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Readers' Comments on "Miss Himalaya 2012: an ugly beauty in Tibetan exile"
The officially stated purpose of the event is "to bring women from the entire Himalayan region onto one platform to celebrate the beautiful cultures, people, and nature of the Himalayan region.' However, since the creation of beauty pageants in exile in 2002,...
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Location: Australia
Subject: Organiser of Miss Himalaya & Miss Tibet
Jan 08 2013 02:00 PM

I found this response from Mark Gould regarding Lobsang Wangyal, that may be of interest to everyone here.

An open Letter to LOBSANG WANGYAL and those considering entering MISS TIBET 2013

Dear Lobsang Wangyal and Miss Tibet Friends,

Like an essayist trained in an English school, Mr Wangyal begins his letter in defence of his style of his running of Miss Tibet with a quote – not from a man of peace like his own revered 14th Dalai Lama or Ghandi, but from one of England’s great modern warlords, Sir Winston Churchill, the original British Bulldog.

However Mr Wangyal’s thoughts as expressed in his letter show that he has learned little from Sir Winston’s words. Perhaps he could take advice from his own leader and practise his philosophies.

“In our struggle for freedom, truth is the only weapon we possess.” – HH the 14th Dalai Lama

I am a documentary maker. My profession is to tell stories, observed with the tools of light and sound. Recording tools do not lie. People do.

No one knows this better than exiled Tibetans, who live daily with the excruciating pain of having their great country’s history rewritten again and again, by the Chinese Government. There is no doubt that in this historical divide that Tibet has the high moral ground. My observation is that Tibetans know this and generally occupy that space with dignity, humility and introspection.

There are of course exceptions to this. Mr Lobsang Wangyal is, in my opinion, one of those exceptions. I learned this from observing him closely in his self-created habitat – the annual Miss Tibet Pageant.

When I first met Mr Wangyal some years ago, I really liked him. He can be engaging, charming, apparently politically committed and most unusually for a Tibetan man – flamboyant, cheeky, unconventional – and as well he is a great admirer of the opposite sex – not a bad thing in a man.

We shared some worldly values – and I respected his strategy for getting Tibet onto the front pages of world media. His strategy is simple, western and direct. Pretty girls in bikinis make a front page story anywhere. Sex sells – the first rule of advertising. Well done Lobsang - the story of Tibet needs to be told and retold. Even though this strategy is frowned upon by conservative Tibetan society, Lobsang revels in the spotlight of controversy and ploughs on with his head held high – after all, it is for the ‘cause’.

He has been doing this for over 10 years, despite community disapproval. Now the Miss Tibet Pageant is an accepted, although marginal, institution in the exile capital of Dharamsala in India. Every year, he gets Tibet on the front pages of papers and websites, national and international. Well done Mr Wangyal.

I approve of Miss Tibet. Why not have some fun? Well run, it could be all that Mr Wangyal wants it to be. Transparent, honest, well organised and political. Mr Wangyal’s stated dream is to have a Pageant that empowers Tibetan women, give them a platform and a voice on the world stage – and all from a Himalayan hill station in fairly remote North India.

Mr Wangyal’s articulated rationale is that in Dharamsala, there is little ‘creative’ outlet for young women and little by way of entertainment in general. He is right. Dharamsala is a serious place, a town often in mass mourning, a town of political activity and serious Buddhist action, where educating the next generation of young exiles and dealing with the weighty business of the Chinese occupation is the main focus. In Dharamsala, survival of Tibetan culture in a rapidly changing world is everything. Mr Wangyal in his own way, is a contributor to this.

However, having known Mr Wangyal for some years now and observed him in action, I have come to the conclusion that his mode of operation is far from healthy and a long way from his stated ideals.

In reply to Mr Wangyal’s open letter I would like to address the raft of assertions made by Mr Wangyal, in case they become, like Tibetan history, assets of (his) misguided revisionism.
1. Yes I wanted to make a film about Miss Tibet. What a great story.. a hilltop mountain town, - modernity and a great ancient Buddhist culture meet head on. A struggling youthful diaspora try to find their identity in a modern world, that has largely forgotten their cause. A place where generational change is happening and power is devolving from the elder statesmen born in Tibet to a new generation born and educated outside Tibet. Dharamsala is an exciting town of contrasts and stories. When I first met Mr Wangyal, I asked his permission to make a film about his unlikely beauty pageant. He was most enthusiastic. I interviewed him several times over different visits to garner show reel material and understand his way of operating.

