Aishwarya Rai or Sushmita Sen is the name that often comes from many Miss India aspirants mouth that influenced them to take part in Miss India, but someone who actually made Miss India competition a real competition or made it more relevant is the former Miss India Madhu Sapre. Miss India owes a lot to Madhu Sapre. Infact, it wouldn’t be wrong to say many beauty queens aspirants and fans like me owes her for what she did to Miss India contest.
Madhu Sapre was an athlete and already a well known model who started modelling at a young age. She was 20 yrs old when she was crowned Miss India Universe. She had just two weeks to prepare for Miss Universe 1992 contest. Thanks to her experienced as a model and athletic figure, she really didn’t had much to worry about. Being used to pressure and limelights, she went to the Miss Universe contest just being herself i.e. a fun, sporty and spirited person.
At the Miss Universe preliminary contest, she came 7th in swimsuit competition with a score of 8.91, 11th place in evening gown competition with a score of 8.79 and 3rd place in the interview round with a whopping score of 9.15. This was enough to make her go through the top 10 of finale. Madhu placed 5th overall in the preliminaries with a score of 8.952. It wasn’t surprising to see her in the top 10 at the finale. She was full of confidence, had the spark and a very lively personality.
The swimsuit round was the first competition of the night, Madhu was the third contestant to walk this round in a tight pink swimsuits with embroidered collars which was the same for all the top 10 finalists. She gave a solid performance and had a perfect body to score high. She said, “Health and fitness is very important to me because my father has been an athlete and he raised me to be an athlete. So for the last five years I’ve been working out regularly and I’m not on a strict diet but I do keep watch of what I eat.” With a score of 9.321, she came second among the 10 finalists . Miss Venezuela Carolina Izsak was the top scorer (9.357).
The top 10 interviewed followed. Madhu Sapre was the third contestants to be interviewed. She came in a short white cocktail dress which had a flared skirt. The host, Dick Clark said that Madhu was a model, recent college graduate, and a junior national gold medalist in track and field. He then asked her, “You’re a very serious athlete. Who’s your coach?” “My father.” Madhu replied. “Is he difficult?” asked Dick. Madhu replied, “Not really, he’s like a friend. I fight with him but we are back together again but when he has to be strict, he’s very strict.” Dick asked, “Now you say you fight with him. What do you fight about with your father coach?” Madhu blushed at this and replied, “Most of the time, many times, I go, late night, out for parties and in the morning, I can’t get up for jogging so he’ll come and put water on me or, you know, pinch me or something so that time we fight!” Dick then asked Madhu if her father was in the audience. Madhu pointed him out. Dick went on to ask, “You’re obviously well-trained. What sort of person are you now with all of this heavy duty training?” Madhu replied, “I can say that I have learned a lot after coming here. And I know how to take care physically, how to be fit, but after coming here, I know how to behave and how much I have to improve upon more so I think I am not perfect, but little bit okay!” Dick responded, “I think you’re a lot of little bit okay. Thank you, Madhu Sapre, Miss India.” Her wits and fun personality earned her 9.508 to come in 5th place in this round behind Misses Colombia, Venezuela, Namibia, and Belgium.
After the interview round, Evening gown competition followed. Madhu wore a velvet red gown which had a beautiful sparkling, colorful, flowery pattern with a high cut slit up the skirt showing off her left leg. The beauty and grace with which she carried the gown was undeniable. This is one of the best gown any Miss India has worn in Miss Universe contest. She received 9.629 and placed second behind Miss Venezuela.
The top 6 announcement followed. They were Netherlands, Belgium, India, Venezuela, Namibia, and Colombia. Madhu came in 3rd with an average score of 9.486 behind Miss Venezuela and Miss Colombia.
The top 6 had to pick a judge and they had to answer the judge’s question. Madhu picked Robin who asked her, “If you could back into the past and change any event in history, which event would you choose and why?” Madhu answered, “If I could choose the past, I would love to go back to the day when the late prime minister, Mrs. Indira Gandhi was assassinated and she was killed and I would love to get her back again because I think she had a very dynamic personality and not only India but all over the world, they appreciated her for what work she did and I would definitely want her to come back.” A patriotic and emotional answer; she impressed the whole crowd and had the crowd cheering for her. Her intelligence and wits earned her 9.771 points placing her first among the top 6 finalists.
Madhu then moved to the top 3 where she faced a common question, “If you became leader of your country tomorrow, what is the first thing you would do?” She answered, “I think the first thing I’ll do is, I’ll open up a big, biggest, uh, I can say, sports track and field ground in India because I think we are lacking that and that’s the first thing I’ll do!” She gave the most and genuine answer among the top 3. The answer also reflected the person she was. Being an athlete, she knows the condition of sports and sportsperson. That’s what she felt but it cost her the crown.
When she was declared 2nd runner up, Madhu gracefully walked off stage with a smile as she was handed flowers. She didn’t seem to regret her answer and didn’t show any displeasure at being crowned a runner up. Madhu was enjoying the moment as could be seen from the different videos that was played throughout the contest. A sporty person who knew pressure and competition, she was truly enjoying the fun she had.
After the contest, she explained, “All the officials had told us that our answers had to be truthful and coming from the heart. Nobody told us we had to be politically correct. I said what my heart told me and I lost. According to me India has been in poverty for many years, so it was not going to suddenly change in one year by my becoming the prime minister. But there are other areas like art and sports in which we can improve. And being a sports girl I had suffered because we don’t have the equipment and the grounds in India. In the brief time you get to answer I wanted to say all this but perhaps because of my inadequacy in English, I could not express myself.”
When she came back to India, she had a plan and was determined to change the Miss India contest. She felt that if Indian women had to make a mark and win beauty pageants, it needed to change the way it was conducting the Miss India contest. Introducing many rounds, grooming, scouting for potential winners etc, all these proved to be lucky for India later. First, Madhu convinced Pradeep Guha – the National Director at that time about her plans and introducing of swimsuit round. The most difficult part was the introduction of swimsuit round. There were concerns about the number of participation if such round was introduced and there could be only four to five participants. Madhu having experienced international contest and having shared platforms with the best from around the world, she was determined and confident about what she felt was right. She told Pradeep to take those four girls, have the contest and train them.
Two years after Madhu’s convincing plans, India had its first Miss Universe and second Miss World crown. Then India went on to perform exceptionally well in all the contests they participated and got more International crown. Though swimsuit round were done behind closed door and as a preliminary contest, it made those who entered the contest to prepare before they participated and that they don’t come to Miss India just as aspirants but also as a real beauty queens. It also gave the contestants a taste of what International contests were like. In the end, it wasn’t just a pageant anymore; it was a real beauty pageant and a real Miss India contest.
Madhu Sapre might be remembered as a Miss India who was 2nd runner up at the Miss Universe 1992 contest, but she is more than that. She is a true beauty queen and real Miss India who used her experience as a stepping stone for her successors and a Sash that the world will take recognition of. She might not be mentioned as the Miss India who inspired others to take part in the contest, but we owe it to her for she gave our representatives a platform and opportunity that will help them later as they go on to participate in their international pageants. She might not have given an answer that the world wanted to hear, but she spoke the truth as the person she was, not as a beauty queen is expected to be. She is fearless, outspoken and a fighter, yet she is fun and lively. That makes her an endearing woman and a Miss India we can proudly say, “Yes, she is our Miss India.”