semi-finals but due to technical glitches, it was scrapped. Thus, there were only fifteen semi-finalists. USA won the Designer Award for the best evening gown.
The pageant highlighted the tourism potential of South Africa through out the evenings telecast and showed the travels of the contestants through the length and breath of the country. The ten semi-finalists included India (called right at the end), South Africa, Angola, Kazakhstan, Spain among others. Then they were short listed to the top five, with India, South Africa, Russia, Angola and Trinidad and Tobago heading the list. As the final hour closed by each of the top five were asked why they were to be crowned Miss World. India, poised as ever, was not given this chance as time ran out. She was asked first, as to what she liked about her month long stay in South Africa. She gave a beautiful yet practical answer about the warm hospitality, similar cultural icons in Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi and fantastic journey she had altogether. Russia used an interpreter to answer and hoped to help people through her crown while South Africa expressed her confidence in creating a wonderful image of the organization just as she did for her country.
In the end, Russia walked away with the crown while India came in second and Trinidad and Tobago finished third. The new Miss World will now begin a fantastic year of opportunities and charity. The result though did bring up lots of questions. If the last answer was to be taken into consideration then India or South Africa deserved the crown more than Russia. Still this is India’s highest placement in the last seven years and the fantastic performance of Parvathy Omanakuttan.deserves a special round of applause .
Sayan Supratim Das
[Image source: http://www.sowetan.co.za/multimedia/pictures/missrussia.jpg]