By ANGUS MCDONALD,
Associated Press Writer
DHARMSALA, India - One of the four Miss Tibet contestants wore jeans and a T-shirt, but it rained, and that's a good omen. The first Miss Tibet competition got underway Thursday, despite lack of funds, last-minute judges and a dwindling number of participants.
The first beauty contest for the conservative Tibetan exile community started with the four contestants waving colored scarves on stage, then applying their makeup around a swimming pool.
From the original 30 applicants, only four remained after most dropped out because of pressure from family and friends who disapproved of such exposure in the tradition-minded community.
The swimsuit competition, which constitutes the first round, was to be closed to the public out of deference to local sensibilities. But photography was allowed.
Most women wear ankle-length skirts and long-sleeved blouses in the mountain town of Dharmsala, where the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader, leads an exile government.
Tibetan musicians sang in English, "She is the one, she is the one-one baby" as dozens of journalists filmed the young women. The mood was upbeat because of an out-of-season rainstorm in the morning. Tibetans believe that if a project is started in the rain, it will be showered with good luck.
Dharmsala normally sees so many journalists only for major announcements by the Dalai Lama.
There were three television crews, reporters from six newspapers and two international news agencies, a reporter and photographer from a major U.S. newsmagazine, a photographer from fashion magazine Marie Claire, and a couple of independent filmmakers.
As attention has increased, the number of contestants has dwindled. One of the final six couldn't get back from her holiday in Switzerland due to ticketing difficulties, and another dropped out at the last minute on Wednesday without disclosing a reason.
"We are not after numbers," said contest organizer Lobsang Wangyal. "We are after morality, ethics and respect. We are going to present a perfect Tibetan woman."
Finding judges proved a challenge as well. With the contest short of funds and unable to fly in the international beauty queens Wangyal had hoped for, alternatives were found: Indian journalist and Tibet commentator Vijay Kranti, and longtime Tibet supporter Dr. Kenneth Delbray from Scotland.
The contest concludes on Sunday with the crowning of Miss Tibet.
As of Thursday, the remaining contestants were Tenzin Deki, who is studying metallurgical engineering in Denver, Colorado, in the United States; Lhakpa Dolma, a teacher in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh; Dolma Tsering, who works as a model in New Delhi; and Tenzin Yangkyi, a college student in Dehra Dun, India.
Dolma Yangzom, a part-time model based in New Delhi, dropped out on Wednesday.