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Questioning Racial Identity in a New Zealand Beauty Pageant




Jacinta Lal gives a speech at Miss IndiaNZ beauty pageant upon winning the coveted title.

Jacinta Lal gives a speech at Miss IndiaNZ beauty pageant upon winning the coveted title.

What does it mean to look Indian? Olive skinned and dark hair? Or a blue-eyed blonde? Upon winning Miss India New Zealand, Jacinta Lal was booed by spectators as she accepted her prize for the coveted title. Unfortunately, the blue-eyed beauty, born to a Fijian-India father and a caucasian New Zealander mother, was at the center of a huge row after she was accused of "not looking Indian enough."

The event that took place on October 13 caused some raised brows among the organizers. Organizers confirmed that there had been "two or three" complaints about Lal's eligibility despite fitting all criteria upon entering the pageant.

The row comes just days after the Indian government protested to New Zealand about broadcasting racial slurs by TV host Paul Henry. Lal didn't seem too amused when her Indian-ness was questioned by a few.

"There is no difference between what Paul Henry is saying and what those select few Indians were saying."

But, isn't this supposed to be a Kiwi-Indian event? If so, then Lal easily fits the criteria. With New Zealand residency and a strong Indian background, this beauty is undoubtedly a Miss IndiaNZ winner. However, if the event was being held in India to host a Miss India pageant, Lal may not have been a favorite contender.

In today's increasingly multi-racial world, what does it mean to look a certain part? Is Lal rightly Miss IndiaNZ or should her more Indian-looking counterparts be awarded for "fitting the part?" Leave your comments below:

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