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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 October 2018

From graduate to beauty queen

Monica Gill didn’t grew up dreaming of being a beauty queen. She was too busy studying biology, psychology and women’s studies at a Boston university to have any time for catwalk competitions.
Monica Gill, the Miss India USA, is crowned as Miss India Worldwide. Lee Hoagland/The National
Monica Gill, the Miss India USA, is crowned as Miss India Worldwide. Lee Hoagland/The National

ABU DHABI // Monica Gill didn’t grow up dreaming of being a beauty queen. She was too busy studying biology, psychology and women’s studies at a Boston university to have any time for catwalk competitions.

But after graduating, and some coaxing by a family friend, American Ms Gill signed up for the regional Miss India New Hampshire pageant and eventually went on to win Miss India USA 2013, setting an entirely new course for life.

“You know, a year ago I thought I’d be working in clinical affairs. I had a boyfriend, I was living in the US, I was thinking about pursuing a higher degree and then within a month my bags were packed and I was in India,” said Ms Gill, 25, who recently moved to Mumbai to study acting.

“What I’ve learnt is that no matter how much you plan, what you do, time is like a force of nature and life is going to take you wherever it wants.”

Maybe it was destiny, maybe it was down to her discipline, but on Friday Ms Gill found herself standing in a glamorous, slinky back dress, her long hair draped over her bare shoulders and tears streaming down her blushed cheeks as she was crowned Miss India Worldwide 2014.

Her 10-year-old brother, who had travelled from Boston with her parents to surprise and support her, was among the first to run on stage and into his sister’s open arms to congratulate her.

Her parents, although not entirely surprised with the evening’s outcome, said they were still awestruck with the recent turn of events in their daughter’s life.

“She had a very good job, she’s very well educated and all of a sudden she said, ‘Dad, I want to go into pageantry’,” said Malkit Gill.

“Once she decided that, she was so concentrated on fashion, she won state, she won Miss India USA, it shows that if you have good determination and a flair for it, go for it and you can do it.”

The 40 contestants in the Miss India Worldwide came from all over the globe. Three of the women representing the GCC – Priya D’Silva of Bahrain, Niharika Pathak of Oman and Sanna Monga of UAE – made it to the top 10.

Ms D’Silva was second runner-up. The contestants spent the past week living together in Dubai as they received training on beauty, public speaking and choreography. They were judged by a seven-member jury made up of Indian media, sports and fashion personalities.

Participants were judged on how well they performed in a talent round, held in Dubai, and how well they wore an evening gown and traditional Indian dress. The top five also had to score high marks in a live question-and-answer session.

“Miss India Worldwide has been around to celebrate the Indian woman, to bring people from various parts of the world closer by means of fashion, by means of traditional values,” said Ms D’Silva in an answer to a judge’s question.

“It’s beautiful to see so many women, so many people from so many countries having grown up probably in different cultural traditions, and when you see them together here you know no matter where they live, their heart is always where it’s supposed to be, in India.”

Along with her crown and title, Ms Gill won US$8,000 (Dh29,384) in prize money, gifts from sponsors and an opportunity to travel the world representing the pageant in various exotic locations.

Speaking to the 30 contestants who did not make it to the round of 10, Indian actor and jury member Nikhil Dwivedi reminded the young women that there was more to life than winning or losing a beauty pageant.

“This is not the end of the world,” said Mr Dwivedi said. “My message is, take it with your chin up, you’re going to achieve much more than this.”

rpennington@thenational.ae