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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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