She is the shining example that in the world of pageantry, one has to ignore critics and just do what you just have to do. Bashed, under rated and generally ignored, Shilpa Singh, the last I Am She titleholder, rose to the occasion and ended India's drought at Miss Universe. Shilpa talks with Dipak, Missosology.Org's correspondent to I Am She, and shared her frustrations and excitements during the Miss Universe 2012 contest.
1.) First of all, congratulations on making it to the semifinals of Miss Universe. We saw Sushmita proudly cheering for you when your name was called. So, how does it feel to end India's 4-year drought at the Miss Universe Pageant?
I went to win that crown. I was determined to not let my county down. I was disappointed when I failed to do so but when I saw the people’s response I felt so much better.
I am glad I could give my country one moment to celebrate.
2.) You said Las Vegas was like a huge party, any special memory about it? Can you share your best & worst experience from Las Vegas?
The entire stay at Vegas was memorable. It is a dazzling city and it is known to be a place where people come for celebrations…hence the noise, the energy on the streets is hard to find to find anywhere else.
Best experience would be when “INDIA” was called out in the top 16.
Worst would be “INDIA ” was not called out in top 10.
3.) Recently I AM She & Sushmita Sen announced that they no longer hold the Indian franchisee for Miss Universe. What was your first reaction when you heard the news about I Am She no longer being the official franchisee holder ?
Firstly I was like “Thank God I did not postpone my decision to participate this year”.
I Am She has made our country proud by not only producing winners on international platforms but also for changing lives of so many girls who had a chance to be part of the same.
Sushmita Sen, might not have the franchise but the fondness she has for the young girls might just be reflected in something else she takes up.
Whoever takes up the franchise later, I wish them all the best. After all it’s our country they are representing, not a particular organization.
4.) What were your first reactions when you got to know that Urvashi was dethroned & you were going to represent India at the Miss Universe Pageant?
I was panicked at first because I felt unprepared for something as huge as Miss Universe. We all were hopeful that Urvashi, with so much of experience and talent was a big contender for the crown. Sushmita Sen also struggled to make things work in Urvashi’s favour but eventually failed.
I did not share this news with anyone, not even my family for 2 days. I was doubting myself and was very nervous.
It took me a couple of days to recover from the shock and then I started to see the positive side to it only to realise that there was nothing negative about this scenario. God has bestowed upon me this beautiful opportunity and I should feel like the luckiest girl in the county which I feel now. I decided to do whatever it takes to do justice to this honour.
5.) Can you tell us how your mentor Sushmita Sen groomed you for Miss Universe Pageant?
My grooming sessions did not involve classroom type lectures. I learnt a lot just by watching her. She kept insisting that I should not change, I should be me and the best possible me. It’s remarkable how she made feel great about myself without changing anything. When the whole world doubted me, she showed unmovable faith in me.
She shared her valuable experience at Miss Universe 1994.Her teachings remain as one of the most treasured possessions and the best thing about it; it stays for a lifetime not just the pageant.
She used to take out time from her busy schedule to check my fitness classes with Nupur Shikhare. She kept a watch on my diet.
She sat with me for the entire night and helped me pack my luggage. She personally went shopping and got me amazing stuff for my wardrobe.
6.) Your Thoughts on Olivia Culpo, Miss Universe 2012?
I really want to hate her for taking away something I wanted so badly :-P but honestly I always thought of her as a very classy women and I wish her all the best for her stint as Miss Universe.
7.) One thing that you miss from those 20 days when you were in Vegas & why?
I miss the girls. We bonded really well. I miss being addressed as “Miss India” by people on the streets or anywhere we went, other than that the eventful days and the energy of Vegas. I miss the anxiety and the excitement.
Above everything I miss that stage where I dreamt of making history.
8.) We saw you bonding with many contestants specially with Miss Mauritius & Indonesia, are you in touch with your fellow contestants?
The experience of getting to know other contestants was incredible. Besides their stunning looks they were really nice to talk to. Mauritius was my room mate and we had a lots in common and the jet lag gave us plenty of late night and early morning hours to chat.
Miss Indonesia is so delightful. She was next to (alphabetical order) so we generally got slots next to each other.
My soul sister there was Miss Guyana. She was the most positive girl there, away from the tension, worries and insecurities that tend to build during he pageant. Getting to know her was one of the highlights of my journey.
Other than these, Miss Finland, Miss Panama, Miss Georgia, Miss Hungary, Miss Guam, Miss Puerto Rico, Miss Aruba, Miss Poland were the girls I was really fond of.
9.) How has been the reactions of your family, friends & your well wishers after coming back from Las Vegas?
Family and friends have been extremely supportive throughout. Now that I finally have time I am making full efforts to meet everyone and thank them personally. They are extremely proud of me, at the same time they treat me just like the way they did to the Shilpa (without any title).
10.) Many Miss India have choose acting as the career; will Shilpa Singh choose the same?
Acting is something I have never done and I am not sure if I’ll do justice to that career.
11.) It was told by few contestants, that you made an excuse in an office to participate in I Am She? Can you throw some light on that?
When I was selected in top 60, I was exhilarated, but I knew the competition would be tough so I decided to go for the auditions just for the unique experience and the fun of it. I did not have leaves and month end is critical time for our project so I had to make up a reason saying that I had typhoid and based on my selection ahead it could manipulate the intensity of illness.
I am not proud of it though, but at that point my intuition just pushed me into going for it.
12.) You are an dancer, tell us how you developed this interest and what all you do as a dancer?
I am a trained kathak dancer and later took up classes for free style western. My mother really encouraged me to dance since I was a small child. Every time there was a cultural event, whether in school or the housing colony my mother made sure I performed and that’s why I fell in the love with stage and the audience applause. I was selected for the special batch in Shiamak Davar’s institute but my college commitments did not allow me to take it up. During 4 years of my engineering I represented my college the major national fests.
For me dance is a stress buster, something that can get me over any low phase of my life.
13.) Many people were sad not to see you advancing to the top 10, what would you say?
Who do you think was the saddest of ALL???..Me.
I was up there on stage knowing that my family and my mentor have travelled so far to cheer for me. I have my country backing me. I hated the fact that I couldn’t give them their moment.
From the bottom of my heart I really hope we do get the crown back next year.
14.) What is the difference you find from friends, relative and people around in the way they treat you now?
Nothing has changed. They are proud of me but other than that I am still the same person so why should they change.
15.) Your Message to Missosology & your followers?
Firstly thanks a lot for the encouragement and double thanks for bashing me up. That just made me work harder and made me strong from within. I learnt a strong lesson from it.
To have a medium to express your opinion is a blessing so use it to create a positive impact. Also after being a part of the pageant I would like to clarify one thing…over there, people judge the girls for their character, their confidence and not their makeup, their shoes or their evening gowns. (We were told this by one of our groomers who reports directly to Mr Trump)
So girls, you think you have it within you, do not let people tell you “you cannot do it”…just do it.