Saturday, August 30, 2014

Miss Tibet winner is from Wisconsin (video)

Amber Larson, Seth Auberon, Ashley Wells, CC Liu, Wisdom Quarterly; The World (
"Miss Tibet" Tenzing Lhamo was the only contestant in the war-torn region, not that she's ever been to the war-torn region. She lives in Madison, WI (Lobsang Wangyal/
"Nowhere to Call Home" a film by Joceyln Ford: a new perspective on Tibet (Forbes Asia)
When most people think of Tibet, they think of peaceful "Free Tibet" demonstrations, violent Chinese crackdowns, vocal protests abroad, shocking self-immolations, and Buddhist monks emerging from holy monasteries to join in the anti-Han Chinese resistance. People do not think of beauty pageants. But this summer, the Miss Tibet pageant crowned its twelfth winner. Miss Tibet No. 11 is from Wisconsin and, like many of the contestants, has never been to Tibet.

Shocking sexism: The name for "female" in Tibetan
translates as "inferior birth."

Sexism in Tibet: "Nowhere to Call Home"

A new documentary shows the hidden, sexism-ridden lives of Tibetan women
American reporter Jocelyn Ford only set out to snag some contact in inaccessible Tibet. Instead, when she sat down to talk to a Tibetan woman named Zanta, she ended up as part of her own story, experiencing Zanta's struggles and the deeply-ingrained sexism of Tibetan society.
The Story of "Miss Tibet"
The world's most magnificent pueblo is Potala Palace, Tibet's "Vatican" (Adam Lai/flickr)
Shocking monastic self-immolation suicide
(PRI AUDIO) How does we have a national beauty pageant when, according to some officials, we do not even have a nation? Or when the core identity of the nation might not really welcome a beauty pageant at all?

This Tibetan gompa is actually a pueblo in NM.
China considers Tibet to be part of China [a massive empire extending into the Himalayan plateau], not an independent country. And there are those who say the very idea of a beauty pageant betrays Tibet’s [animist Bon and monastic] Buddhist roots. In 2004, the prime minister of the government-in-exile declared it to be “un-Tibetan.” 

Though the [current] Dalai Lama does not seem to mind. He would just like to see the pageant be a little more equal in gender. [Young men in bathing suits? Some former baby novices or tulkus like that shocking scene in Unmistaken Child no one in the West talks about?]

"If more people want that, go ahead. I think it should not be only female, but male also," the Dalai Lama said.
Are these the sort of "contestants" the 14th Dalai Lama has in mind? (Groobo/flickr)
[Now why would a man in a men's monastic system, where only men can gain political prestige and power, not unlike the inner workings of the Vatican with its cardinals and bishops like the Tibetan rinpoches and lamas, which shares tastes in hats and ceremony, want to see handsome men in a pageant on display to be admired for their looks and nominal talents? Odd that.]
You going to sign up? - I'm thinking about it.
The Miss Tibet pageant was founded in 2002 by a journalist and event producer named Lobsang Wangyal. He started it, in his words, to give Tibetan women a platform to showcase their aspirations and [nominal] talents” -- and [of course] to bring international attention to Tibet. Tenzing Lhamo is Miss Tibet 2013.

Filmmaker Jocelyn Ford (Nowhere to Call Home) and Zanta, a Tibetan woman (
She’s never actually been there [to the country of Tibet or, perhaps, even the once-walled empire of China] though. And very few of the Miss Tibet contestants have. They have grown up scattered around the world  -- in India, Australia, Switzerland, and the U.S.
Tenzing spent her childhood in a Tibetan settlement in Southern India [where many Tibetans live in more or less permanent exile waiting for the right of return to a place they have never been. But not having been there, they nevertheless have recreated it in Himalayan India, particularly in Ladakh].

Do I think the young stars are mailed, your holiness? - No, are they males? (VSauce)
"I knew about the Miss India contest, and I always thought that was so cool. But we were, like, 'We’re not Indians; we can’t participate in all that,'" Lhamo said.
She first heard about the Miss Tibet pagent in 2002 after she moved to Madison, Wisconsin. "The Tibetan community is so small, nothing really gets around without everybody knowing about it."

You're Tibetan? Well, I'm Chinese!
Beauty pageant contestants will give lots of reasons why they’re competing: for the money, for their modeling career, for world peace [or at least an end to police brutality in racist parts of the U.S. and Chinese Tibet]. Tenzing Lhamo wanted to bring attention to the Tibetan people. And she thought the sash and crown could do it:
"If I go around saying, 'Hey! My name is Tenzing. Do you want to learn about Tibet?' People wouldn’t pay as much attention as if I say, 'Hey, I’m 'Miss Tibet,' and I want to talk about Tibet.'"
"Tibet Burning: Enough China"!
Last winter, she mustered the courage to apply [for the pageant] online. But when the organizer got in touch with her, she found out it wouldn’t be a typical pageant, with disco balls and dance numbers [There might be bathing suits, however, at least sexy dresses].
"He kind of hinted, 'You might not have any competition,'" she said. More (from PRI's The World with support from the BBC).

Hidden, sexism-ridden lives of Tibetan women

How terrible are sexism and misogyny
Veteran radio journalist Jocelyn Ford admits she had an ulterior motive when she sat down on a Beijing sidewalk to chat with a Tibetan woman selling jewelry. (This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.) Ford was trying to report about life in Tibetan areas of southwest China, which are generally off-limits to foreign reporters. She hoped the woman might have contacts who could help her out, so Ford bought a bracelet as an excuse to make conversation. But Zanta, a widowed migrant who had traveled to Beijing from a remote Tibetan village, had a very different understanding of that first meeting. “She concluded that since I was the first foreigner to stoop down and talk to her...that we must have been related in a past life," Ford says. More

Tibet was once a beautiful place, then the Han Chinese arrive (AP/Xinhua/Chogo)

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