MUMBAI: The winner of Miss India 2019 has finally been selected following weeks of criticism surrounding the pageant over lookalike contestants.
SumanRao, a 20-year-old college student from Rajasthan, took the title during the grand finale in Mumbai on Saturday. Rao will now move on to represent her country at Miss World 2019 in Thailand this December.
The beauty contest came under intense scrutiny after a collage featuring all 30 participants was published in the Times of India newspaper. The composite image sparked a heated online diversity debate over the girls who all looked remarkably similar with fair skin and dark hair.
Organizers of the pageant were slammed for appearing to prefer a single look and beauty standard. Some critics went so far as to say that the women resembled ‘clones’ rather than representatives of the nation’s ethnically diverse beauty.
Skin-tone in particular has been a hot topic among women in India, as some females attempt to reverse the historical preference for fairer skin and counteract society’s emphasis on whitening cosmetic procedures. In recent years, campaigns like Dark is Beautiful and #unfairandlovely have tried to change perceptions of female beauty.
These days, beauty pageants try to focus more on participants’ intelligence and talent in an apparent effort to steer away from the traditional judging and ranking of physical attributes – which has been labeled anti-feminist. However, the contests still face criticism internationally for their objectification of women. Recently, India’s Miss Charming 2017, GarimaYadav, received praise for choosing to pursue a career in the army over progressing to the next stage of the pageant.