The very controversial beauty pageant Miss Tibet has been held since 2002 in McLeodganj. While it has been criticized for being “un-Tibetan”, and well, like other pageants, a platform to objectify women, it has been symbolic of rebellion by the Tibetans who fled their land. The Chinese government sees the pageant as an irritant, and has been using its clout to pressurise organisers to host the contestant as a “Miss China-Tibet”.
Sangnyi Tenzing, the 2016 winner, tells Patriot she was allowed only by Miss Global Pageant to take part. The others said, ” You have to wear a sash which says China-Tibet. But we don’t accept this.”
For Sangnyi, the title doesn’t mean anything, life didn’t change after the win, “It gave me some respect within our community but I’ve still continued my career”, which is as a full-time nurse in Apollo Hospital in the capital.
When asked if she felt like she had missed out on anything because of being a refugee, Sangnyi admitted to wondering if her life would have been different if she was born in her own country. “We don’t belong anywhere we go. The one place we do belong, we can’t go back because we can’t sing our music, we can’t speak our language, we can’t practice our religion.”
She does however feel “almost Indian”, even though the fact that she can’t become a citizen weighs upon her mind. Growing up in Manali, she felt part of the community, and didn’t face any partiality. In Delhi, however, Sangnyi accepts, “Discrimination happens to everyone. Discrimination for North-easters (people mistake her to be a Manipuri) and discrimination as a woman.”