End of an era — Lobsang Wangyal’s Miss Tibet

Dear Lobsang Wangyal,
This will be my last piece of writing on Miss Tibet pageant … and an end of an era for you!

Although, except for the 10th edition, I have not been able to be physically present at any Pageant due to ill health, I have been Lobsang’s supporter since day one of the 2002 launch of his innovative brainchild.

Lobsang Wangyal has now announced that this 15th Miss Tibet Pageant 2017 is the last edition of Miss Tibet Pageant to be organised by him.

Loss to Tibetan women

This development brings mixed joy and sadness. As a Buddhism student, aware of the philosophy of impermanence and uncertainty of everything in Samsara, I accept this reality to be practical. Still, it feels like a great loss to see the Miss Tibet Pageant fading into history. I am really concerned that this unique and result-oriented platform for the empowerment of Tibetan women and girls is leaving us.

Projects like this Pageant widen the expansion of human knowledge and ideas that fire imagination, innovation, and experimentation. So it’s not simply a question of a beauty pageant, but of the dignity of girls and women, and for that matter dignity of Tibetans as a whole.

I am concerned for Tibetan women and girls because it is they who have experienced the Miss Tibet Pageant as the only mass-exposed platform for confidence-building and developing the art of public speaking. A nation ought to have everything under the sky that fires imagination, creativity, innovation, humanism, everything!

The Miss Tibet Pageant has been providing a unique platform for personality and career development as no other event has done or will ever do. If we still are unsure of this, just ask those who have participated in the pageants.

Over the years there has been criticism in the Tibetan community of girls who become contestants. Why? They have all been educated, intelligent, Tibetan girls. It’s their own personal right to decide to be contestants, and we ought to respect that and accept it without questioning. And winners have been able to use the cash awards to fund their own goals or education. All this is also part of women’s empowerment.

Cooperation, not competition

One point is worth mentioning here. The Miss Tibet Pageant contest is of course an extension of “rewarding the winners”, a process we have all experienced in school exams and co-curricular activities. But there is a big difference in this Pageant: Never did I see Miss Tibet contestants competing with a fierce do-or-die spirit. On the contrary, they meet and mingle as strangers and depart as friends. Each year looks like a family get-together.

Is there any field of human advancement where there is no competition at all for excellence? No! Even a hermit lives in constant competition against urgency and uncertainty of impermanence and death, to do better each and every following day.

Success under duress

Lobsang Wangyal has manifestly succeeded in his great social experiment in exile, with 15 successful Miss Tibet shows to his credit despite working under very trying circumstances.

I have closely watched the events surrounding Miss Tibet Pageant in Dharamshala. It’s really been very tough and trying for the lone organiser/founder/director Lobsang Wangyal, from 2002 till his last one this year 2017. The Pageant has seen a tsunamic rise in popularity over the years, yet only this year have some Tibetans financially sponsored his public show.

Lobsang’s contribution, to further human-to-human love, peace, and friendship, as well as a massive crowd-pulling ability in the most peaceful way and celebrative fashion through his initiative and resourceful management of the Miss Tibet Pageant, and all with his limited resources, has been a great success story.

Failure of leaders

While in hospital several years ago, I heard that a political leader of the Tibetan establishment had denounced the Pageant in a shockingly negative remark. And that was the “killer comment”, as we in our conservative society still follow our political leader in sheep psychology, calling white is black! white is black! Two plus two is five!, lacking individual application of intelligence and brain.

I felt that the wise course for our political leader would have been to assume a neutral position and make “no comment.” But the best and most appropriate course would have been to welcome the introduction of this Pageant! Shouldn’t a leader inspire and encourage the public and individuals in the pursuit of their likes and passions?

But in the end our political leader has actually failed in his whimsical imposing thought — see the success of the Miss Tibet Pageant.

Tibetan losses

Also, I respect the leader as our leader, but I refuse to surrender my conscience to anybody under any circumstances. I have already lost everything else: My country, my basic rights and freedoms, and human dignity, at home my country Tibet.

We lost our beautiful country Tibet. We have suffered over 1.2 million deaths. We have recorded 149 self-immolations. We suffered and are still suffering irreparable destruction in occupied Tibet. We are scattered in over 16 countries around the world.

And now in exile, Tibetans are subtly subjected to act in submission to an imperfect political leader. How can we question Chinese authoritarian acts if we are not even allowed to question our own authorities?

We feel the frustration of having our Tibetan language treated as secondary in our own country, where China enforces and imposes Chinese as the primary language. It seems this frustration spilled over during one Miss Tibet Pageant when we poured it out on the contestants and organiser, complaining about lack of Tibetan language. We were either forgetting or ignorant of the fact that the Miss Tibet winner has to promote the Tibet cause in international venues in the official English language. In daily life the contestants speak fluent Tibetan, and some of them are even speaking better Tibetan than some of us critics.

Will “Miss Tibet” carry on?

Hopefully someone will take up the banner and showcase Miss Tibet in future.

Against this background, it’s heartening to see a “Miss Tibet North America 2017: coming up this summer in New York. I’m sure this will facilitate release of Tibetan pride, creative energy, and potential for advancement of Tibetan social innovation. Above all, it will help to reaffirm the values of individual Tibetan human rights, human freedom, and dignity.

Congratulations to Miss Tenzin Paldon Miss Tibet 2017, Tenzin Khechoee the First Runner-up, Tenzin Nordron the Second Runner-up. Congratulations to Lobsang Wangyal and his team for another successful showcase.

I salute Lobsang Wangyal for his innovative spirit and selfless hard work promoting the Tibet cause and empowering Tibetan girls and women. Lobsang will be remembered for the history he has created, and for being an innovative entertainment genius, a true brave hero and patriot.

Tsering Choekyap
McLeod Ganj

17 June 2017

Copyright © 2019 Tsering Choekyap

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed are those of the writer and not necessarily that of Tibet Sun