23-yr-old LoiLoi from Manipur was declared the first runner-up, followed by 24-year-old Ragasya from Chennai, who was crowned the second runner-up.
The first-of-its-kind beauty pageant for the transgender community saw an overwhelming participation by people from all walks of life. Sixteen finalists represented major Indian states. The participants were chosen earlier after a rigorous audition involving more than 1,500 transwomen across India. All contestants went through a week-long grooming programme put together by various experts. The winner of the title will represent India in the most prestigious award for the community: Miss International Transqueen at Thailand.
Avleen Khokhar, a leading educator and grooming expert, had trained the finalists for the pageant. Talking about the initiative, Khokhar said, “Transgender women in India are being denied education and jobs due to persistent discrimination, despite the judgement passed by the Supreme Court last April, that there should be equal rights and protection given to transwomen. I have always felt the need of such platforms where the third gender is given an opportunity to embrace and empower themselves. We will also be looking at their overall persona, communication skills and passion for success through our mentoring
Gauri Sawant, actress and social activist who flew in from Mumbai to be on the jury, said, “This is the first organised pageant on the national level for transwomen after the Nalsa judgement, so I strongly believe that this is going to empower transsexuals and would inspire them to dream of winning the crown and represent their country and community on a international platform.”
After three rounds directed by show director Shaine Soni, eight contestants were shortlisted— the list included Navya ( Mumbai), Loiloi (Manipur), Ragasya (Chennai), Natasha ( Kolkata), Rocky (Bengluru), Ravaa (Manipur), Namita (Chennai) and Zarine Sheikh (Delhi).
Speaking about the event, Shaine said, “This is a great step towards progressive India where we believe in the existence of mankind rather than one’s gender, so it’s like celebrating what you are.”
The esteemed jury comprised of eminent experts that included activist Gauri Sawant; Sonal Mehta director, HIV Aids Alliance; actor Sushant Divgikar; Avleen Khokhar, cosmetologist and mind therapist; Varun Katyal, nutrition and beauty Expert; Hector Ravindra Dutt, principal, D.P.S. Rohtak; Indu Pandey, senior journalist; and RJ Simran Kohli.
“Transgenders are often made to think that they are not good enough. We want to change this. Our beauty pageant and its grooming sessions offer hope and is a symbol for change. We want transgenders to get respectable, mainstream work in fashion, film, TV, and alike avenues.”
The guests of honour were Col. Yogesh Abb, Manuj Sharma, film producer; Ratan Kaul, activist and fashion designer Sanjana Jon.
The event kicked off with a vibrant performance by Laeticia Phylliscia Raveena, Miss Transsexual International Australia 2017, who performed on the famous Lady Gaga track “ Born this Way”, followed by stunning dance performances by Sushant Divgikar ( Mr Gay World India 2014) and Anwesh Sahu ( Mr Gay World India 2016).
Underlining the importance of such events, Raveena said, “It has been a beautiful experience being with all these contestants and I guess this should continue as this would lead to the formation of a better India and a progressive India.”
Other awardees at the event included Shonali (Miss Charming Transqueen), Rohit (Miss Popular), Zarine Sheikh (Miss Intellectual), Bunty Mehra ( Miss Timeless Beauty), Laloy ( Miss Rampwalk), Rocky ( Miss Elegant), Ragasya ( Miss Fit), Natasha (Miss Photogenic), Eliza ( Best Costume), Navya (Miss Talented).
Miss Transqueen India is conceived by a Delhi-based woman, Reena Rai of Suhani Dreamcatchers.
Hopeful about bringing a change through such initiatives, Rai said, “The community is among the most backward in the country because they do not fit into the categories of the two recognised genders of men and women. I hope things change with this and then only I’ll feel that my mission is accomplished.
“Transgender people are often self-stigmatised, or lack confidence to pursue any career that they want to. They are often made to think that they are not good enough for anything besides begging or some menial work. We want to change this. Our beauty pageant and its grooming sessions offer hope and is a symbol for change. We want transgenders to get respectable, mainstream work in fashion, film, TV, and alike avenues.”
Opening up on how the idea of organising the pageant struck her, Rai revealed, “It all began when last year, I along with a close friend of mine Sushant Divgikar happened to attend a transgender event called hijra habba. It was there that the enormous amount of talent and beauty that these people possess struck me. And that was the day I decided to extend my support to the cause.”