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Top 10 South Asian American Beauty Pageant to Know

Top 10 South Asian American Beauty Pageant Winners to Know

Updated: August 16, 2016 8:58 PM IST

By Sheena Pradhan

beauty pageants

Pageants like Miss USA, Miss America, Miss Universe, and Miss World are ubiquitous because they are televised pageants. We have seen former titleholders of these systems go on to great things. Halle Berry, Nina Davaluri, Priyanka Chopra, and Aishwarya Rai are all former national and international titleholders that have gone on to enact social change and make big careers for themselves.

Pageants are undoubtedly great platforms for women of any racial and ethnic background. In addition to creating a competitive environment, a titleholder’s reign gives her a platform to bring awareness to causes important to her and truly make a difference. The minute a woman puts on a state, national, or international sash and crown, she is suddenly interesting to the public. This interest comes with an incredible amount of power.

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All of the previously mentioned pageants also have age limits, thus contestants are no older than 24 or 27-years-old. Once a woman ages out of those pageant systems, does she miss out on her chance to have a platform? Not at all. There are many pageant systems that offer the same benefits of having a title as the big pageants mentioned previously. There are even many pageants specifically for South Asian-American women.

Many of these South Asian-American pageant systems are new and are not highly publicized, so we do not hear much about them. However, as far as networking within the South Asian community goes, these can be huge platforms.

The following list is a compilation of the Top 10 South Asian American pageant systems in North America. These pageants offer opportunities to South Asian women in the United States and Canada. Most of these pageants are inclusive to women of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds. If your South Asian country does not have a pageant, you can probably compete in any of the below.

These pageant systems were ranked from in ascending order from good to best. The factors when considering which pageant systems were the best to compete in were support from directors, categories of competition, opportunities available to candidates, whether or not the pageant is part of an international pageant system, and how big the platform is.

10. Mrs. South Asia International

Priya Alavadi Gupta[Priya Alavadi Gupta, Mrs. South Asia International 2014| Photo Source: Facebook]

For married women, opportunities to compete in pageants decrease exponentially because most pageants are “Miss” pageants that require a woman to be unmarried (yes—this is an outdated requirement). For any woman that loves pageants, but is no longer legally single, this is a good pageant to consider.

Mrs. South Asia International is a regional title that doesn’t have a physical pageant. This title is awarded based on a telephonic interview.

This platform offers married South Asian women a unique opportunity to compete on the international level at the Mrs. International Pageant that takes place each year in Jacksonville, FL. The Mrs. International pageant is affiliated with the Miss International pageant system that is also based in Jacksonville, FL. Miss International is reputable and known to be an organized pageant system.

Another perk of being Mrs. South Asia International is, titleholders have a platform to further their careers in entertainment and to give back to the community.

9. Mrs. Pakistan International

Zunera Mazhar[Zunera Mazhar, Mrs. Pakistan International 2014| Photo Courtesy: Zunera Mazhar]

Mrs. Pakistan International is technically a “Pakistani” pageant rather than a Pakistani-American pageant. However, Mrs. Pakistan International makes this list because it is based out of Atlanta, Georgia—as are the pageant directors—and is therefore easily accessible to women in the United States. Mrs. Pakistan International competes alongside Mrs. India International, and Mrs. South Asia International at the Mrs. International pageant in Jacksonville, FL.

The categories of competition are the evening gown, formal wear, athletic wear, opening number dance, and the interview round.

After winning her title, former titleholder, Mazhar said she went out of her way to find opportunities in her local area to use her title. Mazhar said the pageant is similar to Mrs. America, although Mrs. Pakistan International puts a greater emphasis on the interview round. The interview round at Mrs. Pakistan International makes up 50 percent of a contestant’s score.

There are not many pageant platforms for Pakistani women, Pakistani-American women, and especially not married Pakistani-American women, so Mrs. Pakistan International proves to be a particularly unique opportunity for women of Pakistani descent.

8. Mrs. India International

Yugandhara Lad[Yugandhara Lad (center in pink), Mrs. India International 2015. | Facebook/Yugandhara Lad More]

The Mrs. India International Pageant is associated with the Miss International pageant that takes place once a year in Jacksonville, FL. The Mrs. India International platform gives opportunities to women not only from India but also for Indian-American women.

The pageant’s directors are based in Atlanta, Georgia and the international pageant takes place in Florida, so this is a great opportunity for Indian women in the United States.

