Kathmandu: Though its biggest sponsor Dabur Nepal abandoned Miss Nepal, Nepal`s oldest and best-known beauty pageant, Bollywood diva Manisha Koirala threw her weight behind the once beleaguered contest, appearing as a judge at the grand finale Tuesday.
The 41-year-old actor, who held India`s Hindi film industry under her sway in the 1990s, was easily the biggest celebrity at the show held at the Army Club in Kathmandu.
She had a simple question for the 15th contestant, Bishnu Chemjong, asking if it was better to be kind or to have integrity.
A flustered Bishnu said a person who was kind had integrity as well.
At the end of the nearly three-hour show which, however, did not have a swim suit round out of deference to conservatives, Manisha was heard saying she was impressed with the 19 contestants, especially with the five finalists, any of whom could have become the new Miss Nepal.
The silver crown studded with rubies finally went to Malina Joshi, a confident business management student from Sunsari in southern Nepal, thanks to her answer to the question about in what state the world would be in 2050 if it were ruled by women.
The 23-year-old replied that women were already ruling the world with their perseverance and dedication.
Once known as the Dabur Vatika Hidden Treasure Miss Nepal pageant, the contest this year was a pale shadow of its former self with Dabur Nepal pulling out after suffering years of obstruction from the women`s wing of the Maoist party.
Though the protesters said they wanted the pageant to stop because it degraded woman and displayed them as commodity, the anger was actually directed towards the Indian multinational company`s subsidiary since they allowed dozens of other beauty contests to be held without any disruption.
After Dabur Nepal`s pullout this year, the organisers, the Hidden Treasure, roped in Nepal Lever as the new sponsor and the pageant was repositioned as the Lux Hidden Treasure Miss Nepal 2011.
However, though the funding and gifts for the winners decreased, there were no protests and the media trained its spotlight as one on the contest.
Last year, several media organisations had blacked out the show due to a fallout with Dabur Nepal after it stopped advertising with them.
This year`s contest had an Eid gift for the Muslim community with the first Muslim contestant winning an award.
Madina Begum was crowned Miss Perseverance.