Tashi Choden representing Bhutan shines at the Miss Universe pageant

A 24-year-old Tashi Choden, also known as Tashi Chombal Dorji who won the title of Miss Bhutan in 2022 represented the country for the first time at the 71st Miss Universe Pageant which was held at the New Orleans Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, Louisiana, United States on January 14, 2023.

Tashi took part in the preliminary round. The grand finale was on 14th January 2023 where Miss America R’Bonney Gabriel won the top spot. In the past, they used to select the top 20, but it has been reduced to the top 16 starting this year.

Bhutanese in Bhutan and across the world watched excitedly online as Tashi represented Bhutan in the Miss Universe Pageant and competed in the evening gown and swimwear and modified national costume rounds. Tashi Choden did well on stage in terms of how she carried herself in the various rounds.

A big disadvantage for Tashi was the fact that contestants had to be voted to the semi-final round and this worked against her coming from a small country and that too with Foreign Exchange restrictions and limited numbers of credit cards.

However, despite her not making it to the semi final round many Bhutanese came online to appreciate her and Bhutan’s first participation in the pageant.

Tashi generated a lot of international media buzz in 2022 after this paper did a detailed profile on her talking about her openly Gay status and what it means for the LGBTIQ community in Bhutan.

Karma Tshering, founder and organizer of the Miss Bhutan Pageant who is in the US with Tashi shared said they have been trying for this platform (Miss Universe Pageant) every year since 2008 and finally the request to participate was accepted and this platform is an opportunity to represent Bhutan on the global stage.

Karma said one good thing was that Tashi was frequently shown on the screen in various Miss Universe activities.

The Miss Universe Pageant is the biggest pageant out of the many beauty pageants in the world and the best of the best contestants are selected from each country. “Tashi Choden was equally competing with the rest of the contestants. Moreover, the opportunity to participate itself is a great achievement for us,” said Karma Tshering.

The Miss Universe Pageant itself is the biggest event in the world after the Football World Cup and Olympics which have the largest viewership in the world and so Tashi Choden was in a position where she represented Bhutan on the global stage as Bhutan is not widely known to many countries around the world.

Tashi Choden had been groomed for this Miss Universe Pageant.

The contestants were provided training on ramp walks, promote main sponsors and attend various sessions and NGOs.

When Tashi Choden won the title of Miss Bhutan in 2022, Karma Tshering knew that she can do well on the international stage as well as she presented herself very well in the Miss Bhutan Pageant.

“I was very confident but my biggest worry was answering the judges’ questions on the stage,” said Karma Tshering. However, the top officials in the country prepared Tashi Choden and gave advice and presentations on various issues about the country, he added.

Karma Tshering, who is also a founder and organizer of the Miss Bhutan Pageant said he always wanted to be someone who can help the youths in the country and coming up with the Miss Bhutan Pageant was one of the ways to create opportunities for them. “I never took Miss Bhutan Pageant as a profit-making business rather it is being solely done out of passion,” he added.

Hereafter, the winners of the Miss Bhutan Pageant will get an opportunity to contest in the Miss Universe Pageant, said Karma Tshering.

He also shared that the journey to the Miss Universe Pageant made him gain knowledge and exposure. He also had a chance to meet 86 National Directors from various countries.

He also shared the challenges of not getting enough sponsors for the events like beauty Pageants in the country but, “I am very blessed and thankful to His Majesty the King for the greatest support.”

The Bhutanese could not get in touch with Tashi Choden due to her tight schedule, however, she had shared through Karma Tshering that she is confident.

Tashi Choden said, “My heart is overwhelmed with emotions and getting to be the first representative of my country and having the privilege to share my culture with the universe is just so amazing.”

Many Bhutanese on social media criticized the dress worn by Tashi Choden during the National Costume Round saying it was not the traditional dress.

Karma Tshering, however, clarified the National Costume Round of Miss Universe was initially meant to showcase the actual national dress of a country; but the purpose got changed over the years when contestants began to modify their dresses to stand out on the stage.

As of now, most of the dresses the contestants wear does not have any resemblance to their national dress. In a similar manner, “Our dress designer Dchen’s Atelier also came up with a creative idea of showcasing our national identity that is a dragon, Taktshang and few national symbols through the dress. The most creatively done dress wins a sash. However, there is no marking (score) for this round. Rounds like a swimsuit, evening gown, question and answer and introduction rounds etc carry scores to qualify for the next level.

Meanwhile, the highly anticipated event featured almost 90 women from around the globe vying for the job of Miss Universe, through the process of personal statements, in-depth interviews and various categories including evening gown and swimwear. The 2022 edition will see the debut of Bhutan.

The evening culminated with the 70th Miss Universe, Harnaaz Sandhu, who brought the title back to India for the first time in twenty-one years, crowning her successor.

The 71st Miss Universe pageant was held at the New Orleans Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, Louisiana, United States on January 14, 2023.

There were contestants from 84 countries and territories who competed in this year’s pageant. The competition was hosted by Jeannie Mai and Miss Universe 2012 Olivia Culpo.

Contestants from 84 countries and territories were selected to compete in the competition. Eighteen of these delegates were appointed to their positions after being runner-up in their national pageant or being selected through a casting process.

The competition was available on the streaming provider The Roku Channel as the official broadcaster of the show for the first time.

It was also the first Miss Universe event to be aired by JKN Global Group’s television networks, JKN18 and JKN-CNBC as the pageant’s official broadcaster for Thailand where the expanded headquarters of Miss Universe Organization is located.

The Miss Universe Top 3 were USA, Venezuela, Dominican Republic. The top

5 were Venezuela, Dominican Republic, USA, Curacao, Puerto Rico and the top 16 were Haiti, Australia, Dominican Republic, Laos, South Africa, Portugal, Canada, Peru, Trinidad & Tobago, Puerto Rico, Curacao, India, Venezuela, Spain, USA and Columbia.

The perk of being Miss Universe is that the winner can wear the crown on special occasions for a year. There is a six-figure annual salary, free stay at the Miss Universe apartment in New York City for one year. The organization will take care of all expenses, including food and transportation.

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