Beauty pageants in Chennai, which were scarce, changed the lives of winners overnight — there could be no better example than actress Trisha, who won the title all those years ago!
But, in recent times, when many franchises are coming up with new pageant titles every year, it has become increasingly difficult to check the authenticity of such contests. Worse, it has become hard to keep a count of the winners.
Miss Chennai, Miss South India, Face of Chennai, Miss Madras... the list is never-ending!
The modelling industry in the city, though significant, is relatively small in comparison to other Indian metros, and the increasing number of such pageants might only seem as a sign of progressive growth. However, many feel that the growing numbers of beauty contests have also brought down the quality.
Actress, model and host Sahithya Jagannathan, winner of Miss Chennai in 2009, opines, “The downside of too many titles is that, in some way, it takes away the value of winning one. When there were fewer titles, it was harder for someone to win it and there was a value associated with it. When I won Miss Chennai, my career changed immediately. Being a newbie in the industry, I didn’t know a single person — but because of the title, people approached me. Now, it is harder for the models to reap the benefit of the crown they win.”
Elaborating further, she says, “I do think it (many pageant titles) is an advantage because the reach is greater. But what’s more important is that a contest shouldn’t end with somebody just winning a title alone. The organisers should make sure that their title winner has a good entry into the industry. There is no point of just getting a title and sitting at home!”
Model Bavithra, who won Miss South India 2017, agrees to the disadvantages of the ongoing trend, but says that the upside of the many pageants is also significant. “Many people get to know about modelling through this. The number of models from Chennai is increasing, which is a good thing. When I started out, I could only see well-known faces in fashion, but now, new talents are breaking into the industry.”
When asked what the focus should be for aspiring models to work on, she says, “Being a model and winner, even we don’t know a lot of things. The best thing to do is to seek out to some good choreographers for guidance because they would have been in the field for a longer duration than models. The trend is a bit chaotic now — but if streamlined properly, it would be a great opportunity for all the new talents.”
Designer Rehane Yavar Dhala has won awards and designed for participants at pageants, as well as overseen several aspirants over the years. “Honestly, in my opinion, there are too many pageants and fashion weeks happening in our countr and within the cityy. There are only four titles that stand apart and actually make a difference — Miss India Femina, Miss Universe, Miss World and Elite Look of the Year. Other pageants are organised to entertain people.
Rehane continues, “Designers and those who are looking for models would obviously know where to find them. This is an open market and being in a democratic country, we can’t ask people to stop holding such fashion weeks. But, only the big guns survive here.”
Actress and PR professional Upasana Iyer, who won the title in 2014, agrees that the trend has become more chaotic. “Back then, contests were more about talents and choreography. Now, the focus is more on the brands and the sponsors. More than wanting to win and model, contestants are now participating in such events to get into acting. They don’t aspire to go national. They bank just on the popularity,” she muses. Hopefully, more clarity will come about soon!
(With inputs from Janani K)