DHARAMSHALA — It means ‘Place of Peace’ or
“Sanctuary”. Nestled under the Himalaya, in North India, it looks peaceful enough
..but to Tibetans in exile, it’s a town of mourning, of frustration, activism and politics. McLeod Ganj, India, is the capital city of
their uncertain world. Local ‘man about town’, LOBSANG WANGYAL- lives
to keep images of Tibetans in the worldwide media
I am photojournalist, freelance and since recently I have a.. given myself a new title
as well, a secondary title — a ‘small town impresario’ Every year, he sets the town talking with
his own provocative challenge to Tibetan traditions. ‘There wasn’t much Tibetan woman’s creativity
or woman’s participation in terms of show and entertainment
So Miss Tibet popped up’. I devised the pageant in such a way that it
has all the in Hindi word — all kinds of masalas, ingredients of all kind of spices.
There is politics, there is social, there is fun, entertainment, education, culture,
everything. Explicitly, it is about empowering Tibetan
woman, young Tibetan woman and implicitly it asserts Tibet as a nation’ and Tibetans
as a people. A very important message is there.
and young Tibetan women are hearing LOBSANG’s call.
In Australia, graduate nurse, DOLMA DRIMEDTSANG sharpens her moves.
I am going to do Miss Tibet and hopefully I will win.
DOLMA arrived in Australia,6 years ago as a refugee and established her new life in
Melbourne.. I escaped from Tibet with my sister when I
was 8 years old.. Living in this country is a strength for me..
I never thought when I was back in India that I would be able to help anyone,
just to feed my stomach and never felt able to achieve something in life.
But now it’s changed. I feel like all the doors are open for me
everything is possible.. everything is possible. ‘DOLMA, Chin Up, shoulders back relax’
DOLMA’s team has a secret weapon .. for the catwalk..
Cause it’s not just a beauty thing, it’s a political thing right.
The most evocative symbol we thought of was the Tibetan flag.
DOLMA is the first Australian ever to enter the Miss Tibet Pageant
I’ m doing Miss Tibet because it will give me a platform to talk about Tibet’s issues.
Her expectations high after months of preparation, now DOLMA is ready for India.
This is the beautiful dress that I am going to wear My evening gown. Thanks to all the
girls. This dress is for all of you. After a 12 hour journey from the mountains
in a bumpy crowded bus, LOBSANG’s in Delhi to organize his outfit at the biggest fabric
shop in town. My suit has become an important part of the
whole Miss Tibet pageant. Everyone is asking, LOBSANG what colour are
you wearing so.. This is a difficult thing to do you know.. like the Miss Tibet pageant
itself LOBSANG’s Miss Tibet suit is his signature.
This is it .. with some lights and all this .. it’s perfect.
Arriving in New Delhi’s 42 degree heat, DOLMA too needs to go shopping for cooler cottons
And then reconnects with old school mates who are in the 23rd day of a hunger strike,
protesting another Chinese crackdown in Tibet after shocking self-immolations by monks and
nuns fighting Chinese authority. I am going to show all my support today. They
are doing a great job and I am so happy at what they are doing. I am always there to
support them. To be Tibetan is to be an activist.
With a few days to go before she is due in Dharamshala for the pageant, DOLMA visits
Tibetan settlements where she grew up… …meets a sister in law she has never met before ..and
prays with her at the nunnery for the removal of all obstacles on her path to win Miss Tibet.
I feel there will be no problems on my way back to Dharamsala and to the pageant . I
think I’m safe. I feel safe. Up in the cool of McLeod Ganj, the clouds
evaporate when the Miss Tibet contestants first show themselves in the town.
I just love McLeod Ganj…it so spiritual the weather is perfect here and everybody
is so beautiful here..friendly relaxed and nice and talking friendly …I just love McLeod.
The pageant takes over a local hotel Two to a room, the contestants have just 7
short days to rehearse and prepare everything for the 3 day spectacle.
From their first official outing, the girls learn that in downtown McLeod Ganj, it’s hard
to be elegant all the time. There are 6 contestants, 3 from India and
one each from Australia, Switzerland and the USA.
With the Himalayas towering behind, LOBSANG’s press conference launches the girls directly
at the media lens, I am very happy and honoured to announce the
10th anniversary of the Miss Tibet Pageant.. And like bees to honey, the journalists love
the assignment, knowing the front page potential.. TENZIN KECHOE from Minneapolis has catwalk
experience. She holds the crown for Miss Tibet North America.
I am here representing all the Tibetan women from North America
Business graduate TENZIN SANGMO, a popular local entrant, is tall with model good looks.
I think this is a good platform for all the Tibetan woman’s to come up..
At 17 – TENZIN YANKI from Switzerland is the least experienced.
Hi everyone I am the youngest here of the five girls. My name is TENZIN YANKI… I am
17 years old.. I think all girls look very intelligent and
beautiful yeah so I have to be really seriously and hopefully I will do it. Surrounded by beautiful young women, LOBSANG
is right in his element….. ….. a Tibetan Hugh Hefner with a political
message … and the showmanship to pull it off.
