Femina Miss India
The history of the Femina Miss India pageant with Juhi Chawla, Zeenat Aman, Sangeeta Bijlani and more.
I've done several articles about the women of Bollywood, and a lot of those women first gained their national exposure in India's premier beauty pageant, Miss India or Pantaloons Femina Miss India.
Of course not every winner of Femina Miss India went on to become a model or actress, but the fame and recognition doesn't hurt either career.
So here are some of the most notable winners and contestants from the past......
Indrani Rahman (Miss India World 1952)
Indrani is credited with bringing the classical Indian dancing styles of Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi, Kathakali and Odissi to the West.
For this to be important, you have to realize that these forms are not just "dancing" like we have here in the West, these dances are part of India's own cultural background.
Leela Naidu (Miss India World 1954)
Leela was a classic beauty. So much so that the fashion and lifestyle magazine Vogue once called her one of the five most beautiful women in the world.
After the Femina Miss India pageant, she became an actress in Bollywood.
Fleur Ezekiel (Miss India Asia - Pacific 1959)
Although she didn't win the title, Fleur brought India worldwide attention by being the first Indian to participate in the Miss World pageant.
Persis Khambatta (Miss India Universe 1965)
Indian model, actress, and author Persis Khambatta won the Miss India Universe in 1965.
She never achieved real success in Bollywood or other Indian movie industries, but if you are a sci-fi fan, you will remember her as Lieutenant Ilia in 1979's Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
Persis was also the first Indian citizen to present an Academy Award (1979).
Reita Faria (Miss India World 1966)
Reita was the first Indian to win the Miss World title (1966).
She didn't go into acting or modeling, but became a doctor.
Zeenat Aman (Miss India Asia - Pacific 1970)
Zeenat Aman won the Miss India Asia - Pacific in 1970, and did go on to become a successful actress and went on to appear in over seventy films, all the way up to 2007 film, Sirf Romance: Love by Chance.
Prema Narayan (Miss India World 1971)
Prema Narayan started out as a teacher at a convent school and did some modeling on the side. After winning the title, she became an actress and appeared in over seventy movies from 1974 to 1995.
Nafisa Ali (Miss India International 1976)
Actress and social activist Nafisa Ali won the Miss India International in 1976.
She is not only an actress, but she was the national swimming champion from 1972-1974, and a jockey at the Calcutta Gymkhana (Equestrian games).
Nafisa appeared in Bollywood films and at least one Malayalam film.
Swaroop Sampat (Miss India Asia - Pacific 1979)
After Swaroop Sampat won the Miss India Asia - Pacific title in 1979, she launched a career as an actress in Bollywood films.
But her most popular role was on a successful Indian comedy TV series, Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi.
Sangeeta Bijlani (Miss India Universe 1980)
Sangeeta Bijlani this former Bollywood actress and former model never really achieved much fame for her acting, but was noted for her dance numbers.
She did appear in the very successful Tridev in 1989.
Meenakshi Seshadri (Miss India World 1981)
After winning the Miss India World 1981 at the age of eighteen, Meenakshi Seshadri began her Bollywood career the next year in the 1982 film Painter Babu.
She appeared in over eighty films till she retired.
Meenakshi now teaches classical Indian dance in the US.
Pamella Bordes (Miss India Universe 1982)
Pamella didn't go into acting after winning her title, but into photography.
She has had photos published in the French photography magazine Photo, Newsweek and Marie Claire.
Pamella hit the headlines in the UK in 1988 when she was involved in a scandal.
Juhi Chawla (Miss India Universe 1984 and Miss India World 1985)
Award winning Indian actress, film producer and television presenter Juhi Chawla not only won the Miss India Universe title in 1984, but turned right around and won the Miss India World title in 1985.
After winning her titles, Juhi embarked on a career in Bollywood that saw her appear in over seventy films.
Sonu Walia (Miss India Universe 1985)
While Juhi Chawla won the Miss India World title in 1985, Sonu Walia won the Miss India Universe title the same year.
And like Juhi, Sonu launched a film career that saw her appear in over thirty movies, starting with Shart in 1986.
Indrani Rahman (Miss India World 1952)
Mehr Jesia (Miss India Universe 1986)
Born on August 11, 1969, Mehr Jesia rose to fame very quickly.
In 1986 a photographer saw her and suggested she enter the Miss India pageant.
She did, and one week later (yes ONE week) she won the title. She went on to represent India at the Miss Universe 1986 pageant in Panama City, Panama.
After the contests, Mehr mainly modeled, but she did co-produce the Bollywood film I See You in 2006 with her husband Arjun Rampal, which didn't do very well.
She went on to open a modeling school and agency.
Shikha Swaroop (Miss India International 1986)
The same year that Mehr Jesia won Miss India Universe, Shikha Swaroop won Miss India International.
Not only was Shika a beauty queen, but she also played badminton on a national level, and won a gold medal in the All India Pistol Shooting Championship in 1988.
