KATHMANDU, July 30: Beauty pageants are becoming increasingly common in our country. From Miss Teen, Miss SLC to various cultural pageants like Miss Newa, Miss Mongol, and the crowning glory Miss Nepal, many young girls these days dream of winning crowns.
Each participant works hard along the way to achieve that dream, but sometimes encounter situations that leave them in shock.
Kirat Rai Maulik Kala Sanskriti Kendra organized Miss Rai 2012 on July 7 at the Rastria Nach Ghar, Jamal. With the motto of “Where the culture and beauty come alive”, the beauty pageant was supposed to be the first year for girls from Rai communities to come together and showcase their talent and bring their culture alive.
But not before rescheduling the event a few times and courting controversies.
Sushma Rai, 22, hails from Illam. Currently she teaches at Singh Sagarmatha School and is pursuing Master’s in Education from Sukuna College in Morang District. Sushma had participated in Miss Purwanchal before she decided try her luck at Miss Rai.
It was the unfair manner in which the previous contest was conducted that cemented her resolve to take part in Miss Rai.
“While some of us paid Rs 1000 for the entry form, others paid just Rs 500 and yet some others did not even pay a single rupee. During the question and answer round, some contestants who could not reply anything and just returned saying thank you were
promoted to the top ten. What does that prove?” Susshma asks. “Many participants suffered in one way or another. For instance, some received lewd text messages that disturbed them,” she says.
Sharmila says that those who have spoken to the media about the pageant are being targeted through social networking sites and YouTube. “Fake accounts have been set up just to attack us personally. Someone has posted that I had asked for Rs 5 lakh and as I didn’t get it so I walked out of the contest,” she says.
According to Sharmila, with stories of abuse, threats and unfair judgments, the pageant was nothing but a horrible experience for the contestants.
Amrita Rai, 19, who had just finished her 12th exams, decided to participate in the contest after she heard about it from her brother. This girl from Jhapa, however, now regrets that decision.
“During our training I made a small mistake: I wrote 1pm where I was supposed to write 12:30. Dilip Rai, vice-chairman of Kirat Rai Maulik Kala Sanskrit Kendra, got so furious that he banged his hand on a table and yelled at me,” says Amrita. “I don’t think I deserved a shouting, much less in the manner he shouted. There were contestants who came an hour late and sometimes even missed their trainings, but no one ever shouted like that at them.”
Looking back at her experience, she says, “It was a waste of our time, money and hard work. We worked so hard for this pageant. I had paid special attention to how I would answer the possible questions, but we found out later that the questions were leaked. Apparently, the winner had received extra training too. I don’t want to participate in any beauty pageant now, as I think that is what happens in every pageant.”
Poonam Rai , 23, a student of Sociology at Patan Multiple College echoes Amrita’s feelings.
“I don’t think I’ll ever participate in any other contest,” says Poonam.
“I heard from other contestants that the winner, Yuma Rai, told them that her grandfather had paid some money to the organizers. When I asked Yuma, she admitted that her grandfather had indeed contributed some money as “sahayog”.
The girls who revealed the truth to the media are now under intense pressure. They say that they aren’t pointing finger at the whole community. “We want to make sure that because of a few people the whole of the community doesn’t suffer. The future participants should not go through such experience.”
What do the organizers say about the accusations?
Dipendra Rai, of Kirat Rai Maulik Kala Sanskrit Kendra, says, “Though the contestants have been alleging a number of things, we don’t feel the need to counter that as the accusations are not true. It all seems like a ploy. We started this pageant to uplift our community and not to create glamour dolls.”
When asked about the controversy surrounding the payment issues with Kala Subba, who choreographed the pageant before being replaced, Rai says, “We never wanted to insult or embarrass her. We had creative differences with her regarding the kind of questions we wanted to ask in the contest and she decided to leave two days before the contest was to start. We are ready to pay her for her work. It will honor the commitment we made to her.”
Kala Subba, meanwhile, says, “They don’t receive my calls. The differences arose after I protested the bad treatment of contestants. They owe me not only for the choreography, but also for the investment I made for the stage set up, sound and lights too.”