We have all been exposed in one way or another to the glamorous fashion world by means of the media. Despite all of the attention people give to models and their lives, one can never really know all of the steps they must go through before being seen by the public.
After speaking with twenty-year-old Shreyaa Chawla, a recent contestant in the Miss India Worldwide pageant, I have developed a better understanding of what goes on in the modeling world and how intense it can really be. Chawla revealed to me some of the tensionsthat come with modeling and competing for titles and prestige on the basis of one’s beauty. Chawla explains that while she had a difficult few weeks, the memories and satisfaction she gained from her experiences made all of her hard work worth it. Excerpts from our conversation:
What are the official titles you have earned from the Miss India Worldwide pageant?
I won the title of Miss India Worldwide- Canada, which was a national pageant in which girls from all over Canada competed. The winner from the pageant held in Canada automatically goes on to the international pageant that was held in Suriname this year. There I won the title of Miss Beautiful Smile and I made it to the top ten out of 35 girls. My name was also announced in Suriname for being one of the top five talents in the talent portion of the pageant.
How would you describe your experiences with the Miss India Worldwide pageant?
Let me just start by saying that the experience was very different from what I had expected. I was flown to a country which I had never been to before, it was both exciting and terribly nerve-wracking. I met 34 wonderful girls from all over the world who I was supposed to compete against. It was a lot to take in at first, with all the new people I was meeting and all of the attention we were being given, but it didn’t take me too long to get used to it. Of course, like any contest, it was very competitive. All of the girls were so beautiful and talented, which made it so much more difficult. However, the girls surprised me. I’ve always heard stories where pageants brought out the worst in people. I honestly thought that the girls were going to sabotage each other. Nothing of the sort actually happened; all of the girls were more like a family. We all helped and supported one another because we understood what the others were going through. The pageant taught me a lot about the difficulties in life, it especially taught me about the nature of competition and the importance of unity.
What sort of experience did you have leading to the Miss India Worldwide pageant?
I have been in a number of different fashion shows before the pageant, which gave me some experience before the event. I was in the fashion show for Rhythm Creations and Bombay Trends. Besides my experience with fashion shows, I was in a couple of music videos, including those of singers Gippy Grewal and Shukhjit Grewal. I also appeared in background roles in the movies Love Guru and Kismat Konnection.I have a lot of experience with dancing, which is what I did for the talent portion of the Miss India Worldwide pageant. I danced in the Bollywood show “Heartthrob” in 2001 and have taken dancing and acting workshops.
What do you do outside of modeling?
Modeling is just something I enjoy doing in my free time. Besides modeling, I spend most of my time studying and working. I’ve almost completed my second year of university, and I’m hoping to graduate and someday have my own business. I also just got my realtors license, so I will be starting work as a realtor very soon. I’ve always wanted to do real estate so I’m very excited at the prospect.
Are you planning on competing in the Miss India Worldwide pageant again next year?
Well, this was the first time I’ve ever done anything like this…It was a great experience for sure, but I think that next year I’d want to do something more localized, maybe just within Canada. Pageants are a lot more demanding than they may seem. A lot of the girls I had competed against had taken time off school and had been preparing for the pageant for years. Preparation needs to be made to ensure a perfect walk down the runway, a great talent performance and flawless speech when speaking with anyone associated with the pageant. Right now, I’d like to focus more on my education and career. Maybe some time I’d like to compete internationally again, but for now I want to stay a little more low-key and within Ontario or Canada. More than modeling, I’m interested in acting and competing in pageants, though.
What about acting and pageantry stimulates your interests?
I want to create a distinct name and title for myself in society. I feel like having a title and a sort of image set for myself would help me in my other goals. It is my dream to someday make a change in the world. I want to do something useful, like create a non-profit organization to help orphans or people in need. If I had a title, I feel like I’d have more of an influence. Look at celebrities, people look up to them and when they make humanitarian efforts, they get noticed on a larger scale and more people are encouraged to help out. I don’t necessarily want a title for the prestige; I just want it because I think that the potential influence that comes with it can create great opportunity to make a difference.
What role did your family and friends play in your competing in the Miss India Worldwide pageant?
My dad has always taught me a lot about the value of hard work, he’s always been my role model and set the platform for me to achieve. The struggle that my dad went through when he came to Canada from India has always been an inspiration for me; it pushes me to pursue my dreams as I know that anything is possible. My mom is my backbone. She has always helped and supported me in everything I’ve done. I’m very lucky. I have always had a very solid support system within my family. My friends are great, too. I know my friends will do anything and everything in their power to ensure that I succeed in all of my endeavors and just knowing that encourages me to try my hardest.
Do you have any advice you’d like to give to others who are hoping to enter the world of modeling and pageantry?
I’m sure they already know this, but it is very competitive. In order to be successful in this world, you need to put a lot of your time and your whole heart into it. As glamorous as this world may seem, it is a lot of hard work and modeling is an art in itself. I want to stress the importance of finishing your education before entering this world. Education is something that you can fall back on and it is something that will benefit you and be your own forever.
Leaving off on an inspirational note, Chawla explained the pressures and struggles, as well as the satisfaction gained from her experiences in the Miss India Worldwide pageant. While modeling is portrayed by the media as a major aspect of life, Chawla shows that there is much more beyond it.