Mrs. India International focuses on family values, giving back to the community, and focuses on the contestant’s platforms.

7. Miss India Princess International

saloni sawant[Saloni Sawant, Miss India Princess International 2014.| Photo Source: Facebook/Saloni Sawant ]

Miss India Princess International is a unique opportunity because it is less like a traditional pageant and more like a one-month long pageant training program in India and Thailand where a winner is chosen out of numerous competitions including but not limited to talent, swimsuit, best body, and individual interviews. There is a final pageant competition where the contestants perform an opening number dance and compete in Indian wear, cocktail dresses, and designer Indian wear.

Anyone who has seriously trained for and competed in pageants knows that taking pageants seriously is like putting yourself through pageant boot camp. This is what makes Miss India Princess International stand out. The pageant is not just a competition, but a training program to set women up for further positive experiences with pageantry.

6. Miss Bangladesh-USA

miss bangladesh usa[Sumaira Ahmed, Miss Bangladesh-USA 2015. | Photo Courtesy: Hiam Hafizuddin]

The Miss Bangladesh World pageant was abolished by its government in the year 2000 as the country gained new leadership. Miss Bangladesh-USA was created in 2013 to create opportunities for Bangladeshi-American women by Hiam Hafizuddin, who had competed in other pageants and saw a need for a Bangladeshi-American pageant.

The categories of competition for this pageant are a private interview, speech about contestant platforms, talent, cultural wear, on-stage question, and evening sari.

The uniqueness that makes this pageant standout from other pageants is its strong emphasis on scholarships and the unique opportunity that it provides for Bangladeshi women.

5. Miss India United States/Ms. India United States

rupal patel[Rupal Patel, Ms. India United States 2015. |Facebook/Rupal Patel]

Miss and Ms. India United States is unique because it only allows participants that have titles in other pageant systems. Being a former beauty queen is the qualifying factor. This is not exclusive to South Asian or South Asian American pageant titles. The former title could be Miss America, Miss New Jersey United States, etc.

The company that runs Ms. India United States is a European company and the two current directors are based in Los Angeles, California. The categories of competition are the resume, formal wear, talent, Indian wear, and final question. Winners of this pageant system go on to compete on the international level at Ms. India Worldwide (different than Miss India Worldwide) held in Dubai.

This pageant stands out because it creates a competitive environment in only allowing experienced pageant contestants to participate and in giving titleholders an international platform.

4. Miss Nepal USA (synonymous with Miss Nepal US)

miss nepal usa [(center) Miss Nepal US 2015, Priyanka Thapaliyal. |Photo Source: Facebook/Miss Nepal USA]

While there are options for women from Nepal to represent their country on an international level, there are not many platforms for Nepali-American women to represent their heritage in pageants. Miss Nepal USA stands out as a pageant for Nepali-Americans that is affiliated with an international pageant system. The winner of Miss Nepal USA goes on to compete at Miss Worldwide.

This pageant was first held in 2001 in Philadelphia and was organized by the American-Nepalese Association (ANA). The next known Miss Nepal USA took place in 2011. Since then, the pageant has grown to have three state titles in California, New York, and Texas.

In allowing Nepali-American women to represent their unique hyphenated identities on an international platform, the Miss Nepal USA pageant takes our number 3 spot.

3. Miss Pakistan-USA

sarish khan[Sarish Khan, Miss Pakistan USA 2015. | Photo Courtesy: Sarish Khan]

Miss Pakistan USA was founded three years ago in 2013 by a former Miss Pakistan World, Zanib Naveed. Zanib is committed to making Miss Pakistan USA a platform for empowering young women.

Out of all the applicants, ten women are selected to compete in the national pageant.

There are two days of competition. On a preliminary day, contestants sit for a panel interview (20% of total score). On the second day, the contestants compete in opening eveningwear, traditional wear, on-stage interview, talent, evening gown (final walk), and then the top 5 go on to answer a final question. Naveed says that this pageant is focused on a contestant’s career accomplishments more so than other pageants. Contestants are encouraged to speak on their careers, education, and what they want to do with the title. Even the introduction prompts the women to discuss their academic and professional achievements.

Miss Pakistan USA does not go on to compete on the international level.

The current Miss Pakistan USA, Sarish Khan, held the platform of gender equality. She has worked hard to put herself out there and help to grow the pageant’s reputation.

Miss Pakistan USA stands out in the director’s commitment to making Miss Pakistan USA an enriching experience for its participants and titleholders. Although this pageant is not yet as big as the Miss India USA pageant, it has the potential to become even bigger because of the heart behind the pageant system.

