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As we celebrate Harnaaz Sandhu bringing home the Miss Universe crown after 21 years, we look at former beauty queens pursuing interesting careers ranging from joining the army to writing books.
India’s Harnaaz Sandhu was crowned Miss Universe and has brought home the title after 21 years. She stated, “From a young girl with fragile mental health who faced bullying and body shaming to a woman who emerged like a phoenix, realising her true potential. From an individual who once doubted her own existence to a woman who is aspiring to inspire the youth. Today, I stand proudly in front of the Universe as a courageous, vivacious and a compassionate woman who is all set to lead a life with a purpose, and to leave behind a remarkable legacy.”
Indrani Rehman was the first Indian to represent India at the first Miss Universe pageant held in the year 1952. It has been 69 years since then and we’ve had many women who participated and won the Miss India title. How many Miss India winners do we actually recall?
I am sure the names that pop in your mind are all in the entertainment industry. Beauty pageants are often considered to be a stepping stone into Bollywood and it is taken for granted that this is what the winners will be pursuing. However if we look at the percentage of winners who have opted to pursue acting or modelling as a career, it will hardly be less than 10%. So what happens to the remaining? Are they not successful or are they lost in oblivion?
While there is nothing wrong in pursing acting as a career, it is imperative to realize that there are so many other opportunities and options to pursue.
Let’s have a look at some of the past winners who made a mark for themselves and chose alternate careers!
Sara Corner started modelling at the age of 9, she graduated with a Bachelor in Economics and is one of the most articulate winners we’ve had. She did not pursue showbiz after winning the title. Instead she made a career in Banking & Finance. She also tried her hand at writing and wrote a children’s book.
Reita Faria is not only the first Indian but also the first Asian to be crowned Miss World. After her tenure as Miss World she received many acting and modelling offers. However she chose to complete her MBBS degree. She decided to become a doctor and currently lives and practices in Dublin Ireland with her husband David Powell who is an endocrinologist and her two children.
A graduate from NYU law when she participated in the Miss India contest chose to pursue entrepreneurship. She is the co-founder of ‘Rainmaker’- a comprehensive & professional solutions provider. She interned at the Human Rights Watch in NYC and also worked as the Third Committees Research Assistant at the UN’s Permanent Mission of India.
Shilpa Singh was a runner up at the Miss Universe contest 2012. She graduated from the Indian School of Business in 2019 and also has a degree in B.Tech Computer Science. She heads the marketing division of a tech start-up called Cube26. She also gives TedX talks on her journey from a beauty pageant winner into the world of business and marketing.
Indrani Rahman became the first Miss India and was the first woman to represent India at the Miss Universe pageant even though she was married. She had been learning dance since the age of 9 and was adept at Bharata Natyam, Kathakali, Kuchipudi and Odissi.
She popularized Odissi in the west and received the Padma Shri in 1969. She was the first dancer from the Asia Society Tour who performed for the US President J.F. Kennedy and Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru during Nehru’s official visit to Washington C. She has also performed for Queen Elizabeth, Fidel Castro and Nikita Khrushchev.
She eventually taught at various universities including Harvard and spent her time touring and promoting Indian dance extensively.
Lt. Garima Yadav chose to serve the nation in spite of having offers to join the film industry. She always wanted to join the force and did her schooling from Army Public School in Shimla. She also has a degree in Bachelors in Economics.
She also prepared for the IAS exams but eventually realized that the Army was her true calling. She personifies beauty, brains and courage.
Beauty with brains is what Miss India winners are known by. While many get into the entertainment industry there are others who carved their path in other fields. Young girls need to know that there are a plethora of opportunities that they can explore and excel in.
More power to these lovely ladies who don so many hats and redefine the conventional standards of beauty. Each of them truly embodies not just beauty but also courage, kindness, intelligence and resourcefulness.
Image source: Stills from various beauty pageants
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Shows like Indian Matchmaking only further the argument that women must adhere to social norms without being allowed to follow their hearts.
When Netflix announced that Indian Matchmaking (2020-present) would be renewed for a second season, many of us hoped for the makers of the show to take all the criticism they faced seriously. That is definitely not the case because the show still continues to celebrate regressive patriarchal values.
Here are a few of the gendered notions that the show propagates.
A mediocre man can give himself a 9.5/10 and call himself ‘the world’s most eligible bachelor’, but an independent and successful woman must be happy with receiving just 60-70% of what she feels she deserves.
As long as teachers are competent in their job, and adhere to the workplace code of conduct, how does it matter what they do in their personal lives?
A 30 year old Associate Professor at a well-known University, according to an FIR filed by her, was forced to resign because the father of one of her students complained that he found his son looking at photographs of her, which according to him were “objectionable” and “bordering on nudity”.
There are two aspects to this case, which are equally disturbing, and which together make me question where we are heading as a society.
When the father of an 18 year old finds his son looking at photographs of a lady in a swimsuit, he can do many things. What this parent allegedly did was to dash off a letter to the University which states: