Femina Miss India 2018: Preview and Prediction
Even though it is iconic winners like Aishwarya and Priyanka that most easily come to mind when recalling Indian Miss Worlds, it is the supreme self-confidence and eloquence of winners like Yukta Mookhey and Diana Hayden that to me best typify the aura that surrounds Miss Indias. If Venezuela defined MU with their penchant for theatrics and glossy stagemanship, India similarly set a bar of spirituality and serenity for a MW winner during their golden run in the 90s.
Thus, even during its inexplicable lull in the 2000s when the seemingly unstoppable Indian pageant juggernaut came to a screeching halt, India continued to rack up a respectable record at MW, with three finalist positions (2003, 2008, 2012) and never missing the SF twice in a row. But for a country so attached to Miss World, nothing but the iconic blue crown would suffice. As the stars of Priyanka and Aishwarya rose to greater heights, the missed opportunities seemed like a cruel tease.
In 2017, buoyed by India's success at Miss Supranational and Mr. World, the charismatic Brand Director of Miss India, Natasha Grover, revolutionized the national contest, creating a new format with a state-wise preliminary that saw the organization scour the breadth of the country for the most promising contestants, and drawing in millions of new fans. They say fortune favors the brave!! Now, with the MW stamp still wet on the Miss India passport and sponsors lining up, Natasha’s team is set for an even grander finale for Femina Miss India 2018, with tickets on sale to the eager public for the first time ever. On the 19th of June, we will learn who the new Miss India is!
The question on everyone’s lips is, will (can?) India win a back-to-back crown at MW? Grand Slam pageants have lately shown little enthusiasm for crowning repeat winners, but we feel that India, like South Africa at MU, has contestants who could ‘defend the crown.’ The aura of Miss India at MW has returned, but the organization must choose wisely to pick their flagbearer, because it will not be an easy task!
Over the course of the past several months, as the Femina Miss India contest has wound its way across all 30 states to choose its finalists, we have watched the contestants closely and considered their qualities for the crown. The following are my choices, based on careful analysis:
This is one of the most consistent groups we have seen at Femina Miss India. Every girl has something to bring to the table, and interestingly, each brings something distinct. If Mallika (JAMMU & KASHMIR) brings vibrance, then Meena (MADHYA PRADESH) brings elegance, Prarthana (WEST BENGAL) brings eloquence and Parmila (SIKKIM), sex appeal. This heterogeneity has made it harder than ever to judge our favorites and we can honestly say that no girl would be out of place in the top 10. Therefore, rather than a traditional top 10 and winners court, we are offering choices for the various contests that the Miss India winners are likely to be sent to:
Miss World – two girls have stood out since their regional contests to us as perfectly suited to wear the title of Femina Miss India 2018 and carry the Indian sash at Miss World. Both are beautiful, but more importantly, very natural, intelligent, self-assured and eloquent. In short, they have those inner qualities that separate the winners from the also rans at MW.
HARYANA: Representing the state that Manushi Chillar did, Meenakshi Chaudhury has a throwback beauty that reminds us a little of Valerie Abou-Chacra (Miss Lebanon and top 5 at MW 2015) and captivates at first blush. She is also arguably, in such a divided contest, as close to a consensus choice as there is. A medical student, Meenakshi is serene, elegant, poised and her strength is that she has the best balance of all qualities required in a winner. It is this attribute that brought Manushi her win at Miss India and later at MW. If there is anything that can be pointed to as a weakness for Meenakshi, it is her height and presence, which are slight. But she carries herself tall, and the crown is hers to lose.
KARNATAKA: From the other side of India (and home to Lara Dutta, Srinidhi Shetty and numerous other Miss Indias) Bhavana Durgam, a socially conscious biomedical engineer has a beauty that brings to mind a raw Aurore Kichenin (Miss World France and top 5 at MW 2017). She is perhaps the most articulate, grounded, spiritual and natural of this year’s contestants and at nearly 5’11”, her presence gives her an edge that could be critical at MW. If the contest were judged on potential alone, she is the clear winner. However, in the run up to Miss India, Bhavana has not focused on the physical as she has on the mental, and it shows: she is not as polished as Meenakshi and needs to work on her styling, walking and posing. These are, however, cosmetic fixes.