2. To make this film for an Australian broadcaster I needed an Australian Tibetan girl to enter. After 3 years of seeking and few false starts I found one. She was not ‘recruited’ – but recommended by Tibetan friends. It was her decision to commit herself to going. Her burning desire was to win – to give herself a platform to speak to the Tibetan cause. Ngodup Dolma was well qualified. She was born in Tibet, walked across the Himalaya aged 9, was educated in India and eventually came to safe haven in Australia, where she completed a nursing degree. She is articulate, well-spoken in at least 4 languages and skilled in Tibetan performing arts. A hard working, attractive, talented all-rounder who is very active in her community in Melbourne. A great ambassador in the making.

3. Yes, I helped her with some of her journey expenses, but by no means all. Dolma took considerable financial risk to do this, taking some months off work at the beginning of her nursing career, something she could not afford to do. She has NO family backup. However I did not train and groom her, but did introduce her to some supporters who helped her.

4. Anyone who knows Dolma, will know that Dolma is very much in control of her life, her look and her ambition. The film was made without subsidy – from my own pocket. The return$ from the ABC sale were not enough to pay my crew and the project still owes me money. Hopefully this will come from further sales and I will be able to pay those who contributed. I have already paid Mr Wangyal.

5. Also anyone who understands observational documentary making will appreciate that one cannot project an outcome, merely follow a process. It is not in the film-makers interest to invest emotionally in the outcome. A story unfolds and cannot be controlled by the observer. That is the beauty of documentary.

6. The reportage of the Pageant is not negative, the reportage of Mr Wangyal’s behaviour is, because he behaved appallingly. Mr Wangyal condemned himself through lying and laziness. It is all on camera. His organisation was a complete shambles.

7. His main platform for credibility, was that there were to be NO Tibetan judges – so there could be no accusations of nepotism. However in his final tally formula, the ‘pageant’ judges marks amounted to 25% of the final result. The other 75% was totally in his hands – either people who worked for him or his own ‘Director’s prerogative. Most insidious was the evaluation given by his so called ‘chaperone’ – a female who worked for him and lived with the girls. She was not a pleasant person, who frequently belittled the girls and brought some to tears like an old fashioned schoolteacher. (Her modus operandi reminded me of the Chinese practice of older females reporting on the menstrual irregularities of younger women in the same housing block, just in case they breached the one child policy. Totally Stalinist!)

8. There was no schedule, other than ‘you will be available to me 4/7’. The young ladies had no idea, when they were needed or not. When asked for a schedule, Mr Wangyal replied that is NOT the Tibetan way. From other work, I have done with Tibetans I know that is not the case.

9. The entrants could not plan private time, whether to rehearse, go to the beauty parlour or find that last minute accessory for their costume. Some wanted to rehearse privately. They were treated with haughty contempt by Mr Wangyal. He had no respect for the fact at 3 of his entrants had flown half way around the world to do this, at considerable personal expense.


Mr Wangyal on more than one occasion made inappropriate advances to some of the girls. Late night ‘come up and visit me’ calls were made to more than one girl. I was present when some of these calls were received and saw the embarrassed and angry expressions in the young ladies faces.

Many of Mr Wangyal’s so called arrangements were cancelled through bad or non-administration. His poolside venue was forbidden during an embarrassing visit… and NONE of the so called ‘trainers’ for this group of young women were WOMEN. Only when Ngodup Dolma complained that they wanted to meet leading Tibetan women, was a last minute visit organised to the Ama Ahde ( an 84 yr old gulag survivor) and to Tibetan Women’s Association. Neither had been afforded the courtesy of advance warning and neither was prepared. Both visits were cringingly embarrassing – both for the visitors and the visited.

12. When it became obvious to me that Mr Wangyal was incapable of taking technical responsibility for the staging, I offered to pay for a qualified sound engineer to operate the show and pre pare the soundtrack. He eagerly agreed . The sound engineer on offer, was a Swiss musician who had been teaching at the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts for years and who was well known in the town. On the day, he was electrocuted by Mr Wangyal’s incompetent local sub-contractor, who rigged a metal stage ‘live’. Mr Wangyal blamed the sound engineer - not the staging contractor.

13. Mr Wangyal implies in his letter, that my crew STOLE his marking sheets. What a joke. We did not even know they existed. There were hundreds of people backstage.

14. When asked about how his assessment system worked and why it was not transparent, Mr Wangyal, baulked, blushed and eventually admitted that the decision was NOT up to the Judges, but up to him solely. So much for his NON Tibetan Judges. The judges were interviewed but even they could shed NO light on the result.

15. When confronted by two losers (yes on camera – that is what documentary makers do) Mr Wangyal admitted to being a fraud. Unfortunately screen time did not permit me to play the whole interview but I will upload it to Youtube in coming days and you will see for yourself.

