HONOREE #1: Manpreet Brar, Miss India 1995
Miss India 1995

"If your back is bent, only then will somebody climb on it, so stand up straight and nobody will ever climb on your back. That's all."

That's all...just the cool, calm, collected Miss India 1995, Manpreet Brar, the likes of which no pageant has ever seen.

This page is devoted to one of the greatest participants in the Miss Universe Pageant and in my opinion was, by far, the most intelligent "human" ever to grace the Miss Universe Pageant. As the daughter of a military officer, Manpreet has lived all over India, and is pursuing her master's degree in Human Resources Development. She made it quite clear that her choice of study was very valid due to the fact that she envisions every member of a country that may surpass China's population anytime soon as a valuable resource. Nothing short of brilliant, Manpreet is using the population to her advantage and most certainly rose above the ranks of many women in the Indian society not only because she won the coveted Miss India title when India was at its peak in the international glamour arena but also because of her incredible inner strength and high level of intelligence.

The site was Windhoek, the capital of a newly independent country called Namibia, which had won the Miss Universe title in 1992. Who would have known that in this landmark in the history of the Miss Universe pageant, being the first time the pageant was held in Africa and also the pageant that had the most delegates ever, 82, was a 22 year old human who would amaze the world. The opening number had numerous delegates in costumes representing their countries and Manpreet was wearing a black outfit which looked very seductive and when it came her turn to speak, she briefly held one of those trademark cloths covering her face except her eyes to create some sort of suspicion, and removed it to reveal her full lips and nose which were below two almost Dracula-like eyes underneath those trademark model eyebrows which seemed to point so perfectly at the centre. Out of her mouth came something brilliant as always, "I'm Manpreet Brar from the country that believes that its people are its most valuable resource, India." Her preliminary scores were 8.61 for swimsuit which was 35th place, 9.26 for the evening gown which was 8th place and 9.59 for the interview which was 1st place. The interview score was the most stunning because it was incredibly high. Manpreet's preliminary scores ranked her in 9th place overall which was just above Miss South Africa and just below Miss Canada, little did the world expect Manpreet to wow the judges the way she did.

As the top ten semifinalists were announced Manpreet was called in spot number 7 in between Miss Dominican Republic and Miss Venezuela. Manpreet strutted out with an enormous smile on her face as Daisy Fuentes commented that the reigning Miss Universe was from India and no country has ever won two years in a row so the pressure would really be on Manpreet that night. The comment gave the impression that Daisy figured that Manpreet was not really a contender since she was 9th place. However, Manpreet wasn't going to settle for that and so she was put to the test.

The first competition for the top ten ladies was the swimsuit competition, Manpreet seemed to be almost strategically placed between the two considerably tallest ladies Miss Dominican Republic and Miss Venezuela which seemed to be for butchering purposes. This same thing was done to Miss El Salvador 1996 and Miss Sweden 1997 but Manpreet would not be butchered and was able to come through to pull off 8th place with a score of 9.37. She wasn't as tall but she still had nice legs and an appealing form which perhaps could have used more bust but Manpreet had such beautiful, long, curly hair. Still Manpreet seemed to be struggling but then came the interview competition.

