During Metanoia- BITS Goa Annual Amount Summit (organised by the Alumni Relations Cell, BITS Goa), DoJMA caught up with Nikita Tanwani who won the Miss India Andhra Pradesh title. Strong-willed, beautiful and compassionate, Nikita truly stood to attest the fact that she is a Beauty With A Purpose. Read on to know her experiences in the pageant and her message to the future generations.
DoJMA– How and when did modelling happen to you? You were pursuing engineering and were involved with the fashion club there. Did you always know that this is what you wanted to do?
Nikita– I always knew that I wanted to get into the entertainment industry, however, Miss India was not the goal. In 2018, I auditioned for Miss India for the first time. Back then, I was very naive and totally inexperienced. I was rejected in the first round of the audition itself. Over the next one year, I groomed myself and worked for it diligently. The process completely changed me. Winning an online pageant paved the way for me to be groomed by one of the best institutes in the country. I had a dream and I was working constantly towards it. Finally, one year later, I ended up as the state winner of Andhra Pradesh.
DoJMA– Do you remember any incident, funny or otherwise, from back when you were in college that you still haven’t forgotten?
Nikita– I took my job as the coordinator of the FashP club very seriously. I dedicated my entire semester to it. I was a huge fan of Victoria’s Secret models back then. So, we went to Delhi and got wings made for our models. It was really a lot of fun. After Oasis, other members of the club prepared a surprise for me with “Best Coordinator” written. It was really sweet and it is a very special memory.
DoJMA– You were born in India and brought up in the States and then came back to India again. Do you think being exposed to such varied cultures played a part in shaping you as a person?
Nikita– I was brought up in the States up to the age of seven. I got my fluency in English inherently because of my stay there. One thing that I learnt in the States was being punctual. I think that is a quality that I imbibed at a very young age. But, in the end, I feel like my parents would have instilled the same values in me- whether I was in the States or in India. You never know what could have happened differently if I wasn’t brought up in the States.
DoJMA– How was your experience in FBB Femina Miss India like?
Nikita– It was a roller-coaster ride. So, when I joined the pageant, I was told that this journey would change me completely. At that time we all wondered how could 40 days change you so much. But, it does. Pageantry is not just about pretty gowns, makeup, hair and walking on stage. That is only the show that is put up. But now that I have been there, I know about all the hard work that goes into it. Although it sounds very cliched, it has a lot to do with self-love. One thing that I always say is that you don’t enter the pageant to feel good about yourself. They are not there to decide who is the most beautiful woman or the most handsome man. I had to decide before the pageant that it does not decide my worth and I am going to love myself regardless of the way others see me. This is because, to some extent, every contestant in the pageant knew that this is a very unconventional choice that they were making, at least in this country. There are so many stereotypes and questions attached to it. So, you have to be mentally prepared for all of it. All the grooming, training and the mental development that goes on within helps you learn so many things about yourself throughout that journey. It really changes you as a person. It makes you want to inspire others.
DoJMA– Whenever we talk about pageants we always associate it with beauty with a purpose. Can you tell us your initiative in this regard and how do you plan on continuing the same?
Nikita– A major segment of the Miss India contest is Beauty With A Purpose, which is the brainchild of Julia Morley, the chairperson of the Miss World Foundation. Every contestant has to have their own project or initiative which they feel had the ability to impact the society. Based on my personal experience, the safety of women in this country is an issue that I feel very strongly about. My project was Project SHEild. I had been associated with an orphanage for two years now, however, Project SHEild officially started off this year. While I was associated with the orphanage, I realised that all the girls of that orphanage didn’t have the freedom to step outside of that building and go wherever they wanted to, as compared to their male counterparts. I couldn’t take the girls out, but I could take the boys and that shows that the safety of women is such a big issue. Project SHEild was started. We basically impart self-defence techniques to women. Sometimes incidents of harassment cause PTSD in a lot of people. Because of my experiences and incidents that I had throughout college, in fact, I underwent counselling as well, So I talk to people about PTSD. Sex is such a taboo in our country, most people, especially at an early age, don’t realise that something wrong is happening to them until a much later. I talk to children and I explain to them the difference between a good touch and a bad touch so that they know that they have to raise their voices and stand up against the wrong that is happening to them. Project SHEild covers all of that. Right now we operate in Hyderabad and Mumbai and we might be expanding to Visakhapatnam and Chennai too. We have core team members in every city who are taking care of it.
DoJMA– What according to you is the true essence of a beauty pageant and do you think it has changed over the years?
Nikita- Pageantry has lot to do with women empowerment and it’s so much more than makeup/hair and looking pretty. That part comes into the picture because it is a business after all. The reason pageants were started was to give a voice to women. It gives women a platform to raise their voices, question and correct the world around them, make a tremendous impact and inspire so many people. Priyanka Chopra is closely associated with UNICEF. Dia Mirza has a lot to do with the environment and ‘Say no to plastic’ campaign. Even Manushi Chillar, Miss World 2017 has her own project about menstrual hygiene. In their own right, these women, who have participated and won pageants earlier have played a crucial role in mending the issues they have targeted. I believe that is the purpose of pageants today. Although I didn’t win, I got a platform to include so many volunteers for Project SHEild and I think that platform itself gives you reason, exposure and confidence.
DoJMA– Do you think that BITS as an institute helped you in any way in your journey in Femina Miss India?
Nikita– Having the title BITS Pilani on my bio was something I was really proud of and I know for a fact that everyone who saw that someone from BITS Pilani was going to take part in the Miss India pageant would have thought “How did this happen?”. BITS played a big role in my personality development that happened over the five years I was there. It gave me the courage to take any decision and stick to it, because, over these five years, you take so many risks, experience multiple successes and failures. I think these are your transformational years. It teaches you so much that when I got out of college and made the decision to start modelling or give up my MBA was because of all the lessons that I have learnt here. Moreover, I believe that no two people of the same alma mater share the bond that two BITSians do. The BITS student and alumni network is a pillar of support for every BITSians. In fact, it was a BITSian only who actually urged me to send out that first email to the Miss India Foundation.
DoJMA– What are your future goals?
Nikita– Right now, I am working in Hyderabad as an application developer at Oracle. I have recently started my YouTube channel. My short term goal is to build that because I have a lot of visibility now, thanks to the Miss India pageant. At the age of 25, I realise that I am not moving to Mumbai because it’s not the perfect age to start your career in modelling. I am making videos about how to groom yourself for pageants and that is a topic that isn’t covered on the internet. There are a lot of women who want to pursue that same thing but I think there is a knowledge gap here. Most people don’t know how to do it and so, pageant grooming is a goal that I will be taking forward. In the end, I don’t want to set anything in-stone because this industry is so unpredictable, so if any opportunity comes my way acting or modelling, I am open to everything right now. I’ve decided to just go with the flow.
DoJMA- Is there any particular message that you would like to give out to us youngsters?
Nikita- My message to the young generation would be to make a decision and not overthink it. Even a bad decision is a decision. One excuse that a lot of people in our generation make is there is not enough time. I think that needs to change because if you really want to do something you are going to make time for it. I have been working for the last two years and managed everything else as well. There is a lot of me-time too, provided I use my time well. There are things you need to work on yourself for. Don’t say that there is not enough time. Last but not least, learn to love yourself, because no matter what anyone says, you will always know who’s the real you.