16. Mr Wangyal asserts in the film that Miss Tibet should be like the Goddess Tara. – soft, compliant, gentle … but Mr Wangyal does not know his own culture. Tara has many aspects – and Red Tara confronted him with her full force – but of course to an old fashioned unreconstructed male like Mr Wangyal, this is NOT what a woman should do. Go Dolma! Go Sangmo! This is the 21st century after all! Mr Wangyal cannot handle a spirited woman. No wonder he is single.

17. When the winner was announced, there was a massive gasp of incredulity from the crowd and many shouted protests. Yes, the winner was a pretty girl and the fact that she was half Tibetan should not matter. I feel sorry for her that she was the victim of shameful Tibetan racism. However she was 17 and completely inarticulate, quite incapable of departing from her learned script. She was an object of beauty, not an ambassador or role model for Tibetan Women. No wonder the losers wre angry. Some were too scared to confront him.

18. Mr Wangyal asserts that :-
“Mr Gould was asked for help by one of the survivors of the infamous Nangpa la shooting, seen hiding in a mountaineer’s tent in Mr Gould’s successful documentary film “Tibet Murder in the Snow”. Mr Gould totally ignored this person’s requests and never provided any financial support, even though he made money himself from this film.”

This is simply not true. Each of the participants of that film was paid. The person concerned here was paid well, within the constraints of a documentary budget. He has since found safe haven in Switzerland using our film as evidentiary support in a Swiss court. Ongoing private financial support was given to his wife and family and several others from that story to the limits of my available cash - even as recently as a few weeks ago. Mr Wangyal himself accepted $1000 from me for his Tibetan Olympics and a further $500 from me as a location fee for Miss Tibet. This was my idea.

Several leading Dharamsala activists and politicians were asked to appear in this film and comment of Mr Wangyal’s Beauty Pageant activism. All politely refused and requested NOT to appear in the same film as Mr Wangyal . Even the Prime Minister disassociated himself from Mr Wangyal.

I could go on and on, but there seems little point. The film speaks for itself.
My opinion of Mr Wangyal has changed. I find him to be a sad cliché of old fashioned sexism, untouched by the modern real-politick of women. He is a living anachronism, a Tibetan hippie, whose moral compass is rooted firmly between his legs.
I observed Mr Wangyal to be dangerously manipulative, playing the victim, when it is he who is corrupt. In any Western country Mr Wangyal would be brought down by law and be serving time, for his fraudulent behaviour – or at least be out of business.
If one were to pathologise him, I am sure he would tick all the boxes of syndrome known as a Narcissistic Personality Disorder – and that means NO COMPASSION for others. Just look at those ridiculous publicity shots of himself he uses.
He showed himself to be a misogynist in the first degree, who knows no boundaries in his contempt. I think he is jealous that he can never be MISS TIBET.
In the words of Ngodup Dolma,
“ Lobsang Wangyal’s Miss Tibet does not empower Tibetan Women. It does the opposite, it disempowers them. The only way Miss Tibet could have any legitimacy is it were run by women!”

Observe the life by cause and consequence.
Explore the life by wisdom.
Treat the life by equality.
Complete the life by love. Buddha ...

Mark Gould
Producer Director Writer
Tel :- 61 (0)2 9365 3306
Mob :- 61 (0)419635614
Skype Mark_Gould

Location: CA
Subject: Miss Kindness
Oct 20 2012 04:01 AM

If a woman is to represent Tibet, she should not be judged for what she looks like. Rather, she should be judged for her character (ie, morality, fortitude, fidelity, perseverance ..i could go on) because character is what a person truly builds overtime. Character is what separates the superficial from the true self. That is not to say that pretty women dont have good character. They should be given equal opportunity or else we would fall victims to stereotyping. I believe that its good to have a Miss Tibet (or Miss Kindness) but we should judge them for what they've done for others (be it for friends, family, strangers, culture, country, community, the world, the poor, the sick, the disabled, the old, the weak). That is a true Miss Tibet.

Location: nz
Subject: in bad taste
Oct 16 2012 04:00 PM

There have been enough comments to indicate this event is in bad taste. Like the streaker in London, it does not reflect the essence of Tibetan, neither is it part of Tibetan culture, neither is it necessary to allow Western influence to this low level. It certainly has nothing to do with the Tibetan struggle to regain our home, or any significance in the quest for world peace.

Location: India
Subject: thank you
Oct 15 2012 10:18 PM

Thanks Brentwerner for your eloquent and moving description of your late wife. You demonstrate the point I make precisely in my article so well; such contests exclude and diminish genuine, inner beauty.

Assanga, yes some Buddhist texts and commentaries were written by men in a context of power and patriarchy, so no surprises there, eh?