One thing I regret was Bob Goen seemed to be very sour toward Manpreet during the whole evening up until the last question. As Bob Goen introduced Manpreet, he talked about her as she walked out in a very nice black, stylish dress. Bob Goen had finished but Manpreet was still walking and Bob goes, "Come on up here" which he said to no other delegate and to me it seemed kind of rude but cool-as-a-cucumber Manpreet walks up to him with a grin and answers his question, "Do you know what you want to do after your master's? I know master's is a lot of hard work." Now there is also one thing I must point out which was that Manpreet spoke very fast with her very deep voice during the interview competition and to me it was not a sense of nervousness but I think that she sounded more intelligent because she was very quick on her answers. The judges may have mistaken it for nervousness however. Manpreet responded in saying, " I plan to do it in Human Resource Development and the main reason for doing it in that is because I come from a country which has a vast population. With a country like that, you use the population to your advantage, you're on the road to progress." Immediately Bob followed with a question, "Now it takes a lot of hard work to get your master's, doesn't it?" Manpreet gave a cute and clever response, "Just one step ahead of her bachelor's." In a sense, she was saying that it was nothing for her. Unfortunately, Manpreet was a little too smart for Bob Goen who didn't really understand Manpreet's intelligent humor. Oh well, not all hosts can be as brilliant as the delegates! Anyhow, Bob, not getting it, sarcastically remarked, "Well, I know that, but is it a lot of homework and a lot of studying?" Manpreet picked up that Bob didn't really understand her humorous remark but rephrased her answer for Bob in saying, "Well, I think you just have to be a little regular with it and just a little focused, not myopic, just focused." Bob did catch Manpreet's use of a rare word, "myopic" which is hardly ever used at all, nonetheless, Manpreet used it and English isn't even her first language! Talk about sheer genius.

They also showed Manpreet's parents at this point and I thought it was cute how Manpreet's mother didn't care that Manpreet was onstage and kept staring at the camera. Manpreet's grandmother was trying to tell her to look on stage but she obviously didn't want to do anything in front of the camera. Manpreet's father either smiled at the camera or looked like he was ready to beat up the camera guy, I don't know which! Anyhow, Bob finished the interview with the question, "Do you have any spare time and if so, how do you use it?" Slipping in the clever remark, "Well, I think time management is the key to success so I do have a lot of spare time." Manpreet seemed to have a subtle, clever conceit which won admiration and possibly a little jealousy. She concluded in saying, "I spend most of that spare time studying a little bit of graphology which is handwriting analysis and I also do a little bit of meditation and yoga also in the mornings." Quite a classic interview which earned Manpreet a score of 9.57 which was 4th position in the interview portion of the competition below a palm-reading Miss El Salvador, a Puerto Rican whose father from Oregon, USA forced her to speak in English to him, and a very personable Chelsi Smith, who went on to win the title. Immediately, Miss Venezuela followed Manpreet and was in my opinion one of the worst Miss Venezuelas ever, due to the fact that Manpreet and Denyse (Miss Venezuela) shared a question which was, "Do you consider yourself a woman or a girl?" Compare as we dare, Denyse's almost "duh-duh" answer which was, "I think I am a woman." to Manpreet's brilliant answer in the preliminary competition which was, "I consider myself more of a human than just a girl or a woman. It's excellent to talk about all this, about women's rights and all the issues needed today, but at the same time, we must remember that, first and foremost, we are all humans." I think Manpreet wins hands down, how about you?

Moving on to the number with Jon Secada, Manpreet seemed to be another face in the crowd wearing white as practically everyone else was but Sushmita was literally the center of attention. Shortly after, the evening gown competition came which ended up with completely different results than the preliminaries with Canada in first place with a score of 9.78, Venezuela who had a 9.70, which was also the score of Manpreet but hers was exactly 9.70 whereas Denyse's score an extended number. Anyway, Manpreet made a clever choice in the evening gown. It slightly resembled a sari but it was definitely a unique gown. Manpreet stepped forth as the beautiful song "Forest Hymn" by Deep Forest played, the spotlight shone on Manpreet who had her hair in a high bun with a strand of her bangs hanging seductively above her eye. Her earrings dangled beautifully and were ornamented nicely with beige and silver can like structures. Over her neck, she wore a long beige scarf ala the sari style, which was also what Chelsi Smith did but hers was red to match her gown. Manpreet's gown itself had one shoulder strap and had V-shaped designs going down the dress and at the bottom were about five cuts which contained beige see-through material. On her bust was a beautiful almost seashore like pattern adorned with jewels. She wore beautiful white satin gloves and beige platform heels. She walked down the stairs and said something to the little girl who was acting as her little sister who resembled Miss Canada's little sister and then gave her a smile. The girl looked down but Manpreet showed motherly-like action almost to say, Could you give me a nice curtsy and even though the girl still looked down, Manpreet seemed to say, "Yeah, very good". She walked forward, white rose in hand and walked very widely around the center circle which I think was an accident but it did give a judges a better look at the gown and sure enough, they saw that it was spectacular.

