An Indian medical student was crowned Miss World at a glitzy event in a Chinese resort yesterday, making her country the joint-most successful in the beauty pageant’s history.
Manushi Chhillar is the sixth Indian winner of the long-running contest, following in the footsteps of Bollywood actresses Priyanka Chopra and Aishwarya Rai.
Her win brings India level with Venezuela as the countries with most victories in the history of the pageant, now in its 67th edition.
Chhillar, 21, is a trained classical dancer who also enjoys painting and hopes to open a chain of non-profit hospitals in rural areas, according to the Miss World website.
“Thank you, everyone, for your constant love, support,” and prayers she wrote on Twitter.
“This one’s for India.”
Chhillar’s victory rapidly became a top trending topic on the social media platform in India after the announcement, with Manohar Lal Khattar – the chief minister of her home state of Haryana – among the first to offer congratulations.
Chhillar was handed the crown by last year’s winner, Stephanie del Valle of Puerto Rico, at the ceremony in the Chinese coastal city of Sanya last night.
Stephanie Hill of England and Andrea Meza of Mexico finished as runners-up.
Priyanka Chopra was the last winner from India in 2000.
Chhillar competed against 108 contestants from various countries at the pageant.
Chhillar, born to doctor parents, studied at St Thomas School in Delhi and Bhagat Phool Singh Government Medical College for Women in Sonepat.
In an interview during her grooming, she said: “The only thing I believe is certain in life is uncertainty, and this is what is amazing about the pageant.”
She had also said that she was confident of winning the crown.
Apart from the title, Chhillar also won the Beauty with Purpose award.
Chhillar had earlier this year won the Femina Miss India 2017.
Her winning shot at the competition came with her heartfelt response to the question posed by the judges – which profession in the world deserves the highest salary and why.
Chillar replied: “My mother has been my biggest inspiration, so I have to say, a mother’s job. It is not always about cash, but love and respect as well. A mother deserves that the most.”
The medical student, who sacrificed one whole year of her education to participate in the Miss India competition, said she grew up idolising Reita Faria, the first Indian and Asian to win the Miss World crown in 1966.
“Though I was a medical student, I never had a plan B. I don’t want to regret anything in life, so it was really important for me to win this competition. My aim has always been to win the Miss World title.”
Former pageant winners like Sushmita Sen, Aishwarya Rai and Priyanka Chopra have carved a career in Bollywood after their wins.
Asked if she had similar plans and considered the Miss India title as the stepping stone to Bollywood, Chhillar said, “I disagree with the notion. I feel that Miss India is a stepping stone for anything you want to do, not just Bollywood.”
Chhillar was inching closer to the Miss World crown as she had gone straight from top 40 to 15, during the course of the competition.
Yesterday marked the Miss World pageant’s return to Sanya, on southern China’s Hainan Island, for a seventh time, where the event was last held in 2015.
At the previous occasion two years ago, controversy erupted as officials in Hong Kong stopped Miss Canada, Anastasia Lin, from boarding a plane bound for Sanya, telling her she would not receive a visa.
The 25-year-old actress claimed the decision was due to her stance on China’s human rights record, including its persecution of Falun Gong, a Chinese spiritual group of which she is a practitioner.
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