Last month I visited Dharamsala, India, home of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan Government in Exile, and thousands of Tibetan refugees. It was there I met local bad boy, Lobsang Wangyal, founder of the Miss Tibet contest. Lobsang is a cross between Sergei Diaghilev and Jim Morrison, with a little Bert Parks thrown in for good measure.Link
When I first heard about the Miss Tibet contest I thought someone was pulling my leg. Tibetan society is charming but conservative, and the thought of Tibetan hotties mincing down the catwalk in their skimp challenged all credibility. But it turns out to be true. So true, in fact, that it's managed to work the Chinese government into a lather. The current Miss Tibet, Tashi Yangchen, was entered into the Miss Tourism world pageant held in Zimbabwe this past February. When the Chinese got wind of it they demanded Miss Tibet be thrown out of the competition, since China had invaded and occupied Tibet since 1950 and declared it to be non-existent and part of China. Since that time approximately 1.2 million Tibetans have been killed by the Chinese army, but who's counting?
At any rate, Tashi got chucked from the competition but exited with a lot of class. This year's Miss Tibet contest will be held in October in Dharamsala, India. The region is home to some of the world's best hiking and most striking natural beauty. I'm planning on making the trek and supporting the pageant, which BTW could use some sponsors. Any rich, liberal Buddhists out there?
Update: Stuart Sands says Tibetans are not an uptight people:
There was a comment in the piece on the Miss Tibet Pageant that stated “Tibetan society is charming but conservative”. While not an expert, I have spent some time in Tibet proper (as opposed to Tibetan communities in exile in India) and was surprised (at first) at the bawdiness and rawness of some of the humor, shared by men and women equally. They did and said things in public that I would think twice about doing here. It is certainly a charming culture and definitely there are conservative aspects to it, but, from what I witnessed, it is also an “earthy” culture and not prudish.