Juju, thanks for your comment and sorry to hear your article was not published. As for your remark that I am no 'Tenzin Nyinjey', I didn't think I was claiming that was I? Perhaps you know him personally but as a woman I am not attempting to emulate him or any other male for that matter. Why did even you make the comparison? lol

Location: virginia, usa
Subject: one last note
Oct 13 2012 10:59 PM

It is extremely unlikely that many Tibetans will listen to me, so I will make just one appeal that may have a small chance of success.

If you know who I am, despite my relative lack of importance, and who my late wife was (definitely more important than me), you'll understand. Her father, Namse Chenmo la, is of course, from Lhasa. Her maternal line was from glorious Markham. Many Markhampas, and almost all of the older ones, will know of this line, and my wife's mother and grandmother.

If I were to know that a Markhampa girl dishonored the integrity of the people of Markham by participating in this pageant, I am confident I would definitely vomit. I vomit alot over the Chinese atrocities. Please, with respect for my late wife and her maternal line, which has had a role of some value in Markham, if you are Markhampa, boycott this pageant!

Yes, Tibetans must absorb the best of the west in an effort to progress. However, there is no need to emulate the worst, especially when it inherently degrades the dignity of Tibetan women.

I hope that, at the very least, the women of Markham can set an example for their fellow Tibetans by boycotting this pageant.

As to the girl from Sikkim, I wish her no ill, and wish her the best. That said, I am confident that the greatest resident of Sikkim, XVI Gyalwa Karmapa is "rolling over in his grave" as we say in the west. He would have hoped for contests that showed the best of Tibetan tradition, instead of copying the worst of the West.

We don't need to harm anyone. But there is neither a need, nor a reason, for any Tibetan woman to participate in a pageant that is, politeness aside, stupid. I hope the Markhampas can lead a boycott next year.

Bho gyal lo! Bho Rangzen!

Location: virginia, usa
Subject: absolutely absolute
Oct 13 2012 10:24 PM

This is a fine, insightful, accurate, and important article.

Noting that Tibetan society is less misogynist than many (both polyandry and polygamy in Kham, Khampa businesswomen, etc.) this beauty pageant is even more moronic than many of CTA's current policies, which is a strong statement.

Though she died tragically of liver cancer, I had the great honor of being married to the most beautiful woman in Dharamsala, Tenzin Diki Werner. She would definitely not have qualified for this pageant. She had two kids. I measure height in inches, and she was 5'3", so I'm not sure if she was tall enough.

I suppose the organizer, who may fancy himself some kind of activist, wouldn't have mind ignoring my wife's brilliance, wit, humor, devotion, spirituality, and compassion, which many people found quite like that of her respected Mother (somewhat familiar to folks in Dharamsala).

That's too bad. I guess my late wife would never have been "beautiful" enough for the pageant. Of course, she found the pageant ridiculous, and never would have entered, despite her unorthodox views on some issues. Still, I'd like to know that the Tibetan woman who was, for me, not only the most beautiful woman in Dharamsala, but in the entire world, was eligible.

Here's a note to the organizer: the activists can be found amidst the charred bodies in U-tsang, Kham, and Amdo. The activists can be found before the embassies and UN offices around the globe. You, sir, do not deserve my contempt, but you certainly do not deserve my admiration. Especially since someone like you could CATEGORICALLY not find my dear late wife, who meant more to me than my own limbs, or even my head, beautiful. Because she was.

Location: ktm Nepal
Subject: Beauty peagant
Oct 13 2012 11:59 AM

i fully agree with MR ADELE article on peagant, i think our beauty peagant should more focus on wisdom power, than skin beauty , infact i think young girls when they make up , looks more like doll without brain, there should beno bar of any things, gals or middle age woman who have confidence can participate, plz focus more on overall knowledge , specially of our culture and country,

Location: MT
Subject: Uniqueness of Tibetan beauty
Oct 13 2012 09:11 AM

Unique to Tibetan beauty, as mentioned in some of the ancient books are:

Like a " 16 year old damsel; breasts fully developed; body and limbs slender and smooth; such that the more you look at her, the charmer she gets" -so much so that you do not want take your eyes off her.

Like wise, she should be" gentle, soft spoken and a mannerism imbibed in "subtle values of compassion, confidence


Location: asia
Subject: worth reading
Oct 13 2012 01:12 AM

Great article on women's inner beauty and not just outer beauty.

Location: Canada
Subject: Pageant Monk Campbell Lust Beauty Taboo June
Oct 13 2012 12:59 AM

You are certainly no Tenzin Nyingjey but good article none the less Adele. lol

I also wrote something about the unfairness of Tibetan women in our society last week but Phayul choose, in their infinite wisdom, not to print the opinion, so, no further comments...
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