Miss Universe Nepal 2020 attempts to change the notion of beautyNagma Shrestha, National Director of Miss Universe Nepal 2020, says this year the beauty contest, which is going completely digital, has become more inclusive: forgoing weight and height requirements and encouraging transgender women to participate.
On June 11, Miss Universe Nepal 2020 announced it would be assuming the role of selecting Nepal’s representative on the world stage at Miss Universe 2020.
Keeping in mind the pandemic, however, this year, the pageant has brought in some monumental changes. The pageant will go completely digital—from the selection round to the grooming workshops, everything will take place virtually. Similarly, unlike other pageants, Miss Universe Nepal 2020 also has less stringent and outdated requirements for the participants: this time there are no minimum weight and height requirements and transgender women can also participate.
In an interview with the Post’s Ankit Khadgi, Nagma Shrestha, a former Miss Universe Nepal and also the National Director of Miss Universe Nepal 2020, talks about the significance of holding a digital beauty contest amid the pandemic, how the first-ever virtual pageant will be held and why it’s important to make an international beauty pageant like Miss Universe more inclusive. Excerpts:
Can you briefly share your experiences of how you went on to organising Miss Universe in Nepal independently?
I was crowned Miss Universe Nepal in 2017. It was after participating in the pageant that I realised that Miss Universe deserves more attention in our country as it’s the mother of all beauty pageants. Although the previous institution that was sending contestants at Miss Universe was giving their best, I thought a separate pageant would be better, giving a direct platform for those who are interested in participating in Miss Universe.
So from this year, Ma Nepali, which I am also the founder of, along with CG Corp Global have been provided with the opportunity to carry forward the franchise of Miss Universe Nepal.
We were supposed to organise the first-ever independent Miss Universe Nepal pageant in a grand manner. However, due to the pandemic, we had to stall our plans and decided to switch into all-app events due to safety concerns.
Organising a pageant physically itself is tough and you are planning to do it virtually—something that has never been done before. What motivated you to take this risk?
Before the pandemic, applications were supposed to play a big role in our contest. Since it’s the digital era, we wanted to evolve and go beyond websites. That’s why we developed a world-class application for our contest. However since we decided to not hold a physical event due to safety reasons amid the pandemic, we decided to go all virtual.
Going virtual will be a unique experience and it will also help pageantry to evolve. There are going to be difficulties but we are trying to minimise the problems by making sure that we can deliver a next-level application and the progress we have made in developing the application is going great as well.
Beauty pageants are often criticised for not being inclusive. Do you think the changes brought in by Miss Nepal Universe 2020 were a long time coming?
Yes, you could say that. Since Miss Universe Nepal is an independent pageant now, we have tried our best to make it inclusive, following the guidelines set by Miss Universe. Those women who are of age 18 to 28 can participate. There are no height and weight requirements and trans women are more than welcome to participate. Likewise, it’s not necessary for participants to have fluent English speaking skills to participate in this contest.
We are also trying to give opportunities to people living outside of Nepal as well. Many Non-residential Nepalis can’t participate in beauty pageants in Nepal. Those aspirants who live outside Nepal can also be a part of Miss Universe Nepal 2020.
We have diversified the pageant so we can have participants from different corners of society who dream of becoming the next Miss Universe.
What are the plans that you have made for all the various rounds of the pageant?
We will be following the same rounds like that of Miss Universe. So, we will have a swimsuit round, the evening gown as well as the question-answer round. Within those rounds, we have the freedom to go creative.
Since the name of our organisation itself is Ma Nepali, we have highlighted the importance of being a Nepali in our events. This means we will give a Nepali touch to all our events, and contestants will be encouraged to embrace their Nepaliness.
Beauty pageants often come under public scrutiny for valuing physical appearance only. And they are often deemed unimportant in society. What’s your take on this?
I think before criticising, people need to know what happens in these pageants and what the contestants learn from it. Beauty pageants are not only about looking pretty, it’s also about personal development. I have participated in four international pageants and three national pageants, and as someone who grew with pageantry, I can rightly say that the person I am right now is because of these pageants.
Beauty pageants allow different people to interact with each other helping them to learn from each other. Likewise, it helps in the personality development of the participants. The experiences I gained from participating in all of the pageants have empowered me, motivating to teach what I have learned to others as well.
Plus beauty pageants can be an asset to the country as well. The contestants not only represent themselves but they are taking the name of their country as well in the international world stage. That’s why we are working hard on Miss Universe Nepal by making sure we can provide the winner with the best facilities so they can place the name of our country on the world map as well.
Many former beauty pageant winners have complained that the institutions do little to help them with logistics at international pageants. How is Miss Universe Nepal trying to fill the void and help contestants make their mark on the international stage?
Unfortunately, there are many things we can improve when it comes to preparing our delegates for international organising. Participating in an international beauty pageant can be expensive, as the pageant winners have to buy gowns and national dress, which are costly.
As we are strictly following the guidelines of National Directors set by Miss Universe, we are taking responsibility for air tickets, costumes, and all the basic things for the participants. The only pressure we want our participants to take is how to win and represent Nepal in the best possible way.
Likewise, the backbone—team members of Miss Universe Nepal 2020— is really strong. We have Manita Devkota, the former Miss Universe 2018, as our team member. Anusha Peterson, the creative director, is looking after the production of the pageant. Similarly, internationally celebrated beauty pageant mentor, Jonas Gaffud, who had formally trained pageant winners like Megan Young, Miss World 2013, will also be a part of our team as a consultant helping in the training of the contestants.
In your view, what does it take to win the crown of Miss Universe Nepal 2020?
Brave, bold and beautiful. We are looking for contestants who can embrace these qualities. Since the motto of Miss Universe is ‘confidently beautiful’, we want contestants who are really confident. Likewise, there’s also a misconception about the concept of beauty. It’s not only about looks. Beauty is also about being kind, wise, and having the willpower to be able to achieve anything.