Now it came time for the six finalists to be announced. Reminiscent of the previous year, India was called 4th and the screen showed her score was 9.55. Manpreet was in sixth position at this point and as we all know only the Miss Universe pageants from 1990 to 1997 let in a sixth delegate. Manpreet Brar and Carole Gist (Miss USA 1990) are the only two women who managed to move from 6th position into the top 3 and both of these ladies finished in second place in their respective pageants. I know that the sixth delegates did not make it in for 1991 (Kelli McCarty), 1992 (Anke van Dermeersch--stayed in 6th), 1993 (Kenya Moore--moved from 6th to 5th), 1994 (Lu Parker--who moved from 6th to 4th), 1996(Vanessa Guzman--who moved from 6th to 5th), and 1997(Lia Victoria Borrero--who stayed in 6th). Manpreet moved from 6th to 3rd position after the judges question. I was so impressed with each of the answers of the top six delegates with the exception of Miss Venezuela, who for the first time ever didn't really fit in. So passed Trinidad & Tobago, USA, and the simple Venezuela, which left the door open for Miss Manpreet. Manpreet as she stood with the other ladies looked as if she had an aura of confidence and poise. As she came forward to reach into the bowl, Bob Goen disgusted me, yet again, by saying only to Manpreet, "come on". This phrase seemed to cross messages as if he thought to himself, "Fast talker, slow walker." However, I think that Bob may have been told to add some pressure on to Manpreet because the reigning Miss Universe was from India. Nonetheless, Bob gave a little grin to Manpreet and Manpreet just smiled as she fished into the bowl and chose judge number 2, Zakes Mokae. The camera zoomed in on him and the judge beside him, Lucero, kind of looked away from Manpreet which told me she may have been thinking, how did you get up there?. Anyhow, Zakes looked up in a manner that seemed to say he thought this was an appropriate question for Manpreet because of her skin tone, and asked, "If you found yourself in a situation where you were being discriminated against because of race, what would you do?" Manpreet took hold of the microphone and uttered more words of brilliance, "There is a saying that goes, 'If your back is bent only then will somebody climb on it,' so stand up straight and nobody will ever climb on your back, that's all." As the audience applauded, you could see that Arlene Peterkin in the background really liked the answer since she had this really strong smile and applause as if to say, you got 'em there, Manpreet. Manpreet gave this sort of tired look on her face to the audience and said thank you as Bob Goen was saying to stay there as the judges scored and Manpreet started to turn back when she wasn't supposed to and Bob Goen grabbed her by the arm, and Manpreet opened her eyes wide and realized what she had done and turned around and waited saying, "Oh, sorry!" and then she gave a little "oh well" laugh and smile which I thought was cute.

Luckily, for Manpreet the judges had already punched in their scores. Now, I'm going to point out something very interesting that this same thing happened to Miss Venezuela 1994, Minorka Mercado and Miss Venezuela/Miss Universe 1996, Alicia Machado. In the case of Minorka, Bob Goen didn't grab her arm but rather the shoulder extension on her dress which could have ripped and could have been very embarrassing for Bob and Minorka but Minorka didn't look as shocked as Manpreet, she just came right back comfortably and waited. Alicia, however, just walked away and Bob said sternly "Stay right here" even though Alicia couldn't understand and still walked away, and then Bob goes, "Miss Venezuela, come here! Come here!" Alicia seemed to have a little "aye-aye-aye" look on her face but still smiled but by the time she came back she had to go stand with the other ladies. Notice if you will how all three of these ladies made it into the top three. If they still had the judge's questions, I would have told the delegates to walk away during that time because it has been proven good luck!! All right now, back to Manpreet. She was very impressed with Miss Canada's answer to the judge's question which earned Lana 1st position at that point. It seemed to me that Lana was winning the judges over because her scores subtly became higher than those of Chelsi Smith. As Lana walked back toward Manpreet, Manpreet said to her "Good answer!" and so after Miss Puerto Rico gave an answer that was good but didn't really have a spark, it was time to move on to the final three.

