Meet the first Kashmiri Pandit beauty queen
‘I come from a conservative family.’
‘They had sent me to Bengaluru to work and wanted me to focus on my career.’
‘I went for the Miss India auditions because it was something I wanted to do for myself.’
‘My family was there and saw me perform live.’
‘After I got through the finals, they supported me.’
‘Now they want me to be the game-changer — to be the first-ever Kashmiri Pandit to carve a niche in the fashion world.’
What were your growing up years like?
A Kashmiri Pandit from Jammu and Kashmir, I’m a small-town girl.
I studied at the Army Public School, Ratnuchak. That gave me a chance to meet people from across the country; it helped me deal with my inhibitions when it came to talking to people.
I never liked having a huge social circle so I had few friends.
I was good in studies and cultural activities and started playing the harmonium when I was six.
How did you get into modelling?
My father is a doctor and my mother, a teacher.
Last year, I completed my engineering degree and started working in Bengaluru. I have been working for almost eight months.
I have always been a tall girl. Never in my wildest dreams did I see myself entering the glamour world.
I got into fashion blogging because that was one of my interests. Fans across the world read my posts and loved my blog.
That boosted my confidence and gave me the initial push to participate in the Miss India auditions.
To find my place in the world of beauty pageants, I followed a hardcore fitness regime.
After entering the Miss India pageant, I started preparing myself to become a beauty queen and lost 20 kilos over a month-and-a-half.
Was it a challenge to lose so much weight in a short time?
I embraced a healthy fitness routine to lose weight; it helped to cut carbs. Starving is a bad idea.
I introduced lots of green vegetables in my diet. A protein-rich diet really helped me.
However, there is no substitute to workouts.
I used to run a lot — around 4 km in the morning and another 4 km in the evening.
I did a lot of functional training. It helped increase my core strength and lose weight.
But once I started sticking to a low-carb diet — which meant no chapati and no rice — I went bonkers.
Kashmiri food has a lot of rice — I used to eat rice twice a day. It took a lot of effort on my part to give up rice.
I have never been into fried or junk food. That really helped me.
Whenever I had spare time, I’d hit the gym.
I have a weakness for chocolate and when I can’t have sugar, the cravings set in.
Sticking to a strict diet doesn’t really work for me. So I gave myself one cheat day in a week. But I didn’t go overboard, so my effort during the week didn’t go waste.
How did you win the support and trust of your parents?
I think I am the first Kashmiri Pandit to participate in a pageant.
When Miss India comes to audition in Jammu and Kashmir, you’ll always find contestants from Jammu.
But it’s rare to find girls from Kashmir.
Parents there don’t encourage their daughters to get into modelling.
They want them to become doctors and engineers. It was the same with me.
My family was never supportive of my decision.
My siblings are engineers. My father wanted me to become a doctor.
I come from a conservative and practical family.
They had sent me to Bengaluru to work and wanted me to focus on my career.
I went for the Miss India auditions because it was something I wanted to do for myself.
I cracked the auditions. My family was there and saw me perform live. That made a difference.
They saw potential in me. After I got through the finals, they supported me.
Now they want me to be the game-changer — to be the first-ever Kashmiri Pandit to carve a niche for herself in the fashion world.
How did you muster the courage to do your first swimwear shoot?
I did a swimwear photo shoot for the first time in my life during Glamanand Supermodel India 2018.
Most of the 23 contestants were new to the swimwear round.
Everyone has inhibitions when there are so many people around, but if you are confident about yourself, it is much easier.
The first time I changed into a swimsuit, I stood there, looking at myself in the mirror, too scared to face people.
I wasn’t sure whether I’d be able to walk confidently in the swimsuit.
But the minute I stepped on stage, the people were so professional that I forgot I was wearing swimwear; it became just another outfit I was posing in.
When I looked at it that way, my inhibitions just disappeared.
How are you preparing for Miss Multinational?
I’m very excited about representing India at the Miss Multinational pageant.
I feel humbled to have this opportunity to win the title at an international pageant.
Miss Multinational will take place at the end of the year; that gives me enough time to prepare.
I want to focus on my fitness.
The crown comes with a lot of responsibilities. People will look up to me as I will be a public figure.
I want to influence people around me in a positive manner. I want to inspire young girls.
My determination has made all the difference in my life. I hope it will see me through my future challenges.
by Anita Aikara