Has it ever occurred to you that maximum number of beauty pageants in our country have been won by Punjabi women? If you don’t agree, think again! Priyanka Chopra, Lara Dutta, Juhi Chawla, Gul Panag, Poonam Dhillon, Vanya Mishra, among others, have the Punjabi connection.
Though beauty pageants off late might have failed to gain media attention, thanks to the drought in Miss World and Miss Universe crowns for Indian women since 2000, the beauty business continues to be a lucrative market for many.
However for many, it is a matter of taking pride in one’s culture. Among these are three women from the region who have recently taken part or are gearing up for the respective pageants they have been selected for.
But what makes these ‘women of substance’ stand apart is how they haven’t given up their previous careers and believe in striking a balance. Ambitious and goal-oriented, these women believe such contests are not just about boasting about one’s physical beauty but, instead, it gives an opportunity to bring social issues to the forefront.
Taking pride in culture
Chandigarh-borne Jiwanjot Sandhu, 22, lives by the dictum ‘A culture is made—or destroyed—by its articulate voices’. The winner of the Miss Beautiful Skin pageant in Miss World Punjaban held recently, Sandhu said the cultural aspect of the pageant made her take part in it. Based in UK, she has been actively involved in various cultural events abroad as well. But, that’s not it.
“While becoming a police officer is my professional goal, taking part in this competition was always close to my heart. It brought me closer to the ethnicity of my community,” says Sandhu, who wishes to be role model to more Punjabi women overseas.
Ask her why she wants to be part of police force, if she’s already in the glamour industry, she says, “I’ve always considered myself a strong woman and having grown up in a way where there were no gray areas... it’s either black or white, I felt I wanted to do the same as a police officer and punish those who commit crime.”
For someone who moved to UK when she was 10, she shares that staying away from India made her value her culture. “I am a part of a popular Giddha group in England,” she says, adding that she is keen to work towards the cause of female foeticide in Punjab.
All of 24, Simran Kapoor is a versatile young woman who looks at the world with the eyes of a dreamer and an optimist. Born in an ethnic Punjabi household in Ludhiana, she grew up with the virtues of family, community and charity. Kapoor has been selected as the national finalist for Miss World Canada beauty contest A consummate professional with a mind for art and a heart for social change, Simran works on various Hollywood films and TV series. She became the youngest visual effects coordinator in Canada in 2013.
More than that, Simran has used her skills and experience to bring attention to the growing illiteracy in children through short-films and outreach initiatives. “I want to create a positive global change and promote the importance of education across the world,” said Kapoor, who intends to use the Miss World Canada platform to go further and help far more people through her endeavours. “I truly believe that investing in education is the single most effective way of reducing poverty and inequality and in turn creating better opportunities for sustainable and economic growth in Punjab,” she added. The model is also in-touch with various local Punjabi organisations and channels there to promote the arts, culture and heritage of the region.
Life beyond marriage
A software engineer by profession, Chandigarh’s Anmol Sandhu Rai, 31, believes life is a journey and not a destination. Marriage and motherhood didn’t deter her from exploring more avenues in life.
Recently, adjudged as Mrs India-Queen of Substance 2015, Rai is gearing up to represent the country in Mrs Earth to be held in Singapore in October. She is quick to reveal that child labour and human trafficking are concerns that distress her the most. “I wish to win the title not for my looks, but to be able to do more in the field of social upliftment. A beauty pageant is not just about exhibiting your external traits. You’ve to be a responsible and intelligent individual,” says Rai.
“Currently, I am the brand ambassador of Handicapped Children and Women’s Association (HCWA), an NGO.
Besides, I also plan to start my own NGO through which I want to work towards providing medical aid to the unprivileged,” she adds. Rai is also working on her first novel based on real world happenings and targets the youth.
Ask her how she manages her time, she quickly says, “People who do things out of compulsion manage their time. When one is passionate about something, it comes from within. Time management just happens then.” However, she laments, “The focus is always on the Miss Indias, Miss Worlds and not on the Mrs Indias and Mrs Worlds contests. I feel married women deserve equal recognition and this is where they should be lauded for striking a balance.”