Bob Goen announced the first of the final three was Miss India, Manpreet Brar. Now I must also point out that the way Bob said her name was not similar to how he had been treating her earlier but he seemed to say simultaneously, "Way to go, Manpreet." His tone of voice was raspy and awesome which told me that he was impressed that Manpreet was able to come through this far throughout the evening despite the pressure he had been putting on her. Miss USA came after and then came Miss Canada. Lana also seemed to be avoiding Manpreet since she gave Chelsi this great big hug and then put her hand over her mouth as if she was in a state of sweet shock without giving Manpreet a second look, but Chelsi Smith hug-held Manpreet as she did Lana as Manpreet said almost shyly, "I'm so happy." as if she wanted to say it to the other two but they were sharing a conversation as Manpreet sort of looked away at the audience. Bob Goen said, "We have three sensational ladies up here." At that point, Bob looked at Manpreet and she gave him a big "ah" smile, and Bob and Manpreet both looked away from each other as Chelsi sort of snickered and Bob went on to say, "But we only have one crown." As Bob was explaining the final question, Manpreet was staring right at Chelsi and as Chelsi nodded, Manpreet looked at Bob and nodded. Chelsi and Lana were dismissed to the soundproof booth and Bob motioned Manpreet to center stage and as Bob Goen was explaining that the booth resembled some colonial architecture with his hand on Manpreet's arm, I think that Manpreet said, "You just stop it." and sighed with a smile. Somebody please correct me if you are an expert lip reader.

Bob Goen and Manpreet Brar definitely had some sort of eerie, awkward chemistry. Bob then turned to Manpreet and asked if she was ready, Manpreet gave a very smily/certain yes and then Manpreet turned into focus mood, (not myopic, just focused) and listened as Bob asked her the final question. "If you could do anything you wished to improve the status of women in your country, what would you do?" Manpreet smacked her lips as she opened her mouth, gave a brief pause as she was deep in thought, and uttered more words of genius which were very fitting being from India, "I would give the women in my country the ability and the right to choose, the right to choose their lives, the right to choose what they want to do with their lives and only then will they be 'individuals' not just mothers, daughters, or wives, but individuals...thinking, living individuals." Chelsi Smith gave a similar response but she emphasized that men and women should be equal in power, but instead of saying that she would give women the right to choose, like Manpreet, Chelsi said that women "can" do anything that they choose. I thought that Chelsi's answer was also excellent and of course, the judges agreed. Lana Buchberger took a different road in saying that women are currently rising in status and being Canadian myself, I must agree, however, I think that Canada and the USA have very few differences at all. Lana seemed to ramble a little at first and then went on to say that she would encourage them to keep on learning, to even get their master's. Master's. Was there any mention of Lana getting her master's? No. Was there any mention of Manpreet getting her master's? Of course. It was at that point that Lana may have made Manpreet look a little higher than herself. It was a decent answer but I must admit that I was expecting something a little better coming from Lana.

With that came time for each of the ladies to step forward as the judges made their final vote. Manpreet was first and instantly did the trademark stance, she stuck one leg out ahead of the other, her hands placed on her thighs and her back bent slightly backward. Now contrary to her "stand up straight" remark, Manpreet never stood straight the entire evening, she always had that pose. Whenever I asked anybody about what they most remembered about Manpreet Brar, some answered that she should have won, she had good sayings, she was so smart, but above all these answers, everyone remembered how she stood and most people saw it as a poor stance. I, on the other hand, thought it showed that Manpreet had consistent poise and always remembered that she had to stand out and she most certainly did. Models pose like that all the time! Manpreet drew a fair amount of applause from the audience. Chelsi drew, maybe, a little more applause, with a few whistles, but, hands down, Lana got the most applause and whistles from the audience and Lana couldn't help but giggle confidently at the fact that she was the crowd favorite.

