She rules our heart and makes us fall in love with her again and again. She gave us hope and confidence in her that we can bring back the Miss Universe title. Everyone is already in awe with her wit and intelligence. She is a woman who is in complete control of herself and shows us if we have faith and determination to win, we will succeed and that makes us beautiful inside out. She is Lara Dutta.
The year 2000 was a special year for India in beauty pageant world. Lara Dutta gave us the Miss Universe crown and then followed by Dia Mirza at Miss Asia Pacific and Priyanka Chopra at Miss World. Having seen Miss World and Miss Universe, I thought Lara was more impressive in Miss Universe. Not that Priyanka Chopra was the lesser. Priyanka charmed us in Miss India and Miss World in her own way but for me Lara impress me the most.
She had said she applied for Miss India 1999 and her focus was on winning the Miss Universe title and nothing else. But she withdrew her application because if she ever was going to become Miss India, she was going to be Miss India of the millennium. So the following year she applied and she became the Millennium of Miss India. Such was her confidence that one wonders Can we have another Miss India like her again. The answer is a big NO.
At Femina Miss India, 2000, the night belongs to her. From the beginning to the end, it was all about Lara. She was so good on stage. During the opening round there were photographers taking a photo shoot of the contestants walking on the stage. Lara did it like a supermodel. From her catwalk to her poise to her expression she screamed Miss Universe all over her face. It was like watching an International Pageant. I love the way she turns and moves, stop to pose and walks away from the chasing photographers. Look at her expression at that moment, the attitude and the confidence of a queen who is so control of herself and so calm despite the look-alike chaos on stage, it was mind-blowing and impressive.
At the top 10 interview round she impressed everyone and got the loudest cheer. Miss India Universe was written all over her face. The rests were fighting for the 2nd and 3rd place. Even the host Malaika Arora Khan nodded in awe of her answers in between. Waheeda Rehman asked her, “Is it really difficult to be a beautiful person?” Lara replied, “As someone else down this line, one of my contestants said ‘beauty lies within you’ and I think that if you are a beautiful person from inside, if you have a belief in yourself, if you trust yourself and you have confidence and determination to fight the odds, the stamina to last forever, conviction from within, a dream to be victorious that makes you a beautiful person and it’s not that difficult.” The judges and the crowd cheered with a thunderous applause.
The top 5 came; Lara was called on stage, she got the loudest cheered again. There was a common question: ”If you were a police officer in the Eden garden, who would you punish for the original sin – Adam, Eves or the serpent?” Lara: “If I was the police officer in the garden of Eden, I’ll take all three of them to the court. Every person in live is faced with temptation. You must be able to decide for yourself, make your own choices and live by your own rules and above all fear God cause he is everywhere.”
Oh my God ! Look at her, the way she said it so confidently and convincingly with a smile on her face. That was brilliant and Even Malaika the host couldn’t agree more. There was a tie, and she had to go through a same common question again. It must have been nerve wrecking for the top 5 girls but among them Lara was the most confident who was so calm and ease with herself. It was like she owned the stage. Of course, She did!
The common question this time was “If ignorance is bliss then why do we seek knowledge?” Lara: ”Knowledge is something every man is endowed with and it is upto him to make use of it. Thirst for knowledge drives every man. They say every man dies but very few men really lived. And what is life without knowledge. Would you go through life without passing something on to your children?”
The way she spoke and delivered her answers, it was so theatrical and her endings to her answers were interesting. Her command over English and the way she pauses after each sentence and pronounce each word so clearly is really impressive. It is like she is reading out a literature. I haven’t seen any beauty queen who spoke like her apart from former Miss World Diana Hayden. Her husky voice is to die for.
She won Miss India Universe and was all set to conquer the Universe. The judges and many people who were associated with her during her training thought she was definitely going to win Miss Universe. There was no doubt about that. Many praised for her dedication, determination and focus during pre and post Femina Miss India training. Lara knew she was going to compete with the best of the best at Miss Universe. She worked hard and it paid off. But for me the irony is that I didn’t find any change in her. She was still the same beauty queen I saw at Miss India unlike other beauty queens who transformed. She was the the same Lara who was breathtaking, stunning, gorgeous, and witty and the list goes on. At the Miss Universe contest she was a Queen who was just waiting to conquer another territory which wasn’t familiar with her wits and charm. Then she became a favourite of the press and fans. The only thing left for her was to speak on Miss Universe stage and wins people who weren’t familiar with her. The final night came, I was all excited and praying hard she wins. The stage was spectacular and the opening number with the delegates in white dress dancing around with the glow balls. It looked like a tribute to the Goddess Aphrodisiac which was incidentally the birthplace of Aphrodite also known as the Lady of Cyprus i.e. in Cyprus. Lara definitely matched upto being an Aphrodite goddess – the goddess of beauty, love and desire.
The top 10 were announced. This time the top 10 interview was axed and instead there was an introductory opening walk with a background voice-over introduction about the delegates. Lara did so well in this segment. She walked like a supermodel and she owned the stage with her runway skills. The way she moved and stop to pose was truly beautiful in a dramatic way and eye-catching indeed. In the swimsuit round, she was amazing. I love her perfect toned body. I think she is the only Miss India after Madhu Sapre to have such a perfect swimsuit body and till now no Miss India can match up to her – be it her runway skills or her toned body. Miss India’s in the past always failed either in swimsuit or in Evening gown round. I am sure Lara knows all this and prepared herself to be the best she can be at Miss Universe.