Shika did some acting in Bollywood in the 1990s, but really got attention in the Indian fantasy television series, Chandrakanta, as Princess Chandrakanta.
It appears that Shika may be making a comeback, appearing in the 2009 TV series, Black on 9X.
She looks as beautiful as ever.
Note: Shikha Swaroop married Vidhit S Tarneja, an Engineer in Texas and lived in Cupertino California before returning to India.
Shyla Lopez (Miss India World 1992)
Shyla Lopez was born in Bangalore, Karnataka, India and won the title of Femina Miss India World in 1992.
Later, she represented India at the Miss World 1992 contest.
Madhu Sapre (Miss India Universe 1992)
That same year, Madhu Sapre won the Miss India Universe title.
She was born July 14th, 1971 in Mumbai, India.
After winning the title, she went into modeling full time and still occasionally does shows, though now she lives in Italy with her husband Gian Maria.
Namrata Shirodkar (Miss India Universe 1993)
Born on January 22nd, 1972 in Mumbai, Maharashtra, Namrata Shirodkar won the Miss India Universe title in 1993.
Namrata started out as a model, and after winning the Miss India Universe title, she went on to represent India at the 1993 Miss Universe pageant where she made it to the top six.
She made her acting debut in the 1998 Bollywood film, Jab Pyaar Kisise Hota Hai with Salman Khan and Twinkle Khanna.
Namrata went on to appear in over twenty Hindi, Malayalam and Telugu films.
Pooja Batra (Miss India International 1993)
That same year, Pooja Batra won the Miss India International title.
Pooja was born on October 27th, 1973 in Faizabad, Uttar Pradesh, India.
Her mother, Neelam Batra competed in the 1971 Miss India pageant.
Pooja made her acting debut in the 1995 Tamil film, Aasai, with Ajith Kumar and Suvalakshmi.
She went on to appear in twenty-four Bollywood, Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam films.
Aishwarya Rai (Miss India World 1994)
What can I say about Ash that hasn't already been said?
She won the 1994 Miss India World, then went on to win the Miss World 1994 pageant in Sun City, South Africa.
After the pageant, Aishwarya went on to modeling, then into acting, debuting in the 1997 Tamil film, Iruvar with Mohanlal and Prakash Raj.
In 2004 Time magazine listed her as one of the World's "100 Most Influential People" and in 2005, 60 Minutes called her "The World's Most Beautiful Woman" and the rest is history.
Sushmita Sen (Miss India Universe 1994)
That same year, Sushmita Sen won the Miss India Universe title.
And in the same year that Ash won Miss World, Sushmita won the Miss Universe title in Manila, Philippines making her the first Indian woman to be crowned Miss Universe.
After her title reign was over, she started her acting career, debuting in the 1996 film, Dastak.
Sushmita went on to appear in over thirty films, and was nominated and won several Filmfare Awards, Star Screen Awards and Zee Cine Awards.
In 2006, she received the Rajiv Gandhi Award for her achievement in Bollywood.
Shweta Menon (Miss India Asia - Pacific 1994)
And again in that same year, Shweta Menon won the title of Miss India Asia - Pacific.
She made her acting debut in 1991 in the Malayalam movie, Anaswaram.
Since 1991, Shweta has appeared in over forty films and is still active today with six films released or to be released in 2009 alone.
Manpreet Brar (Miss India 1995)
Manpreet Brar won the Miss India crown in 1995, and was the first runner-up at the 1995 Miss Universe pageant.
She was born on March 2nd, 1973 and has an MBA from Lady Irwin College, Delhi.
Sandhya Chib won the Miss India crown in 1996, and was a Top 10 finalist at the 1996 Miss Universe pageant.
She went on to become a successful model.
Nafisa Joseph was born on March 28th, 1978 in Bangalore, Karnataka, India.
She won Miss India in 1997, and went on to become a model and MTV video jockey.
Nafisa's story doesn't have a happy ending though, as she tragically hung herself on July 29, 2004 in her flat in Mumbai.
Lymaraina D'souza won Miss India in 1998.
She was a Top 10 finalist at the 1998 Miss Universe pageant.
Gul Panag was born on January 3rd,1979 in Chandigarh, India.
She won the Femina Miss India title in 1999, and was a Top 10 finalist in the 1999 Miss Universe pageant.
Gul went on to become a model and Bollywood actress.
She has made nine movies since 2003, her first being Dhoop.
Lara Dutta was born on April 16th, 1978 in Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh, India.
She won the 2000 Miss India pageant, and went on to win the Miss Universe 2000 pageant.
That same year, Priyanka Chopra won Miss World and Dia Mirza won Miss Asia Pacific, giving India it's first international beauty pageant "hat trick".
Lara went on to become a very successful Bollywood actress, with over thirty movies to her credit so far.
Celina Jaitley was born November 24th, 1981 in Kabul, Afghanistan.
