Actor Priyanka Chopra was not the obvious choice for the Miss India title 18 years ago as one of the jury members felt her complexion was “too dark”, says a new book on the star who turned 36 today. Then 17, Priyanka took part in the beauty contest from Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh and emerged as the runner-up — Femina Miss India World 2000.
Lara Dutta was crowned Femina Miss India Universe, while the second runner-up Dia Mirza won the Femina Miss India Asia Pacific title. All three women went on to clinch the title in their respective categories — Miss Universe, Miss World, and Miss Asia Pacific.
In “Priyanka Chopra: The Incredible Story of a Global Bollywood Star”, Pradeep Guha, one of the mentors of the contestants for that year’s contest, remembers how one of the jury members was uncertain about Priyanka.
Priyanka Chopra during Miss World 2000 crowning moment. @priyankachopra
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— PageantBuzz (@PageantBuzz) May 27, 2018
“Not everybody in the jury was initially in favor of her. One person mentioned she’s too dark,” he recalls, without naming the jury member.
“I said, ‘Yaar come on — look at South American girls. They keep winning and some of them are pretty dark as are all the girls from Africa. So I said what are you talking about? ‘I was always very certain about her and as I said this woman never made a mistake twice,” Guha is quoted in the biography by Aseem Chhabra.
The contestants faced a range of celebrity judges – actors Shah Rukh Khan, Juhi Chawla and Waheeda Rehman, cricketer Mohammed Azharuddin, media mogul and film producer Pritish Nandy, painter Anjolie Ela Menon, the then founder-chairman of Zee Media (and now Rajya Sabha MP) Subhash Chandra, fashion designer and perfume queen Carolina Herrera, and Marcus Swarovski, the great-great-grandnephew of the founder of the Austrian crystal company.
Thank heavens it’s your birthday!Having an inspiration like you in my life and watching you everyday succeeding is a great gift to me, and I wish you a wonderful birthday celebration today .. you’re a role model that teaches people to stay positive, keep fighting, remain brave, stay ambitious, stay focused and stay strong. Thanks for all the words of encouragement.. May this special day of yours be full of happiness..It is my deepest wish that you continue to press on and attain more and more greater heights. Your words were always so much inspiring and you told us that our future is created by what we do today not tomorrow, those words are forever inspiring.Your constant effort to succeed has really inspired me .To me you’re the world’s most influential person, because the impact you have had on me will last forever.Living to see your another birthday is just like being given opportunities in my life.As the skies are aloft the earth, may your dreams continue to be as lofty. I’m no stalker but I follow every story about you on screen. You’re the best person I know…. so I hope you’ll never stop being an inspiration and a blithe spirit in this new age!I thank God for blessing you with good health, and I pray that He will bathe your life with the choicest of His blessings. And , I’m so much thankful for your life because you’ve shown me what it means to aim at something and reach for it in life. You’re the greatest icon I know and this day makes me so glad because it brought greatness into my world.. you’re not only my inspiration , you’re an inspiration for millions and millions peoples…. Always Stay on top of your career every single year as you rise up to become the greatest ..you look hot on screen and even hotter off screen, I can’t tell which part of you I like best, but I know you are my best actor alive. Happy Birthday my idol. I hope one day I will have the luxury of meeting you in person, it’ll be a thing of joy. Stay Blessed. Happy birthday to you #missindia,#missworld #oneofthebestbollywoodactress #besttvactressofholloywood #mostachievingfemal #singer #toppestmodelontheplanet #hottestgirl and only #desigirl? @priyankachopra ?? – [ ]
“She kind of always improved on herself day on day, the day on day. I knew that she would give in 200 percent if she gets in,” Guha says in the Rupa Publications’ book. He says he was impressed with Priyanka from the beginning but for some reason she did not come up as the “obvious choice” although she grew through the contest.
“I think she needed a little more confidence. I think she wasn’t quite sure initially whether this was the thing she wanted to do. She came in a bit tentatively. By the time the contest started she seemed a lot more collected and definitely more confident of herself.”
Part of the reason Priyanka felt unsure was because she was an outsider, as compared to some of the other contestants, including Lara who was already a professional model, Guha says.
Another mentor, Sathya Saran, says she remembers Priyanka because they did not notice her in the beginning.
“I noticed her at the talent contest because she sang beautifully. I told Pradeep she is going to win something,” Saran says.
When the results were announced, there was a tie between the top contestants Priyanka and Lara. Guha and Saran had experienced a similar situation with Sushmita Sen and Aishwarya Rai in 1994.
“This time, they were better prepared and additional questions were posed to both Priyanka and Lara. The final results were no surprise to anyone. The suave, elegant well-spoken Lara Dutta won the Miss India title,” the book says.
Both Lara and Priyanka worked together in one of their initial films “Andaz” alongside Akshay Kumar in 2003.
Priyanka has managed to carve an international career and is now one of the most recognizable Indian faces working in Hollywood. The actor, in past interviews, has spoken about facing issues due to her complexion even within her “Punjabi family”.
(With PTI inputs)