In the swimsuit round the background song was fun, peppy and catchy. She matched up her ramp walked with the background score. Her walked was so vibrant and when she stopped to pose bringing her right leg behind her left leg she was vivacious. No wonder she topped the
swimsuit round and won Oscar De la Renta Best in Swimsuit. In the evening gown round, she wore a red gown with a scarf around her wrist. Lara definitely have a stage presence and knows how to project herself on stage and how to walk in each different round. She chose to walk a bit slower but calmly so that she was in tune with the slow and romantic song ‘Careless Whisper.’ This is what I called true beauty queen who knows how and what to deliver at each round. She exudes warmth, elegant and grace. I love the way she works her gown while posing at the centre stage. It was splendid to see her placing her scarf lying out open and let it flow freely and smoothly away from the gown. That was extraordinary. Who can forget that she carried the red dress so elegantly it just shined on her and those shining coming out from her gown reflects her personality so well.
Then at the top 5, she showed why she should win and deserved the Miss Universe title. Sinbad asked why she wanted to do skydiving. Adventurous Lara explained that she clocked in so much time as a passenger on a plane since both her father and sister were pilots that she wanted to try skydiving. When asked about women politicians in comparison to men, Lara responded that the difference lies in the degree of sensitivity carried by the women and women in India are very strong and are very well-educated (those that are educated) and are standing shoulder to shoulder with men and making a mark in their own field. She also was asked to demonstrate a classical Indian dance called ‘Bharatanatyam’ but she explained that she couldn’t do it in the gown she was wearing since she needed to squat to dance and she explained the concept behind that particular style of dance and showed three hand gestures that are part of the dance. She had such poise and eloquence. After this round people who weren’t familiar with her got to see her wit and intelligence side of her besides her beauty and charm. She was definitely the one to beat. She got the loudest cheered like her Miss India days. There was no stopping for her. She was there to win and she wasn’t coming back without a crown.
The Final question, “Right now there’s a protest that had been staged in outside the stadium posing pageants as an affront to women. Convince them that they are wrong.” Lara impressed the judges with her answered, “Pageants like Miss Universe give us young women a platform to foray in the fields that we want to and forge ahead, be it entrepreneurship, be it the armed forces, be it politics.” And added, “It gives us a platform to voice our choices and opinions and it makes us strong and independent that we are today.” When she took the microphone from Sinbad, she pulled in the audience and exudes so much of warmth and confidence. She knows how to work on the audience.
When Lara and Claudia from Venezuela were the last two standing, it was like Claudia was telling Lara it was she who was the winner. And she did. She became India’s 2nd Miss Universe. Before leaving for Miss Universe she had said she would come back with the crown. Boy! I love that confidence of her. She was so focused. She did came back with the crown. Simi Garewal on the popular talk show ‘Rendezvous with Simi Garewal” asked her, “What’s been easier – winning the miss universe title or navigating Bollywood?” She replied, “Winning the miss universe title was easier because I came from the glamour industry and I was already a model. It wasn’t very difficult to go out there to be articulate, present yourself well, and look good. You know it’s a lot more my cup of tea.”
Do you know despite being so competitive she is also very helpful. During Miss India contest, former Miss World, Priyanka Chopra had said during Miss India contest she didn’t know anything about make-up and Lara helped her with all the make-up. Simi questioned her, “You
help her and taught her how to do her make-up. And you also took Dia under your wing… how unusual and how generous.” Lara said, “With me, you keep your focus is where you wanted it to be. My entire focus was winning Miss India Universe title and Miss Universe. The entire focus is there but at the same time you don’t forget that you’re human you know and achievements or failures without trying to sound morbid but once you’re gone, aren’t really going to matter. Your achievements or your failures, you take nothing with you and you get very few moments in life to really reach out and to do something for someone and those are the moments that make life. They do and if I can’t do that than I am not living and I don’t want any of it if I can’t have that, cause that’s most important thing to me.” So can we say Priyanka and Dia won partly because of her? I guess so. Lara is, in fact, very close to both of them. There is mutual respect and admiration for all them. Lara is now an actress, producer, director and owns a boutique. She has worked in several hit movies and has been critically praised in some movies for her acting power. Some of her notable performance in movies include Andaaz, Mumbai Se Aaya Mera Dost, Masti, Kaal, No Entry, Dosti, Dosti: Friends Forever, Zinda, Partner, Challo Delhi etc. She is married to Men’s Double Tennis Superstar, Mahesh Bhupathi and has a daughter.
Lara Dutta is a gem. There won’t be no one like her and no one can fill her shoes. She is someone who has great wit and humour, remarkably intelligent and genuinely warm. Many Miss India’s aspirants might say they want to be like her but the truth is no one can be like her. Beauty queens like Lara are born once and is rare. Many Miss India these days dream of winning international title but they don’t have the determination, belief or conviction to achieve like Lara does. While others may dream of becoming Miss India and the stardom that follows but for Lara it was about only winning Miss India and Miss Universe and nothing else. If you can do that everything else will follow and come to you. That’s something only Lara can have. Beautiful, strong, intelligent woman, she is the best.