Miss Tibet is an annual beauty pageant that is held in the forested foothills of the Himalayas. The controversial competition has been running for eight years now in McLeod Ganj, Northern India.
Lobsang Wangyal is the founder, organizer and Master of ceremonies of the annual Miss Tibet pageant in Dharamsala, Northern India.
He wears pink shirts, bright red pants and huge sunglasses. His long fluffy hair flows down his back. In a tiny conservative town like McLeod Ganj he is unique and stands out in any location. He is definitely one of the town's more interesting Tibetan characters!
Some might say eccentric or strange; a new documentary has labeled him 'flamboyant'! I smile and tell my Tibetan friends that in Toronto where I come from, this is quite normal for such an artist. In Toronto he would blend nicely into our thriving art scene!
I have known Lobsang for a few years, not well but we have a friend in common. Lobsang kindly came to translate for us on occasion when absolute clarity was needed. (because my Tibetan sucks!)
He is well aware that this competition is frowned upon by the older traditional Tibetan people. This is not very Buddhist they say. Our girls should not be parading around in swimsuits they say. Samdhong Rinpoche, the Prime Minister of the Tibetan government in exile has stated that the pageant is un-Tibetan.
Perhaps the pageant fulfills a need of the younger generation of Tibetans in this small town nestled in the Himalayan foot hills. Many (do i dare say most?) of the young are without jobs, they are restless and are getting impatient with the non-violent middle way of the Dalai lama.
In such a small place, believe me when I say that there is not much to do at any time, let alone on a Saturday night! This competition is a welcome distraction, something to take their minds of the hopelessness, despair or anger many of them may feel about their situations.
Reasons for creation of the pageant are:
To provide opportunities for education, travel and cross-cultural exchange for young Tibetan women.
To provide a forum for these young women to display their skills and talents in the international arena.
To create international awareness of the Tibetan traditional arts, culture and philosophy.
To create international awareness of the contemporary life of Tibetan people living in exile.
To draw international attention to the plight of Tibetans living under Chinese occupied Tibet.
Another famous Dalai Lama quotes is, "If you have a Miss Tibet then you must have a Mr. Tibet, or else, inequality!" I'm sure His Holiness was giggling at this point!
I think that if the Dalai Lama does not mind this event, why should anyone else? And I must admit that I really did enjoy myself the last time I went!