The Miss Kerala event has tided over controversies to come out stronger, bigger and better, finds out SHILPA NAIR ANAND

As the curtain goes up on the latest edition of the Vivel Miss Kerala 2008 contest, it is a good time to look back with wonder at the change the contest has been witness to.

The contest which began in 1999 has come a long way in terms of not just the professionalism of the participants but also the attitude of Malayalis towards beauty contests or rather participation in these contests.

Parents interested

“With the latest edition of the contest we have parents calling up and making enquiries about how to get their daughters into the show,” says Harish Babu, managing director of Impresario, the company behind the event.

Apparently this edition too has several participants (Malayalis) from India and abroad. The prelims of the contest are scheduled to be held on July 1 at Le Meridien hotel. A pointer to the fact that the event has grown is the fact that the event saw auditions in Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai and Delhi.

Interestingly all the Miss Keralas have been crowned wearing the Kerala sari, looking the typical ‘Malayali Manka’, after all it is Miss Kerala. But the grooming is such that it could match any of the beauty events held anywhere in the country. The only condition being that one of the parents of the participants has to be a Malayali, there are of course the conditions vis-À-vis age, height etc.

The second Miss Kerala (2000) Ranjini Haridas who has made a name for herself as television personality is stumped when asked what she would be if not a Miss Kerala. “I have been a Miss Kerala for ever since I remember. I was pretty young then, it was a good time for it to happen to me. We had loads of fun at the contest,” says Ranjini. More than all the fun she is grateful for the confidence that participating in the contest gave her. A fact that Miss Kerala 2004, Reshma George agrees with. “The whole experience was totally different and wonderful. I had no prior experience with fashion but it was a great experience. The amount of confidence that I gained from the show was amazing, it helped me in my dance (Bharatanatyam) too,” says Reshma.

When she participated in the contest she was into her second year engineering, subsequently she completed her course and got herself a Masters in Business Administration as well. Academics seems so far away from all the glitz and glamour that comes attached with being a beauty queen.

“The priority was always academics, everything else was secondary. The one year that I was Miss Kerala I made sure that things were scheduled in such a way that they did not interfere with my studies. It was an honest effort,” says Reshma who has bagged a job with TCS. The Miss Kerala tag is a stepping stone to not just a career in the glamour business but in the real world of jobs and interviews. “When you are at an interview, people just nod through the whole thing but the moment you say ‘Miss Kerala’ people just sit up, literally, and take notice.”

Miss Kerala 2007, Rohini Idicula vouches for the fact that “the Miss Kerala contest focuses on your overall personality rather than external beauty or the quality of your clothes.” During the run up to the contest she spent her time reading up on the culture and society of Kerala. For the law graduate too the confidence that the contest instilled has been a blessing. “The contest and the title has been the biggest blessing in my life and I have been able to become more mature in taking decisions, while interacting with people and am ready to take on the world with a smile.” Rohini is involved in social work and models as well.

Stop right there before you crack yet another ‘I am Mother Teresa’s re-incarnation’ joke, these are ladies who are different.