Her stunning looks won her a coveted title in New Zealand’s Miss India contest.
But Jacinta Lal, 21, was today at the centre of a huge row after she was accused of not looking Indian enough.
The blue-eyed blonde, whose father is Fijian-Indian and mother a New Zealander, was booed by spectators when she won the Wellington leg of the MissIndiaNZ contest.
Organisers later confirmed that there had been ‘two or three’ complaints about Miss Lal’s eligibility.
The row comes just days after the Indian government protested to New Zealand about alleged racial slurs by TV host Paul Henry.
Miss Lal told the New Zealand Herald she had heard people say that she was not ‘Indian-looking enough to win the pageant’.
‘But despite those small-minded people that made those comments, there were many Indians who encouraged me to enter.
‘So just because some narrow-minded people make a comment like that we can’t assume that all Indians think the same way.
‘There is no difference between what Paul Henry is saying and what those select few Indians were saying. They are all wrong and should not say things like that . . .’
Miss Lal (left) is one of two runners-up in the Miss India contest: She branded her critics ‘narrow-minded’
Organiser Dharmesh Parikh said that he had also had complaints when Miss Lal took part in the MissIndiaNZ finals in Auckland in August and became one of two runners-up.
‘People said: “Oh my God look at this blonde girl coming to Miss IndiaNZ, what is she doing here?,” he said.
‘Whoever these people are, they are a very small part of it.
‘This event is called Miss IndiaNZ, with an N-Z, and I strongly emphasise that this event is not an Indian event, it is a Kiwi-Indian event, so you must have New Zealand residency, New Zealand citizenship and you must have some sort of Indian background.’
‘It is a little bit sad, but it is unfortunate for Jacinta as well because she should be accepted into this Indian world as well because she is a beautiful Indian girl.’
That’s Jacinta Lal in the center.