India for the World Sini Shetty Miss India

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Here is an exclusive conversation with Sini Sadanand Shetty, an acclaimed Indian model, dancer, social spokesperson and beauty pageant victor who has achieved the prestigious title of Femina Miss India World 2022. She proudly represents India at the esteemed Miss World 2023 pageant with her poised elegance and grace. Sini is scheduled to represent India at the Miss World pageant in Mumbai on March 9, 2024 (since the 2023 pageant is taking place in 2024) Shetty’s remarkable journey to victory includes securing accolades such as Times Miss Body Beautiful and NIFD Miss Talent during the fiercely contested Femina Miss India competition held on July 3, 2022, at the illustrious Jio World Convention Centre in Mumbai.

Your journey from Bharatnatyam to Miss World is incredibly unique. How has your background in classical dance influenced your preparation for the pageant ?

My journey from pursuing Bharatanatyam at a young age to gracing the Miss World stage has been a remarkable and transformative experience. It all began when my mom noticed my natural inclination towards dance, whether in a restaurant or at home, prompting her to enrol me in Bharatnatyam classes. Bharatnatyam has played a pivotal role in shaping my life, imparting valuable lessons, particularly patience and the initial months focused solely on mastering basic postures, teaching me that laying a solid foundation is crucial before delving into the intricacies of the art form. This early lesson of patience has resonated throughout my life, emphasizing the importance of not rushing through things and understanding that a solid foundation is essential for future success. The significance of patience became even more apparent during my preparation for the Miss World competition, which was unexpectedly delayed due to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Waiting for two years to represent India required resilience and perseverance, qualities instilled in me through Bharatanatyam. Contrary to popular misconceptions about pageantry being solely about physical attributes, my journey taught me otherwise. The intense training and preparation for national and international pageants demanded dedication and hard work. The experience mirrored the disciplined practice of Bharatnatyam, emphasizing the importance of honing skills and perfecting every aspect of my performance. The demanding nature of pageant training and the delayed timeline tested my patience. However, the lessons from Bharatnatyam, not only in mastering postures but also in enduring numerous dance rehearsals, empowered me to navigate the challenges and confidently own the stage. It taught me to embrace my presence and stand out, reinforcing the idea that patience, perseverance, and a strong foundation are indispensable on any stage, including the grand platform of Miss World.

Growing up in Mumbai with roots in Mangalore, how do you balance honouring your heritage while embracing modern opportunities ?

The story of my connection to a grand palace and the rich heritage it represents is a fascinating journey that has greatly influenced my perspective on life. It all began when I was just six years old, and my grandmother took me to this magnificent place that seemed like a dream palace – adorned with grandeur, a colossal entrance, and an atmosphere of luxury. Intrigued, I asked my grandmother who owned this majestic palace, and to my astonishment, she said, “Us.” This revelation marked the beginning of a narrative beyond the physical structure; it delved into the deep-rooted heritage and culture of the Kananjaru royal family in southern India, to which my grandfather belonged. His legacy, filled with dedication to the community and a profound sense of responsibility, became a source of inspiration for me. My grandfather’s commitment to community service and his sense of responsibility towards society left an indelible mark on me. Witnessing his meaningful contributions fueled my desire to impact society as well. His values and principles have been guiding lights, shaping my understanding of the importance of giving back and contributing to the well-being of others. Moreover, my parents were pivotal in nurturing and preserving our Mangalorean roots. The diverse linguistic landscape at home, where various languages were spoken, was a testament to our multicultural identity. I vividly recall my mother emphasizing the importance of Tulu, stating that at home, we exclusively spoke our native language. My family’s story of nobility and a commitment to cultural preservation has shaped my identity and instilled in me a profound sense of responsibility and a deep appreciation for the diverse cultural fabric that makes up our society. This narrative has become a driving force, inspiring me to contribute meaningfully to society and uphold the values passed down through generations.

Representing India on the global stage comes with immense pressure. How do you navigate the expectations of being the host delegate for Miss World ?

I don’t feel any pressure in my role. My confidence stems from a strong belief in our Indian hospitality values, epitomized by the ancient saying “Atithi Devo Bhava,” which translates to “the guest is God.” Additionally, being part of a family in the hospitality business for many years has equipped me with the skills and mindset to be a gracious host. The mutual trust and friendship among the delegates have fostered a comfortable atmosphere. We’ve already formed strong connections, supporting each other as we navigate through the intricacies of the pageant competition. This shared camaraderie adds a layer of ease to the overall experience.
I eagerly anticipate the opportunity to introduce my fellow delegates to the vibrant tapestry of India – its diverse cultures, delectable cuisine, picturesque locations, and so much more. As a host, I aim to provide them with a memorable and enriching experience beyond the pageant competition, embracing the spirit of unity and cultural exchange.

Please share something about your Beauty with a Purpose project, ‘Aashayein’. What inspired this initiative, and what impact do you hope to achieve ?

The social service initiative of Miss World, known as Beauty With A Purpose (BWAP), serves as a platform for every contestant to leverage their skills and abilities for meaningful contributions to disadvantaged communities. In alignment with this ethos, my project for BWAP is named ‘Aashayein.’ Reflecting on my educational journey, I noticed a significant gap between theoretical learning from textbooks in school and the practical skills required in the professional world. As students transition from college to the workforce, there’s a crucial need for soft skills, such as effective communication, which are often not formally taught in academic settings. This disparity creates a challenge for individuals seeking employment. To address this gap and facilitate a smoother transition from education to the job market, I initiated ‘Aashayein,’ meaning ‘Ray of Hope.’ This project aims to collaborate with organizations like Teach India and NGOs like Saarthi, Pehal, SPDI, and many more. These collaborations seek to provide practical and vocational courses, equipping individuals with the soft skills required for professional success. By offering hope through education and skill development, ‘Aashayein’ seeks to bridge the divide between formal education and diverse job opportunities, ensuring a brighter future for aspiring individuals.

