Controversy rages as 19-year-old is crowned Miss Tibet

Associated Press (AP)

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She fled her homeland when she was 12, walking for 21 days across the frozen wastelands of the Himalayas. On Saturday night, Dolma Tsering was crowned the first Miss Tibet at the end of a three-day event that critics said violated Tibetan traditions and trivialized Tibet's struggle for freedom. PHOTO: REUTERS

Dolma Tsering

Dolma Tsering of India, winner of the first Miss Tibet pageant, adjusts her crown during a news conference in Dharamsala, India, yesterday. Organizers of the controversial pageant hope the event will reinforce the Tibetan identity.

But when Tsering, 19, was crowned after three hours of dancing, gliding down a catwalk, and answering questions from judges Saturday, the hundreds-strong crowd in the auditorium cheered and applauded ecstatically.

"There was some controversy. But I think the young people really support this competition," she said in Tibetan. "It should be used to support the young people, especially the women."

Contest organizer Lobsang Wangyal said his aim was to create opportunities for Tibetan women and draw attention to Tibet's struggle for independence.

Still, only four contestants vied for the title after most of the initial 30-odd original entrants dropped out following criticism that the pageant besmirched Tibetan culture.

Critics included Samdhong Rinpoche, the prime minister of the Dalai Lama's government in exile, who called the event materialistic.

Most controversial was a swimsuit round Thursday, which some felt outraged the modesty of Tibetan society, where women mostly wear ankle-length dresses and long-sleeved blouses. Organizers kept it closed to the public.

Tsering appeared in the fashion round in a skimpy tank top and tight-fitting stretch flares. But by the time she was crowned she was dressed in full traditional Tibetan garb — the chuba — complete with striped apron and chunky amber necklace.

Tsering will represent Tibet at Miss Tourism World, to be held in Colombia in December.

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