Miss Tibet Pageant has elements of both uniting and dividing factors. His Holiness Dalai Lama
said that the only thing wrong with Miss Tibet is that there is no Mr Tibet … therefore
there is inequality That’s his view about beauty pageant is physical
beauty is important but inner beauty is more important .. perfect you know ideal!
LOBSANG is proud of the ideals of his pageant, particularly his choice of judges
Judges all non-Tibetans so that there are no controversies after .. mostly Indians and
westerners. Every morning the pressure is on,to be on
time, to look good. The perfect Miss Tibet will be like the deity
TARA. TARA is in Buddhism, the most perfect woman.
Oh my legs are all paining like that because of this yoga it’s killing me
There’s no time to rest before the next photo-call – for LOBSANG’s website.
Number 1 is the physical attraction because that is really the first sight like that..
That’s great … beautiful Secondly I want her to be like warm heartedness,
the way Dalai Lama put it.. warm heartedness warmth kindness that is very important that
is the essence And then to be able to speak about Tibetan
issues Tibetan problems, what ever, particularly about Tibetan woman.
There are daily lessons in Tibetan issues. ..All the teachers are men.
So she must embody all these different important qualities.
Halfway through their training week the contestants are exhausted
I am going to be sick tomorrow. I don’t want to go to yoga
We have to go to yoga again tomorrow I don’t think it is possible All the girls are all getting on very well,
you know. When there is a competition, girls are like a cat fight right but we are not
like that The contestants want to meet Tibetan women,
so LOBSANG squeezes in a visit to 83 year old living legend Ama Adhe, a saintly survivor
of an 28 years in a Chinese jail. Starving is the hardest way to die
but I was young and prayed the mantra of Tara for God to preserve me.
With LOBSANGs chaotic schedule it’s almost impossible to find a little time for the essential
girls trip to the beauty parlour. I have never done waxing for private things
… DOLMA lets no obstacles get in her way
Dolma: It just no hair at all . Dolma Tsering:- I am scared, Yanki :- I don’t want to do it
While LOBSANG mans the phones.. DOLMA organizes a private rehearsal away from
the hotel She needs practice with a microphone to get
her confidence back if she can beat a lingering throat infection,
her singing voice may give her the winning edge in the Talent Round
Shit I have to sing in front of 5000 people Yet Miss Tibet is not the most important show
in town. The Dalai Lama has decided to step down as
political leader, but remain as spiritual leader.
This transition is a huge transition. A transition from one political leadership to a newly elected
political leadership and from one generation to another ..
The incoming Prime Minister LOBSANG SANGAY takes a very politic middle path on the beauty
pageant . As for Miss Tibet, LOBSANG WANGYAL asked me
to be one of the advisory board members and I refused. It’s not that I am against Miss
Tibet, I feel very uncomfortable seeing Tibetan women in swimsuit.
What do you reckon? One piece is better? But not everyone agrees with the new Prime
Minister.. The organizer is saying, if you wear one piece
that you are unconfident, he told everyone, so all the girls decided to wear two pieces
now. Tahnee showed me some cheeky styles Half turn
and standing like that and half turn A late change of venue for the swim suit round
sees LOBSANGs loyal stage crew have to improvise – Tibetan style
He chooses an open bush setting at a nearby mountain stream.
Good sort of under control There were a some like hiccups at the start but all is under
control and the strictly ‘Non Tibetan’ judges, have
prior experience… Well I am very good at judging dog shows … being
a vet . Very similar categories actually Figure, Posture, Poise, very similar to dog show judging
I am married to a Tibetan. And I am in and out with them, so I know them very well. So
I am the best judge.. In the make-up tent, there is no turning back
…it’s almost time.. Ladies and Gentlemen The first contestant
in the Miss Tibet pageant 2011 Miss Chime Lanzhom.. and wearing a bikini doesn’t come any harder
than this .. Across stony ground…. in very high heels..
in time to loud distorted music…. And when it’s Dolma’s turn to run the gauntlet,
she needs all her skill not to stumble. Then Dolma’s main rival, Miss Tibet USA, 19
year old TENZIN KECHOE steps out with the ease of a professional model.
And the last young TENZIN YANKI from Switzerland finds her rhythm only at the last minute
LOBSANG’s loyal press corps get their unlikely shots. TIBET packaged in bikinis.
I love living in India (laughs) where else does this sort of thing happen? and you get
to suddenly become a judge a Miss Tibet Swimsuit pageant Its great…
As the sunset shines the snow above, today’s glamour is over.
Dolma still has two days of stiff competition ahead of her.. The new morning brings MISS TIBET to the front
pages again. LOBSANGs media equation worked perfectly-
pretty girls in small bikinis mean big exposure in the newspapers..
