Only One Woman Entered ‘Miss Tibet’. Here’s Why That’s Sad.

miss-tibet-2014

This year’s Miss Tibet proceedings were rather short. You see, originally a total of 8 girls applied, but only 5 girls confirmed, then 4 withdraw for various reasons. That left the lone contestant, Tenzin Yangzom as the automatic winner. It sounds like a quirky, funny human interest story. And sure it does have quite an unusual spin on the regular beauty pageant stories, but there is more to this than just a girl vying for the Miss World crown.

This is the second year in a row that Miss Tibet has been crowned without competition, being the sole entry. The reigning 2013 queen was Tenzing Lhamo, who handed over her crown and official duties to Tenzin Yangzom on June 8.

Miss Tibet was started in 2002 by journalist Lobsang Wangyal. He started it, in his words, to give Tibetan women a platform to showcase their aspirations and talents. And to bring international attention to Tibet. Here’s why it’s sad that the competition has only received 1 entry the past couple of years: because it means any issues that pertinent to women in that country may miss out on having a voice elsewhere in the world.

The other unusual aspect of Miss Tibet, which says it is all about “celebrating the women of Tibet”, is that most of the previous contestants aren’t actually from the country. Miss 2013 was based out of Wisconsin, and others have been from Australia and Switzerland.

World peace is certainly not the main agenda of 2013’s Miss Tibet Tenzing Lhamo, who said her mission was to bring attention to the issues of Tibetan people.

“If I go around saying ‘Hey! My name is Tenzing, do you want to learn about Tibet?’ People wouldn’t pay as much attention as if I say, ‘Hey, I’m Miss Tibet and I want to talk about Tibet,'” she said to PRI’s ‘The World’ writer Tracy Mumford who also covered this important cultural story.

Although she was the only contestant and knew she had won before flying out from Wisconsin to Tibet for the ceremony, Tenzing said the event was not cancelled and it was her chance to give a speech about oppression in Tibet.

“That is one of the most important things in life — having the dignity of living as a human being with your voice being heard and that’s not happening in Tibet. It’s being suppressed,” she said.

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Tenzing sees power in what a pageant sash says. “Seeing Miss Tibet with the sash ‘Miss Tibet’ out with the rest of the world, it kind of makes you feel proud and gives people hope … people are actually receiving us and acknowledging us.”

It is sad that there isn’t more of a push or a bigger incentive for the girls in Tibet to enter this pageant which could be the very opportunity to a better life for them.

“Since Miss Tibet pageant is aimed at empowering young Tibetan women, we consider it important to respect and appreciate the commitment and enthusiasm of the lone contestant. We were ready to welcome more contestants and put up a full-fledged pageant, but how many actually come is not in our hands. There should be individual as well as community initiative for to draw bigger numbers,” said creator and organizer Lobsang Wangyal.

 

“Miss Tibet can help highlight the worsening human rights situation in Tibet through national and international forums and garner worldwide support,” Tenzin Yangzom said upon her crowning.

 

The Miss Tibet pageant is hoping for more entries next year, and we certainly hope spreading the word about how this can be an important platform for young Tibetan girls will prove to be inspiring. Sure we all think of beauty pageants as a group of bikin-clad girls with fake tans, fake hair, promoting world peace and going on to help out with a bunch of charities and model for clothing brands.

But for countries like Tibet, it is more than just the superficial aspects. Even the Dalai Lama is on board with the pageant, saying he hopes it will draw both men and women to compete to raise awareness for Tibetan people.

Check out a trailer from the documentary ‘Miss Tibet: Beauty in Exile’ and see why this pageant is about so much more than just beauty.

 

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