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October 20, 1997


Miss World Aishwarya RaiAishwarya Rai), Miss India/2 1994/ Miss World winner

…Mere minutes before the final results, standing on stage looking resplendent in her beautiful white gown, Aishwarya (Rai), like the other four finalists, was asked the definitive question: "What qualities should the Miss World 1994 embody?" With the memory of her final round defeat at the Miss India pageant, Miss World Aishwarya Rai Aishwarya paused and replied… As the other four finalists answered, Indians all over the world waited with bated breath. The second runner up was soon announced, followed by the first. Just when it seemed like it was all over, Aishwarya Rai heard her name loud and clear. Shock, disbelief and finally euphoria showed on her face. And it was certainly the most beautiful face in the world!…

In 1993, it was rumoured that she had decided to enter the Miss India contest and certain newspapers began endorsing her as the 'Face of 1993'. When she did enter in 1994, a spontaneous publicity campaign awaited her…

…In Goa, everything went right for Aishwarya in the first few days of the pageant. She had won the Miss Catwalk, Miss Photogenic and the important Miss Perfect 10. With each succeeding crown, the 23 other contestants began to get edgy, particularly with the last title, since it would count in the event of a tie. On the main day, nothing seemed to go right for Aishwarya. The swimsuit, her father's gift, simply disappeared and later, a valuable 'good luck' ring from her mother was misplaced by a friend whom she had given it for safekeeping. Then there was the much-publicised 'showdown' that took place backstage. According to Sushmita Sen, it began when the hair-dressers and make-up artists (who naturally knew Ash from her modelling days) spent all their time styling her and leaving the other girls waiting until 15 minutes before showtime. Angry and upset, Sushmita said she had an argument with The Times of India authorities and threatened to quit the pageant.

Aishwarya is polite but painstakingly diplomatic about the events of that night… "I never felt I was being given undue attention. In fact, I could see the girls backstage getting insecure and for two rounds, I styled my own hair. It was only for the evening gown entry that I required special attention and sat down for it, as did the other contestants. Unfinished, I just got up and ran onto the stage with my hair the way it was. That was definitely not the hairstyle I had planned. I know this and they know it, because it was not a complete hairdo."

Miss India, 1947, PramilaMiss India, 1947, Pramila                                        BACK

Excerpted from Pride of India by Persis Khambatta, Rs 1495, Parijat Media Limited, with the publishers permission. Special copies, signed by many of the Miss Indias and priced at Rs 5000, are also available. The proceeds of this special copies will go to the Missionaries of Charity.

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