Jacinta Lal blonde hair blue eyes New Zealand's Miss India pageant

Miss India New Zealand Jacinta Lal. Photo: YouTube

Although 21-year-old Jacinta Lal took home the central district crown of New Zealand's Miss India pageant back in April, it seems there are still some people who aren't happy about her victory.

In a new interview with the New Zealand Herald, the blue-eyed, light-haired beauty, whose father is Fiji-Indian and mother is from New Zealand, is speaking up for the first time about the racism she's been battling while competing.

"[People said] I wasn't Indian-looking enough to win the pageant," says Lal, who has also been booed by audiences. Miss IndiaNZ contest organizer Dharmesh Parikh admits that he received a few complaints regarding Lal's ethnicity, and thus, her qualifications.

"People said: 'Oh my God look at this blonde girl coming to Miss IndiaNZ, what is she doing here?'" says Parikh.

"This event is called Miss IndiaNZ, with an N-Z, and I strongly emphasize 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," he says, "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."

Harshad Patel, the president of the Auckland Indian Association, told the paper he was disappointed to hear about booing fans.

"They shouldn't be doing that by looking at her hair or whatever -- she's Indian. She's got Indian blood, so she should qualify," he says. "They should find out the facts. They should be more open-minded."

In other words, they should be more like Lal, who's keeping a level head about the situation.

"Despite those small-minded people that made those comments, there were many Indians who encouraged me to enter the pageant," says Lal. "So just because some narrow-minded people make a comment like that we can't assume that all Indians think the same way."

We want to know what you think. Should Lal's nontraditional look keep her from the Miss IndiaNZ title?

In related beauty pageant news, read about a designer who thinks the Miss Universe swimsuit competition is "empowering."