As a spokesperson, you’ve addressed various audiences on essential issues. What drives your passion for advocacy, and how do you use your platform for positive change ?

My passion for advocacy stems from a deep-rooted belief in the transformative power of influence and the responsibility that comes with it. Winning a beauty pageant has given me an incredible platform, and I view it not just as a crown but as a powerful tool for positive change. I am driven by a commitment to meaningfully impacting societal issues. These issues are not just abstract concepts but touch the lives of real people facing real challenges. Whether promoting education, advocating for inclusivity, or addressing environmental concerns, I see advocacy as a catalyst for change. In a world inundated with information, I use my voice to cut through the noise, drawing attention to issues that may otherwise go unnoticed. Through strategic partnerships, community engagement, and social media, I aim to create a ripple effect that goes beyond the stage and resonates with people globally. Being a spokesperson means advocating for myself and those who may not have a platform. I approach this responsibility assertively, knowing that my voice has the potential to inspire, educate, and spark conversations that lead to tangible results. My journey as a beauty pageant winner is not just a personal achievement but a commitment to being a force for good, driving positive change, and leaving a lasting impact on the world.

Your parents have been supportive of your unconventional career path. Can you elaborate on your discussions with them about pursuing show business as an artist ?

My approach towards building a career in show business as an artist reflects a bold departure from conventional norms. The interactions with my parents have been pivotal in shaping this unconventional path. Rather than settling for the safety nets of a traditional career, I’ve embraced novel opportunities as they come by, demonstrating resilience and determination to forge my unique journey. The conversations with my parents have been open and honest, showcasing a solid belief in my artistic abilities and a vision that extends beyond the ordinary. In these interactions, we’ve discussed the challenges and uncertainties of a career in show business. The decision to venture into this realm was met with initial concerns. Still, my conviction in my passion and the potential for personal and professional growth in the entertainment industry played a crucial role in convincing my parents. Choosing a career in show business often requires breaking away from societal expectations and embracing a path less travelled. In these conversations, my parents witnessed my determination to pursue my dreams and carve out a niche for myself in a competitive industry. They saw my resilience and ability to navigate uncertainties, reinforcing that success in show business is not solely about conforming to established norms but embracing innovation and seizing unconventional opportunities.

As a multifaceted artist and activist, how do you define success for yourself ?

So, success means a few critical things for me as a multifaceted artist. Firstly, it’s about doing what I love – dancing and performing my duties as Femina Miss India World 2022. I find success in the joy and passion I bring to my work every day. Another important aspect is making a positive impact. Success is when my work makes people think and understand important issues. It’s about using my creativity to create positive change and help others. Staying true to myself is crucial. Success involves being authentic, not changing who I am or what I believe in to fit in or succeed. I believe in my values and express them through my art. It is also a journey of continuous learning and growth. It’s about getting better at what I do and always seeking to improve.

What advice do you have for young women who aspire to follow in your footsteps and break barriers in their chosen fields ?

My advice to young women is simple but powerful. First, don’t be afraid to dream big. Imagine your goals to be as big as the sky and aim even higher. Breaking barriers often means going beyond what seems possible; your dreams are like a compass guiding you to new and exciting places. Second, challenge the idea of limits, especially those you might put on yourself. You have the incredible ability to redefine what you can achieve. Believe in your skills and show that limits are just made-up obstacles. Breaking barriers starts with breaking the ideas that hold you back. So, be brave, push your limits, and discover all the fantastic possibilities.

How do you prepare mentally and emotionally for the intense scrutiny and competition of the Miss World pageant ?

It’s about building inner strength and staying calm. Meditation is like a tool to keep your mind focused and peaceful. It helps you stay balanced and calm, even when things get busy during the competition. Believing in yourself is essential, too. It’s like having an anchor that keeps you confident and authentic to yourself. Self-belief means knowing your worth, recognizing your strengths, and staying positive. This mental preparation helps you confidently face the competition and lets you be authentic onstage. Getting ready mentally also means creating a supportive mental space. Use your imagination, say positive things to yourself, and see challenges as growth opportunities.

What aspects of Indian culture and values do you hope to showcase through your participation in Miss World ?

Being part of Miss World lets me proudly showcase the fantastic things about Indian culture. India is known for their hospitality. We have this saying, “Atithi Devo Bhava,” which means treating guests like they’re God. As the host nation, I want to be a good example. I’ll be friendly and make everyone feel warm and welcome. I like people to feel like they’re a part of our big Indian family when they’re around us. India has many different cultures, each with unique traditions, languages, and customs. I want to show everyone the diversity our country holds. From the clothes we wear to the dances we do, I’ll highlight all the different things that make India so colourful and lively. Our food is another significant aspect of our culture. I’ll share all the delectable and diverse dishes we have to offer, hoping everyone appreciates the unique flavours that are part of our culture. I want to give a complete picture of India at Miss World. It’s a chance to share our welcoming spirit, the Beauty of our traditions, and the delicious tastes that make our culture unique.

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