I read in an article that during one of the commercial breaks, some extra emphasis was placed on the fact that if India won, it would be history in the making because India would have been the first country to win two years in a row, it was also said that USA hadn't won in 15 years (aw, poor them, it's not like they don't have enough winners anyway.) and Canada hadn't won in 13 years, a lesser time period than that of the USA. Before Sushmita said her farewell in traditional Indian dress, in the background you could see Manpreet, Chelsi, and Lana huddled for a moment when Lana said something to Manpreet that put a big smile on her face and I think it had something to do with India winning two years in a row because Manpreet immediately looked straight at Sushmita. Sushmita said goodbye and the three contenders stood center stage and as the second runner up was about to be announced, Manpreet looked sort of down for an instant almost in belief that it may have been her when she may have recalled the earlier incident when Manpreet walked away too soon. But Bob announced that the second runner up was Miss Canada, at this Manpreet applauded Lana and Lana still wearing a smile was escorted away. Chelsi, then turned to Manpreet and said, "Oh my gosh, I'm so nervous." Manpreet laughed out loud and Bob brought the two ladies closer to the edge of the stage. Then Manpreet said, "Now, I'm so nervous, oh!" As Bob and Daisy were talking about the importance of the first runner up, Manpreet and Chelsi were sharing a conversation, I don't know if it was their last, but I think Chelsi first congratulated Manpreet if she won and Manpreet did likewise. Silence took over the auditorium as Bob Goen said, "Here we are ladies, the first runner up is Miss India. Chelsi Smith, you are the new Miss Universe!" Manpreet turned to Chelsi with a faded smile and Chelsi looked shocked and was obviously feeling a wide range of emotions because she immediately released Manpreet's hands and covered her face. Manpreet was escorted to stand with the other ladies and as Chelsi took her walk, in the shadows was an onlooking Manpreet Brar holding a big bouquet of roses. Based on the whole roller-coaster ride the entire night was, I'm sure Manpreet was not very happy but still I think I saw her clap for Chelsi briefly just as the camera angle switched.

As I well know, after a performance, one must always face the aftermath of it all, the compliments and the criticism. Here we are three and a half years later, both Chelsi Smith and Lana Buchberger are married (Lana to a hockey player, Rick Tabaracci and Chelsi is married to Kelly Blair, who was shown during the telecast sitting beside Chelsi's mother.) Lana is also the sister of hockey player, Kelly Buchberger. Chelsi is also a Venus Model like Joyce Giraud, Miss Puerto Rico 1998. Whither goes Manpreet now? Recent interviews with Manpreet have revealed some stunning discoveries in what actually happened during and after the pageant.

Based on a recent interview with Manpreet, she revealed that she was confronted by one of the judges at the Miss Universe pageant, whose name was not mentioned, that he or she made a mistake when casting the final vote. Apparently, this judge said that the computerized system has a very strict time limit in which you must cast a vote, and for the final vote, if it not punched in, then the computer automatically gives the lowest score, which in Manpreet's case would have been a 3, which means that had the judge punched a 1 or a 2, it may have meant that Manpreet would have won!
Manpreet, Chelsi, and Lana
I really was not expecting this to turn into an essay, but I have so much to say about Manpreet because no other participant in the Miss Universe Pageant has amazed me as much as she has. Now this page was on one delegate in the 1995 Miss Universe Pageant, just think of what I have to say about everyone else, but, please don't ask me to do a full-length report on the 1995 Miss Universe Pageant (definitely, my overall favorite) because I'm afraid it would literally be a hundred pages long! Of all the pageants I have on tape, the 1995 Miss Universe Pageant is the one I have watched the most. I also want to congratulate Manpreet for her fine performance and commend her for her hard work and brilliance. Manpreet, you've got it all and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
Manpreet on the cover of Femina Magazine

(This article was written in 1998)