VILLUPURAM: As Harini of Tiruvannamalai walked the ramp in a pretty magenta designer outfit with matching accessories, the audience was awestruck. The occasion was the Miss Koovagam pageant in which 84 transgenders participated as part of a festival organised by Villupuram District Transgenders (Women) Welfare Association. Harini’s good looks won her the crown, but she also gives credit to her shimmering costume and the extensive grooming she went through before the pageant. “I spent Rs 1 lakh for my costume, to keep up my looks and to prepare for the contest. This is the first time I am participating. Tamil Nadu has given me refuge and support. I left my house in Kochi at the age of 14,’’ she says. It is not just Harini, who has spent all her savings to get to the beauty contest. Most of the contestants have saved for a year only to spend on costumes and grooming to be a part of the contest. Nakshatra, a dancer in a Bangalore pub, has purchased designer sarees and churidhars to participate in the contest. Stroking her long hair she says, “I straightened my hair for Rs 10,000 and spent about Rs 50,000 on clothes and accessories.’’ She had to save every penny from her monthly earnings of Rs 3000 to Rs 7,000. ‘’This contest means a lot as it gives recognition within my community,’’ she says. Pink and gold designer-saree clad Sonya, an NGO employee from Pune, who was cheered with whistles and thunderous applause when she took to the ramp, said the contest mattered to her more than her life and she didn’t mind sacrificing day-to-day pleasures to save money for the contest. It is not just the pageant contestants who looked their best. The streets were packed with glamourous looking transgenders, transforming Villupuram, otherwise a very ordinary small town. In another pageant in Villupuram on Monday where 49 contestants participated, Ramya of Madurai was crowned Miss Koovagam 2012. This was organised by several transgender associations along with TANSACS.