So who do we give it to? Meenakshi has the edge in beauty and polish, Bhavana in charm and presence. Meenakshi is ready today but we already see a near final product, Bhavana needs work but with the right team behind her, could make huge improvements. We are in a dead lock so we will just say that we are eager to see the girls battle it out in the finale! Either would make a very deserving and compelling successor to Manushi Chillar!
The runners-up at Miss India are not guaranteed sashes to any other contest, but if history is any precedent, we expect to see them at Miss Grand International and Miss United Continents in 2018.
To Miss Grand International: For our choices here, we are zeroing in on the girls who are hard-working and sincere like all Miss Grand International winners, but also have the vibrance and presence to capture a stage contest.
MIZORAM – Lily Darnei’s doll like beauty reminds us of a baby Zhang Zi Lin! With a smile that could launch a hundred ships, Lily has a presence that is hard to miss – on stage or in photos. In her official FB video chat, she impressed as someone sincere, thoughtful and her charm was contagious. We think she should step on stage full of confidence and let herself shine – she would be a wonderful representative for India!
ANDHRA PRADESH – Shreya Rao Kamavarapu has been impossible to miss in this year’s contest with her vibrant laugh and towering frame. Shreya has improved enormously from her unsuccessful audition last year and she is ready to slay. All she needs to do is pick her moments to be serious and have more confidence in her own opinions – maybe a win will give her that boost! She has every reason to be confident – she is an architect, a very successful model and dare we say, soon to be Miss India?
To Miss United Continents:
UTTAR PRADESH - Himanshi Parashar is one of the youngest contestants in the competition but her conviction and confidence belie her age. With her honey colored eyes, she reminds us of a young Celina Jaitley and we think that her beauty and unfiltered charm will captivate any set of judges. She has a look and personality that we feel are sure to find favor in a more traditional contest. Himanshi’s focus must be to nail her stage presentation, which is where her inexperience shows.
MAHARASHTRA – Mahek Punjabi has been a bit of an enigma through this contest, but what we cannot ignore is that every time she steps on stage, she transforms into a different person. Her vibrance and stage presence are hard to miss and like Himanshi, she has a natural, effervescent charm. In an era of pageants where most girls are over processed, this is refreshing. Mahek’s challenge will be to ensure that she is focused and can deliver in the moment that it counts.
Dark Horses: Beyond the choices above, a few girls intrigue us greatly – they have all the qualities to win a crown, and we are curious to see how they turn up in the end –
TAMIL NADU – Anukreety Vas has slowly grown on us through this competition – she has fire in her soul and walk, and we would love to see her do well. Is she this year’s Priyanka Kumari (2 RU, Miss India 2017)? She needs to focus on finding the right styling to elevate her presence another notch.
TELANGANA – Kamakshi Bhaskarla is a doctor with a beautiful face and personal story that has inspired thousands of followers – strength and vulnerability in one package! She has undergone a remarkable transformation in the few months since her state coronation - our recommendation for her to inch closer to a crown would be to find a way to show herself just as she has shown her story – it is as important to charm as to inspire!
MEGHALAYA – Mary Khyriem has impressed since her first audition and her gorgeous eyes reflect her inner soulfulness. She is armed with a lovely singing voice and the power of thought – but to win a crown, she must focus on being concise and distilling her thoughts to their essence!
DELHI – Gayatri Bharadwaj has captivated fans from the moment she won her regional contest with her doll like face and strong preparation. But she is a polarizing contestant and for some, she has come across as too programmed – much like Anukriti Gusain last year! If she can be vulnerable enough to allow the real Gayatri to come out in the finale, she could win a crown and her persona and beauty should resonate well in a contest like Miss United Continents.g]
[Albin Beart has been a close observer of pageants for over three decades, his love forever cemented after witnessing Yvonne Ryding crowned as Miss Universe in 1984. The last time he did a prediction for GB, he correctly predicted that Manasvi Mamgai, Nicole Faria and Neha Hinge would finish 1-2-3 at Femina Miss India 2010. He heads up policy and advocacy for one of the world's leading global development agencies. Albin is a pseudonym.]