The year 1994 will always be special for many Indians and pageant followers in India. It was the year when India won its first Miss Universe crown through the confident and elegant Sushmita Sen. This win brought recognition for India and beauty pageants in India got its due recognition. I was quite young that time but just a fan of beauty pageants who hardly knew much about it. The news of Sushmita Sen winning Miss India was flashed everywhere on TV and news channel. There was no live telecast of Miss Universe that time. And Internet wasn’t a big thing as it is today. I didn’t even know what internet was during those times. I watched with pride and fascination about her win on National TV Channel. I wish I had internet that time, I could have surfed everything about her first. Her journey to Miss Universe crown hasn’t been smooth. But she made it looked so easy through her confidence, intelligence and wits.
When she applied for Miss India contest in 1994, Aiswharya Rai who was already a well known face in the Indian fashion Industry applied for it too. Many applicants on hearing Aishwarya Rai was also going to be in the same contest, withdrew their application thinking that Aishwarya was going to win it anyway. Sushmita was one of them. Her mother encouraged her to go back to Miss India pageant and faced the competition.
At the Miss India contest, Sushmita was nowhere near the favourites. It was Aishwarya all the way. Aish was already a star and the one to beat. Sushmita on the other hand was a dark horse who was quietly working her way towards the crown. Then on the final night she made it to the last round i.e. question and answer round. She was asked: “Who in your opinion has been the most deserving Miss India you know and why?” Her answer was, “Well, I really feel it would be very partial to only one name because whoever have been Miss India till date have all been all very nice”
Then there was a tie between her and Aishwarya Rai who both had scored 9.33. This was the first ever tie in Femina Miss India history and Sushmita had to face another question and answer round along with the other finalists. This time her question was, “What do you know about the textile heritage about your country and how old it has been. And what do you prefer to wear personally and what does your wardrobe look like?” Such a long question but the smart woman knew how to answer them with confidence even faced with such questions.
Sushmita: “Can I answer your questions in sections. So the first question was how much do I know about the textile industry in india?” The Judge responded correcting her it was textile heritage of this country… “Well I think it started off with Mahatma Gandhi’s Khadi and it has gone a long way since then but the basic of the textile heritage lies in there.” She replied and asked “What was your second question?” The judge replied, “My second question is what does your wardrobe look like?” “I wouldn’t say it Khadi but yes it is a mixture of a lot of traditions. I love wearing ethnic outfit Indian traditional outfit because I personally feel I can carry them a lot well but otherwise I do have a lot of western outfits. That’s what it consist of.” That’s how she ended her last questions.
Even when faced with multiple questions and asking questions to be repeated for her, she carried herself so well with a smile on her face, para phrasing the questions and answering it without showing any nerve. Her presence of mind, quick thinking and spontaneous wit were enough to win her the Miss India crown. And she won the crown with a point of 9.41 over Aishwarya who scored 9.39.
Now, she had won a contest over the favourite Aishwharya Rai. It was an achievement of sort for any girl who thought they were underestimating themselves. She later justified her triumph by winning Miss Universe crown. But her road to Miss Universe crown wasn’t an easy one. She hardly had time to prepare for Miss Universe and coming from a middle class family, she couldn’t afford designer dress for Miss Universe but that didn’t deter her ambitions since she had already faced that before winning Miss India. Her mother had actually trimmed her socks to make her hand gloves for the pageant. Even the final outfit that she wore for the Miss Universe wasn’t a designer one. It was stitched in a local tailor shop. This is what she had said as reported by Deccan Chronicle “I had just four dresses that I bought from Delhi’s Sarojini Nagar market and decided to go ahead. It was surreal when I won Miss Universe India and then went on to win the international pageant. For days after that, I kept jumping all around my room with the crown on my head!”
At the Miss Universe contest, she was still raw and had a girl next door’ image when compared with other beauties from around the world. That makes her so special. She breaks the stereotype of beauty that comes with most of the beauty pageant winners. Her pretty smile, pencil-thin frame and towering height helped her to get noticed while her poise and spontaneous wit were qualities that made her an instant crowd favourite. She had mentioned in one her interview that she was confident of winning as long as she made it past the swimsuit round. Let’s have a look at how she did well in the interview.
The top 10 interview
Bob Goen(host), “You said in the parade of nation India being the country where love is the essence of life. Can you talk on that?” Sushmita: “India is a multicultural nation where people practice many different religions and speak 168 different languages and that to some extent, there’s peace and people live in harmony in spite of their differences which is very difficult.” Bob also asked being a public figure in India how did she manage for herself. Sush replied, “Every human being must have two faces. It’s very essential – one which you have for people in public and one which you have for yourself because when these two different things when you mix these two, it makes you a person which has just a personality which fits for everyone not just for oneself. I think it is very essential one should have it and I have it too.”
The top 6 Interview
Florence LaRue – “If you have time and money to embark upon a great adventure, what would it be?” Sushmita answered, “Well, I think adventure is something I enjoy from within me and children are the little thing that can bring adventure in your life. And If I have the time and money, I would do something, I wouldn’t say I would do something for the children who are downtrodden, any child with whom I can go out and have fun.”
The Final Question: “What’s the essence of being a woman?”
Sushmita: “Just being a woman is God’s gift. The origin of a child is a mother, a woman. Woman is sharing, she shows a man what sharing, caring, and loving is all about. That is the essence of a woman.”
Her magnetic personality and the depth of her voice when she speaks or the artistic way with which she carries herself were the qualities that helped her win the crown. Well spoken and erudite, her presence of mind and charisma shows the woman she is.
Today, Sushmita is a single mother of two adopted kids. True to what she said during her question and answer round at the Miss Universe contest, she showed beauty queens are not just here to speak but to walk the talk and that their reign might end in a year but they will always continue to carry forward the true purpose of being a beauty queen. She perfectly sums up the relationship she had with her daughter when she said: “Watching my daughters grow up is the ultimate romance.”
When one hears Sushmita, elegance, royalty, confidence, talent and warmth is all we can think of. To these days, many girls still watch her winning clips, waving like her or watching her answer questions so confidently because she is an inspiration to many beauty pageant aspirants. Humble, empowering and down to earth, she is a Miss India everyone wants to be, but there will be only one Sushmita Sen.