An open letter to the Miss India SA pageant organisers: iLIVE

03 October 2011 - 14:56 By Nikita Ramkissoon
The Miss India Worldwide 2011 pageant held in May this year. File photo.
The Miss India Worldwide 2011 pageant held in May this year. File photo.

Dear organisers of Miss India South Africa.

I have a few concerns about the Miss India South Africa pageant, which I saw on Africa Magic last night.

I am usually anti beauty pageants, but understand the demand for them, and their appeal, so this is not an attack on beauty pageants in general, rather a criticism of the Miss India South Africa event in particular.

1. It was very badly filmed. It was almost unwatchable. The quality of video was shocking, the sound even more so. It looked and sounded like a Grade 0 Nativity Play video. The camera operators did not follow the participants on stage and zoomed in and out randomly. The cutting for the repeat looked as if there was a handycam being switched on and off. The music in between was badly cut, and the photo collage looked horrible and unprofessional. There should be more than one camera operator and more than one camera. There should be a boom for sound, not just the camera's microphone. The acoustics at Durban's City Hall are amazing. Utilise the natural sound of the space and enhance it for video. The lighting was bad, being just the normal stage and house lights. The technology isn't expensive.

2. The organisation seemed like someone from a high school theatre group was in charge. There was no stage direction and it looked as if rehearsals were rushed, if any took place. Nobody knew where they were meant to be at what time, where to enter from and where to go. The presenters standing at the podium looked like MCs for a wedding of 1 500 people at Orient Hall. It just looked ugly and unprofessional. The sashes were awkwardly placed, the bouquets too big and they were given bags to carry on stage as prizegiving, which was so awkward. That should be done after the show.

3. The presenters did not have proper articulation and were reading from sheets of paper, which rustled and created a horrible echo on audio. They were not rehearsed and they seemed as if they had no clue who was who and what was going on in the pageant. The layout of the stage made it look like a complete mess. Notice that there is no branding on international pageants, because all of that is in the entrance foyer. And for goodness' sake, sweep and mop the stage before use. It looked filthy.

4. The participants themselves were embarrassing to say the least. I dare say, they portrayed Indian South African women as cheap and stupid. The modelling was unprofessional. Most of them did not know how to walk in a sari, let alone model in one. They looked awkward and the saris looked as if they were draped in a hurry and the blouses were made by a fly-by-night dressmaker. Some of the girls hunched and were not told how to stand still onstage. There was no uniformity of movement or aesthetic on stage when all the contestants were on stage at once.
The Q&A section was a total nightmare. Firstly, the questions were idiotic and brainless; as if they were aimed at 12-year-olds. There were no questions of substance and the answers were even worse. Even smaller pageants like Miss Teen USA are rehearsed. The contestants know the questions beforehand and have an idea of what they are going to say so that they at least sound vaguely intelligent on stage. The judges fumbled with questions and some questions were not clear, being phrased very badly. The contestants should be trained in basic public speaking before they speak.
The talent section was downright disgusting. I cannot fathom how any self-respecting person can, in all good conscience, let another person go on stage and make an utter fool of themselves. Majority of those girls cannot dance, sing or act and they were allowed to do so. There was no organisation there and the mixing of three different songs, afro-Indian mess-ups and bad sound added to the misery of this section. The girls should be guided as to where their talents lie and how to use it on stage elegantly and flawlessly. The filming did them no favours. Also, most were dressed so awfully, I felt sorry for them.

5. The awards themselves are superficial and the prizes are superfluous. Scrap the beauty products and offer a scholarship. Leave out the 'hair' category and include a general knowledge quiz. Something that will inspire these young girls to aspire to something other than looking like a fake Aishwarya Rai. Also, it seemed as if our religion was being beaten, too. Hinduism is about humility. I saw none of that in the pageant.

I was embarrassed to be of Indian heritage watching the show. I felt as if my culture, heritage and people were being let down and dragged through the mud. Indians all over the world are known for being the best in their field. A large percentage of NASA is Indian. Amitabh Bachchan was mentioned as one of the actors of the century in Time Magazine. Lata Mangeshkar is celebrated as a mother of the nation. Non-resident Indians (NRIs) like Bally Sagoo, Deepa Mehta, Lisa Ray, VS Naipaul - to name a few - have all done India proud all over the world.

South Africa is a mine for Indian talent and expertise. But it is because of amateur events like this that Indians are portrayed as complete idiots. There was even a hashtag on Twitter yesterday, "Jersey Shore vs Miss India SA".

Beauty pageants, in general, are about fakeness. At least rehearse the darned thing and do it properly.

An embarrassed NRI