Miss Tibet

If Richard Gere were to be your only source of information on Tibet, then the “real” Tibetans shown to you in this video may disappoint you. Indeed, this documentary seems more like reality TV than a documentary.

Indian-born Lopsang Wangyal is an event producer and photojournalist. We see how flamboyant this man is from this video – hardly what you would expect from the descendant of Tibetan refugees. Many underprivileged Indians (who don’t fire the imagination of generous Westerners) must wonder if these people would actually return to a frigid and barren Tibetan plateau from which the Chinese pull out completely.

Compared to many of the more glitzy pageants that we’re familiar with, the Miss Tibet pageant created by Lopsang must seem rather low budget and even amateurish. Getting a dog show judge to judge the swimsuit competition makes me laugh, but not for the right reasons. Those who support the “celebration of Tibetan women” are encouraged to wire money to Lopsang himself at the Miss Tibet website!

Given the “cultural” and political agendas in this event, I’m not surprised that the event has the blessings of the Dalai Lama, but the pathetic viewership, sponsorships and even participation may indicate that Tibet’s Prime Minister may not be the only one who is uncomfortable seeing poorly-trained Tibetan women in mismatched swimsuits that even our mothers might not have worn. I seriously doubt it’s the “un-Buddhist” nature of the pageant that is drawing the flak. I think it has more to do with the lack of sincerity and professionalism on the part of the organisers.

The video focuses on the Australian Tibetan woman Dolma. She seems to be the one who has put in the most effort. Imagine struggling to sing with a sore throat and enduring a bikini waxing session. I guess her determination partly makes up for her lack of youthfulness. Once on stage, she also seems like the crowd’s favourite. The results – apparently completely under Lopsang’s control, are shocking. Everyone wants answers from Lopsang who is more than a little evasive about it. Nobody knows what is going on behind the scenes, but suffice to say that for me, the last bit of credibility is drained out of Lopsang Wangyal. It’s not the swimsuit competition but the final conflict in the video that makes the whole thing patently unBuddhist.

I really hope that some of the naive foreigners who hold a Hollywood or even Disney-like right/wrong, good/evil view on the Tibetan issue would take off their rose-tinted glasses for a moment and see the possibility of mortal Tibetans presenting as vain, greedy, fallible and corruptible people like everyone else. Miss Tibet is really an eye-opener – again for the wrong reasons.

Miss Tibet 2006

This is a photo of Miss Tibet 2006. Looks like standards have gone downhill ever since

Latest update. Not only have standards gone down the Himalayas, the whole event has become a ludicrous one-man, one-woman show – literally. Miss Tibet 2014 is unveiled! Fortunately this time round, there are no more controversies. That’s because there’s only one possible winner (and participant). Can we ever take these guys seriously?

Gosh, I really miss the behind the scenes footage (not to mention the swimsuit competition).

© Chan Joon Yee

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