I got the highest mark in the swim round I am feeling very confident for the rest of
the evening. Tonight we have talent rounds and the talk rounds — all my costumes Bollywood
costumes and Tibetan Costumes and my friends are coming to help me to dress up all I have
to do is show my talents and the talk round and I’m kind of ready
But despite her optimism, DOLMA still struggles with her sore throat
Dolma sings freedom song in Tibetan in bush While the theatre fills to capacity … backstage,
getting ready, it’s a family affair The contestants all fear the talk round
At only an hour’s notice … they have to speak in English, to a Tibetan topic drawn
from LOBSANGs ballot – Here are the questions for the 6 girls
DOLMAs subject is highly charged.. We recently heard about the recent tensions
and crackdowns around Kirti Monastery She must talk about the recent self- immolations
by monks and nuns inside Tibet. We recently heard news.. o tension and crackdown
Although she starts confidently … DOLMA falters, but recovers well . Tenzin Kechoe has all the breeze of a young
American… Shy Tenzin Yanki keeps her talk very short
– but scores a direct hit with her last line. Stop HIV before it’s too late… and don’t
forget – use condom In the lighthearted talent round, all the
contestants have a shot at Bollywood dance Only DOLMA uses her maximum stage time to
show off her vocal skills Her Tibetan opera is an instant hit.
And her voice holds up for the difficult freedom song.. Time lapse arena setup
As the evening closes in on finale night.. 2 thousand people crowd eagerly around the
catwalk at the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts.
We coming up with our questions now questions now yeah …collaborate so we don’t ask the
same thing… Backstage it’s frantic…
What do you think black is better or without black?
Ready… T-shirts and Jeans And then its show time
So Ladies and Gentlemen the man behind the show Mr LOBSANG WANGYAL It’s Lobsangs night of nights…And time for
him to shake that silver suit The contestants are straight back in the spot
lights – for the introduction round. My name is Tenzin Sangmo I was born and brought
up here in Dharamsala This past week I had so many opportunities…
I met with ex-political prisoner Ama Adhe….. Miss Tibet is not just a beauty pageant, but
it is a political act, because Miss Tibet celebrates our identity, our culture and our
proud tradition… It’s a country town variety show, with Tibetan
guest artists, a local Indian Dance troupe and ….LOBSANG’s fire-works. …Backstage
DOLMA steps up for the next round Miss Ngodup DOLMA
It’s time to launch her secret weapon — her Tibetan flag inspired evening gown.
Miss Ngodup Dolma In her interview round DOLMA takes a very
difficult question Buddhism and the Dalia Lama teach about selflessness
and try to get rid of the ego.. and yet you are competing in a beauty pageant. How do
you reconcile this as a representative of Tibetan Buddhism
And acquits herself well in response I totally agree with you that inner beauty
is more important than outer beauty…….Outer beauty lasts just temporarily you are beautiful
… but if you are beautiful inside you are beautiful forever..
while LOBSANG tallies up backstage …. in the crowd, the tension builds
And the winner of the Miss Tibet Pageant 2011 is …. and the winner is ….Miss Tenzin Yanki.
Tenzin Yanki’s win is a shock result….. and no one is more surprised than the young
Swiss Tibetan herself. DOLMA from Melbourne is declared runner up.
and LOBSANG struts the silver suit once more In the dressing room Tenzin YANKI’s family
gets ready to party.. and the other contestants each try to come to terms with the surprise
result .. I think Kechoe should win ….. she deserves
it Kechoe is philosophical
–while Dolma is strangely quiet.
The following morning there is still such dismay about the result the girls meet …
I think LOBSANG WANGYAL is a fraud He cheated, everyone knows that.
We want to know the truth. We want to know how did the process go?
In solidarity, the girls decide to confront LOBSANG,.
I decided to come to this pageant because I saw you as a good ideal Tibetan man who
wanted to do something for Tibetan youth and empower Tibetan women
When Dolma calmly asks to see the marking sheets, LOBSANG conveniently claims to have
lost them. I don’t have the judges’ sheet.. it was stolen
.. on the night. It is not in the file. The file is empty
He said the judging sheets have been lost ….somebody stole them
When I went onstage somebody stole it I was also surprised
Uncomfortable with such a challenge from feisty, assertive women — LOBSANG asks them to leave
Go – Get lost DOLMA firmly stands her ground determined
to get a truthful answer about the marking, I told you everything, now please get out!
Under pressure – LOBSANG finally discloses his secret assessment system..
Each category has 20 marks So add it up…
He reveals that the non-Tibetan judges are in control of only 25% of the evaluation
the other 75% of the assessment process is totally in LOBSANGs hands
… so much for his Non Tibetan judges.. Why didn’t you tell me before..I have been
wasting my time.. DOLMA loses her cool. She feels strongly that
LOBSANG has manipulated the result. What can I do about it now. It’s over. You are too selfish
You deceived us by not telling us before the Pageant
You are a fraud Yes I am now please go
Miss Tibet should be someone who is calm and listens and be respectful
and see if this is how Miss Tibet will be Oh my God No. Oh my god I have come to think that Lobsang Wangyal’s
Pageant doesn’t empower Tibetan women. It does the opposite, it disempowers Tibetan
women. So I believe the only way it could have any value is if it were run by a women.
And that doesn’t look likely to happen any time soon
This is my baby! Ten Years Old