The Indian Memory Project has surely blown up much more than it was expected and is a wonderful project that perfectly captures the rich and diverse history of India.

While browsing through a few images in this archive, I came across the one about Veena Sajnani who won the Miss India pageant of 1970. Which then made me reflect on the history of beauty pageants in India and the interesting trivia related to them that not many know about.

The Interesting Story Of 1970’s Miss India

Sajnani who was a fashion model during the 70s and used to tour India with the Femina group working at fashion shows.

When one day she was told that she was not needed for a fashion show she had been preparing for, Sajnani was disheartened as she felt it was due to some mistake on her part. But the reality was otherwise as she had just been chosen for the Miss India 1970 and was selected to participate in the coveted beauty pageant.

The interesting part is that Sajnani had never really applied for the pageant herself, instead, it was her close friends, Persis Khambatta and Meher Mistry that felt she had a good chance to win and so applied for the contest in her name.

An interesting story from her during this time was when she was called to the Times of India office with her swimsuit and her photograph in it was taken. Turns out that during that time in order to save the girls from the embarrassment of having to walk the ramp half naked, the judges would make their decision based on these photographs of the models in their swimsuits.  The funny part as reported in her statement to the Indian Memory Project was that “Instead, during the interval, the judges came backstage to check us out and since it was dark they had flashlights and our photos in their hands! Yes, it was very funny indeed. We all giggled through the ordeal but in retrospect it was better than walking out half naked under full lights- a very scary prospect to say the least.”

Long story short, Veena Sajnani did go on to win the title of Miss India 1970 and then later continued her modeling career.

Read More: Deconstructing Beauty: India’s First Transgender Modelling Agency

Interesting Trivia About The History Of Beauty Pageants In India

This story revealed some very interesting trivia about beauty pageants in India and made me search down some more of them in order to see how these contests have changed since then:

1. As per Sajnani’s story in her time as a model, she used to earn Rs. 150 per show which considering the time was an extremely high amount.

2. She even relayed an interesting account of how different the swimsuit round was during the 1970s. Instead of the models walking the ramp in front of a big crowd and flashing lights and cameras, during this period the selected participants were called down to the Times of India office were photographed wearing their swimsuits. It was these photographs that the judges saw later on and made their decisions based on.

3. India had to wait 28 years to win a major crown at the international level. It was in 1966 that Reita Faria was the first woman to win the Miss World title and it was only with the win of Sushmita Sen as Miss Universe in 1994 that broke the drought.

4. India is also the second most successful participant around the world when it comes to beauty pageants seeing as our Miss Indias have in total won a grand number of 34 international titles.

Image Credits: Google Images


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