Bangalore girl Nicole Faria, the only Indian to have ever won the Miss Earth title, says there is no favouritism at international pageants. She believes the problem lies in the selection process at home.
"The excuse is that there is favouritism or that the pageant organisers want to promote some countries. This is not true. Every pageant would like to ensure that they are fair and appear that way. I think that the problem exists in how we choose the winning girls from India," Nicole said.
The 10th edition of the Miss Earth beauty pageant was held December 4, 2010, in Vinpearl Land, Nha Trang, Vietnam, where Nicole won.
This year Hasleen Kaur will represent India at the Miss Earth pageant in Manila, Philippines, on December 3 and expectations are high because this year the country had to face disappointments at the Miss Universe and Miss World contests as Vasuki Sunkavalli and Kanishtha Dhankhar failed to break a decade-long dry spell.
"As I ready myself to hand over the crown, I have mixed feelings and a hundred thoughts. Naturally, there is happiness at being the first winner of this title for India. There is also a feeling of satisfaction and a tinge of pride at having been the only winner for India for over a decade," added the 21-year-old.
Nicole started modelling at 15 and walked the ramp for many designers and brands. The leggy beauty won the Miss India South 2010.
"I would love to see more Indian women winning at the international level and I am always willing to help someone in need," she said.
The important areas are fitness and ramp walk; motivation and self belief; language and communication skills; and mentoring and moral courage, she says and feels some are well looked after but need that extra attention.
"Fitness and ramp work are well done in India. We really learn from some of the best in this area, but the mind also has to be trained," she added.
"We should be positive and see only the good in everything. I was faced with enough and more negative people along the way. I saw this at the Miss India South level, where allegations were made that I had rigged the contests...If someone else is being unfair or negative, I bless them and know that if I do not think about their negative energy, it can never affect me," she said.
"Motivation and self belief are among the areas not covered, but this is an essential ingredient in winning...when politics and pettiness starts, then it is only those who have trained their minds, who can stand the test of pressure and time can survive," she said.
Nicole, whose father is a counsellor and mother runs her own business, says that the participants should be high on communication skills.
"I used to feel sorry for the girls who had to learn how to speak. Some of the participants are so beautiful to look at, but when they open their mouths, they damage their own chances," she said.
"Some countries like the Latin American nations start training and grooming their girls from the time they are 10 or 12 years old. Rumour has it that some of the pageant front runners even have the floating ribs removed to give them the hour glass figure... and some of the girls openly chat about this at the international level.
"Luckily, in India, I find that we do not believe in this, but we want our natural beauty to shine through, without having to go under the knife," she said.