‘Winning A Beauty Pageant Title Is An Empowering Moment’

Joie Bose, Mrs India (East) winner and Mrs India 2018 finalist, says Harnaaz Sandhu’s win at Miss Universe pageant must be an inspiring moment for all women in India

I’m so happy about Harnaaz Sandhu’s win at the Miss Universe pageant. She brought the coveted crown back to India after 21 years, and deservedly so. Her answer in the last round was exemplary, her confidence amazing. As her answer suggests, women actually need to believe in themselves if they want to live a happy and fulfilling life.

Beauty pageants have been decried by many for many years now, and their argument is it forces women to adhere to ‘societal norms of beauty’. On the contrary, I believe these pageants are absolutely empowering. As long as the participant is there from her own free will, the experience is as liberating as any other choice a woman makes.

I speak from experience. I became a finalist at the Mrs India pageant in 2018 after winning the Mrs India (East) crown. After giving birth to my son in 2011 I had struggled with weight issues. At 120 kg, my self-belief took a hit. It is then that I decided to do something just for myself; to achieve an identity beyond my home and hearth.

I had a full-fledged career before my marriage but had taken a break from work to be with my family. I exercised in a disciplined manner and soon lost enough pounds to be able to compete for the Mrs. India title in 2018.

Bose and her many moods

I cannot express in words the feeling when the crown for Mrs India (East) was placed on my head. I felt like a princess from the fairy-tales I had grown up reading. I felt I could do anything I set my heart to. My belief in myself in that moment was complete. I have not looked back ever since.

I have been doing everything I ever wanted to do: publishing an anthology of my poems; taking up a management course from IIM (Kolkata) and acing it; participating in vintage car rallies and being adjudged the best female driver; yoga; even kickboxing. I then worked my way up the corporate ladder. My pageant win inspired me to live my life to the fullest. I also work actively on social issues, particularly on domestic violence.

So yes, Harnaaz Sandhu’s victory should be celebrated by people. She is so comfortable being herself and that is what is most important right now, especially in our country, where women often second guess themselves and are treated as second class citizens. Women in India are conditioned to think their role is that of a caregiver. Beauty pageants (it can be different things for different women) is about a woman putting herself first.

Bose is a fan of former Ms World Priyanka Chopra as well as coporate leader like Indra Nooyi

I love former Ms World Priyanka Chopra for exactly that. She is so confident, so unapologetically herself and yet cares about others too. It is not only beauty pageant winners who inspire me. Corporate leaders like Indra Nooyi, Arundhati Bhattacharya and Barsha Sanyal are equally my role models. Any woman who is comfortable being herself is a winner.

People who belittle beauty pageant winners by saying they have given in to patriarchy are again trying to fit women into one particular mould, a mould which they think fit. A truly emancipated woman is a woman who makes her own choices, no matter what they look like to others.

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