It was a proud moment for India when Manushi Chhillar was crowned Miss World 2017, putting an end to the 17-year long wait. She became the sixth Indian woman to be crowned as the Miss World after Reita Faria (1966), Aishwarya Rai Bachchan (1994), Diana Hayden (1997), Yukta Mookhey (1999) and Priyanka Chopra (2000).
Expectations are a bit too high for India's Shraddha Shashidhar who will be representing India at the 66th Miss Universe 2017, which is to be held on November 26, at the Axis, Las Vegas.
Going back to the 90's and early 2000's, India's position in these international beauty pageants were beyond anyone's match. From Reita Faria to Priyanka Chopra and now Manushi in Miss World and Sushmita Sen, Lara Dutta in Miss Universe, India's glory was incomparable. Then what went wrong in these 17 years?
Manushi's victory provides a ray of hope to all the eager fans and denizens of India, but the question is will Shraddha Shashidhar make it big at the international fora? Manushi's superb presence of mind, grace and intellect won her the coveted crown. She gave an inspiring answer when she was asked: Which profession according to her deserves the highest pay?
"I think a mother deserves the highest respect and when you talk about salary it's not always about cash but I feel it's the love and respect that you give to someone. My mother has always been the biggest inspiration in my life. All mothers sacrifice so much for their kids. So, I think it is the job of a mother that deserves the highest salary," Manushi answered. The 20-year-old medical student from Haryana edged past the contestants from England, France, Kenya and Mexico.
Beauty pageants therefore definitely don't focus only on looks but give major importance to the intellect and presence of mind of the contestants. Manushi, a trained Kuchipudi dancer, proved her grace and strong educational background in the fifth round of the contest, where her answer won her the title of Miss World. Manushi aims to become a cardiac surgeon one day and dreams of opening non-profitable hospitals in rural areas.
People in India are eyeing big this time with the 21-year-old Shraddha Shashidhar, for the Miss Universe crown, a legacy that failed to see the light of the day after Lara Dutta's victory in 2000. Shraddha's highly qualified background will make her a big catch at the 66th Miss Universe. She was crowned Miss TGPC South in 2017 and Yamaha Fascino Miss Diva Miss Universe India in 2017. These two titles are bound to make her a pro on the floor.
Most enquire as to why India failed to make it big at the international beauty pageants, since 2000.
According to Miss Universe 2000 Lara Dutta, the format of the contest has changed a lot since the times of Priyanka Chopra or Dia Mirza and the requirements are changing internationally. Beauty pageants now require a Miss World or Miss Universe who is an all-rounder.
"You need to send somebody who is a complete all-rounder, just one thing won't work. The contestants are put in various sort of environmental situations where they have to work on their articulation, confidence and be on their feet."
"It is important that girls around the country really know what goes into making a beauty pageant winner. It's not just about a girl who looks good in a bikini or who has a nice smile or nice body or thing like that. It's a lengthy process to select a girl. I think girls should get more exposure before they compete internationally," she told NDTV in 2014.
Changing strategies of the beauty pageants might pose a hurdle to all the contestants but, reciprocating wisely to an uncalled for situation is what makes one Miss Universe and Miss World. The crown comes with its own share of responsibilities. Thousands have their fingers crossed for Shraddha Shashidhar as they are eagerly desiring India to reign the Universe once again. Manushi's victory should come as a huge boost to Miss Universe India 2017, as she gears up to take the stage next week.