She won Miss India in 2001 and like several other Femina Miss India she went on to become a Bollywood actress.
Celina has appeared in nineteen films, and has five films coming out in 2010.
Indian actress and model Neha Dhupia was born on August 27th, 1980, in Cochin, India.
Neha won the 2002 Miss India pageant, and was a Top 10 finalist at the 2002 Miss Universe pageant.
She also became a Bollywood actress, but before her Bollywood career, and before she won the Miss India pageant, she appeared in a 2000 Japanese movie, Nattu Odoru! Ninja Densetsu.
Neha has gone on to appear in almost thirty Bollywood films.
Born in 1983 in Jalandhar, Punjab, India, Nikita Anand won the Femina Miss India pageant in 2003.
Unfortunately, when Nikita represented India at the 2003 Miss Universe pageant, she became the first Miss India since 1991 not to make it to the semi-finals.
She went on to make a few films later including The Curse of King Tut's Tomb (2006), The Memsahib (2006), Khallas: The Beginning of End (2007), Life Mein Kabhie Kabhiee (2007) and Dil Dosti Etc (2007).
Tanushree Dutta was born on March 19th, 1984 in Jamshedpur, Jharkhand, India.
She won the Miss India pageant in 2004, and was a Top 10 finalist in the 2004 Miss Universe pageant.
Of course Tanushree Dutta went on to become a Bollywood actress, making her debut in the 2005 film Aashiq Banaya Aapne.
Before she won the Femina Miss India pageant, Tanushree was an anchor on the Bengali Show, Hoi Hullod in 2002.
Born in Pune, Maharashtra, India, Amrita Thapar won the Femina Miss India pageant in 2005.
Amrita didn't go on to Bollywood, but she is a successful fashion designer, stylist, painter, fashion writer and orator.
Neha Kapur won the Miss India pageant in 2006, and was a Top 20 finalist at the 2006 Miss Universe pageant.
Neha also didn't go into acting, but she has a degree in fashion design from the Pearl Academy, and she is a runway model in India.
And while you can keep up with Amrita on Facebook, you can visit Neha's MySpace page her:
Puja Gupta was born on September 19th, 1984 in New Delhi, India.
She won the 2007 Miss India pageant, and was a Top 10 finalist at the 2007 Miss Universe pageant.
Parvathy Omanakuttan was born on December 20th, 1987 in Changanassery, Kerala, India.
She won the Miss India pageant in 2008, and also won the categories of Miss Photogenic, Miss Personality, and Miss Beautiful Hair.
Parvathy went on to win the first ever Pantaloons Femina Miss India South pageant in 2008.
Another beauty from Pune, Pooja Chopra won Miss India in 2009.
She went on to become a Semifinalist at the 2009 Miss World (where she won the Beauty With A Purpose, formerly known as Miss World Scholarship, award)
Indian model Manasvi Mamgai was crowned Femina Miss India World 2010 on April 30th, 2010.
She was born on October 10th, 1987 in Delhi, India.
Manasvi represented India at the Miss World 2010 competition on October 30th, 2010 in Sanya, China, but didn't place.
Kanishtha Dhankar was born in Mumbai, stands five foot nine and a half, weighs in at 121 pounds and her measurements are 32-25-36.
Geez...it sounds more like she's a boxer!.
Kanishtha was crowned Pantaloons Femina Miss India on October 23rd, 2010.
Unlike some of the Femina Miss India winners, Kanishtha has already appeared in films, notably the 2008 Bollywood film Fashion with Priyanka Chopra, Kangana Ranaut, Mugdha Godse and Arjan Bajwa.
She placed in the top fifteen at the Miss World 2011 competition on November 6th, 2011 in London.
I think she was robbed!
Vanya Mishra was born on February 27th, 1992 in Jalandhar, Punjab.
After winning the Pantaloons Femina Miss India World 2012 Title, she went on to the Miss World 2012 pageant in Dongsheng Fitness Center Stadium, Ordos, Inner Mongolia, China, where she won the Miss Social Networking and Miss Beauty with a Purpose title and made it into the top seven.
Navneet Kaur Dhillon was born on September 23rd, 1992 in Ambala, Haryana, India.
She is a student and model with dreams of becoming a Bollywood actress.
The 2014 Femina Miss India World is the lovely Koyal Rana.
She is a model and student from Jaipur, India and she was born on January 4th, 1993.
In November she will represent India at the Miss World 2014 pageant.
Aditi Arya is the 2015 Femina Miss India.
She is a model, research analyst and was born on September 18th, 1993 in New Delhi India.
Aditi went represented India at the Miss World 2015 pageant, but didn't place.
Femina Miss India 2016 - Priyadarshini Chatterjee
Indian model Priyadarshini Chatterjee is Femina Miss India 2016.
She is of Bengali decent and was born in Guwahati city in the state of Assam.