2. Miss India America (South Asia Inc)

priya patel[Priya Patel, Miss India America 2015. Photo Source: Facebook/Miss India America]

Miss India America is a well-known platform, not just because we now have a movie named after the pageant, but also because the platform gets its contestants out there and has had some notable previous winners, including actress, Melanie Chandra of Code Black.

It is a big pageant title and undoubtedly a great way for South Asian women to make a name in the South Asian community as an entertainer.

The categories of competition for Miss India America are formalwear, Indian wear, interview, and final question.

This pageant system also has a Mr. and Mrs. pageant competition and additional titles of Mr. & Miss South Asia, Mr. & Miss India Globe, Mr. India America, Mr. & Miss India Global, Mr. and Miss India North America, Mr. and Miss India Galaxy.

This pageant system takes the number two spot because it offers opportunities to all South Asian people, rather than being specific to a single country and gender, the pageant usually has celebrity judges which make the pageant a good opportunity for networking, and the directors are thorough and quick in regards to email correspondence. The speed of correspondence is important on the contestant’s end when he or she is putting so much time and effort into competing.

1. Miss India USA/Mrs. India USA/Miss India Teen USA

saloni sawant, rupal patel, priyam bhargava[(left) Saloni Sawant Miss India New Jersey USA 2014 and 1st runner up at Miss India USA,|Photo Courtesy: Saloni Sawan, (center) Rupal Patel Ms. India New York USA 2014.| Photo Source: Facebook/Rupal Patel. (right) Priyam Bhargava Miss India USA 2012. | Photo Courtesy: Priyam Bhargava]

Former contestants of the Miss India USA system speak highly of the Miss India USA pageant system. Unlike other South Asian American pageant systems, Miss India USA has state preliminary pageants all over the United States. Most of these preliminaries have a good number of girls participating. New Jersey’s preliminary in 2014 had around 20 participants, which is a similar turnout to the Miss America state preliminary numbers. This system also has good numbers for their national pageant. There are usually around 50 delegates at the national pageant with almost every state represented. In addition to gaining a solid peer group, this pageant system has a Mrs. and a Teen pageant offering opportunities to young pageant girls as well as women after they are married.

The categories of competition are the interview, evening wear, Indian wear, talent, final question.

The regional and national directors reportedly are available after the winners are crowned to offer support with bookings and appearances. Former titleholders reported that having a title allowed them to put themselves out there, especially within the South Asian community.

This system has produced many successful titleholders that have put themselves out there and used their titles. This effort on the part of former titleholders is creating a larger platform for the Miss India USA (and Mrs. India USA and Miss Teen India USA) pageant systems. Some of the previous titleholders have broken barriers for future titleholders to have a namesake. Previous titleholder Priyam Bhargava, Miss India USA 2012, used her title to fundraise for SAYA (a New York-based non-profit focused on youth development) and Bitiya (an NJ based non-profit helping female youth development in India). She participated in events at D.C. Fashion Week, the India Day Parade, and Washington’s South Asian Film Festival in D.C. On her own time, she is a lawyer and actress and has starred in the play “Aladdin” as Princess Jasmine.

Former Miss India New Jersey USA 2015, Saloni (Sally) Sawant has gone on to compete in many other different pageants and placed as a runner-up at Miss India USA. She has taken advantage from her title by modeling for many fashion shows and bridal shoots. She walked in the India Day Parade and has gotten to make use of many networking opportunities and charity events.

Ms. India New York USA 2014, Rupal Patel is an entrepreneur, model, and actress. She went from being a marketing director at Saks Fifth Avenue to running her own hotel remodeling business, to now also acting and modeling. She used her title to volunteer with the Boys and Girls club. She said she took it upon herself to go above and beyond during her time as Ms. India New York USA 2014 by volunteering at nursing homes, speaking to children, advocating against violence, teaching young women to love themselves, and teaching young people to be proud of their heritage.

These titleholders contributions to the pageant system have created a greater platform for Miss India USA, winning our spot as number one South Asian American pageant system.

There are South Asian countries that were not represented on this list. Many South Asian pageants are inclusive and do not exclude people because of their specific country of heritage. If you are from a country that either doesn’t have a hyphenated American identity pageant system, or that doesn’t have a pageant that was mentioned on this list, you may look into any of the above pageants or go directly to the international level to inquire about creating a pageant for your country.

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