Making of a beauty queen

Sushmita Sen won the Miss Universe crown many moons ago. She now helps young girls to compete at the same pageant, and two others through ‘I AM She’. Sharmistha Maji catches up with her before the contest, that was held in our city, to know more about it.

Hyderabad became home to a very prestigious beauty pageant this year — I AM She 2012. The pageant that trains and chooses the most deserving beauties to compete in the international pageants of Miss Universe, Miss Globe and Miss Asia Pacific has been founded by Sushmita Sen.
I ask her why she chose Hyderabad this time to which Sushmita replies with a smile, “I didn’t choose Hyderabad. The city chose me this year. Leonia gave us this wonderful opportunity and offered us the use of this venue which can accomodate almost 6000 people. So when I came to have a look, I thought why not? And Hyderabad has always been special to me because I was born here.” She spent the first few years of her childhood in Hyderabad and moved later. But this student of St.Ann’s High School still has a house here.
Sushmita has been instrumental in grooming and supporting the contestants thoroughly and looks after them just like a mother would look after her daughters. The girls absolutely adore her. What according to her are the most important factors for a contestant to emerge as a winner? She says, “Self-confidence, self-belief and hard work — there is no getting away from that. A strict exercise routine and diet are something they have to follow. The girls are working unbelievably hard, sleeping late and have a very tough life for the last few days before the contest. So you have to be extremely hard-working and should want to wear India on your sash very badly.” This proves that everything comes with a price. But the desire to win keeps the girls focussed and dedicated.
While just three girls outshine the others to become winners, the other participants also have nothing much to lose. Some of them enter Bollywood and she says, others just hold on to the glamour world by continuing to walk the ramp. But for all of them, proper grooming and training are a must and I AM She has some of the best industry experts to guide them. I ask Sushmita to name a few.“Pooja Makhija, Nupur Shikhare and Israar Khan for fitness, Dr Trasi for skin, Dr Nirmala Shetty for hair, Imran Khan is the choreographer and Sandeep Soparkar and Jesse Randhawa are the dance experts,” she says. Arjun Rampal and Shilpa Reddy had joined her to judge the I AM fit sub contest.
During her stay in Hyderabad, Sushmita, along with all the finalists, had even visited Vasundhara Exotic Jewellers, who are one of the media partners for I AM She 2012. She admired the exquisite jewellery that was on display at the store and said, “The most important partner for us are Vasundhara jewellers. Vasundhara and Neha are amazing people and the kind of designs they create are impeccable. They have existed for 15 years doing this and I hope they continue to make these wonderful designs forever.” Vasundhara and Neha are the owners of the store who have clients from all over the world.
During the unveiling of the finalists, I met the general manager of Leonia, Prawesh Kumar Das and asked how he felt hosting such a prestigious event. He said, “This kind of an event takes India to an international platform. We take great pride in hosting the event. We have everything from a wellness centre to a world class gym that is required for a pageant of this magnitude. Sushmita’s den has an olympic size swimming pool and two massive bed rooms.” Sushmita was staying at the resort with her younger daughter, Alisah and her elder daughter, Renee was supposed to join them before the finale.
Shifting focus towards motherhood, I ask Sushmita how she juggles between work and being a mother. She says, “We are born to do this. As women, we are born to be jugglers. Nature has made us like that.”
So would she allow her daughters to enter the modelling industry if they ever wanted to? She replies, “Oh yes, of course!” I also wanted to know what keeps her so fit these days. “I’ve been eating right. I run behind my babies. My daughters keep me on my toes all the time,” she quips.

I AM She 2012 grand finale

The night was screaming glamour and style in the grand finale of I AM she 2012, that was held on the 21st of September at Leonia Holistic Destination. The hearts of the contestants were thumping rapidly. The audience was eagerly waiting to know who would be the lucky crown winner. And Sushmita Sen looked ravishing in her sequinned black gown.
The show started with the national anthem followed by a classical dance. Samir Kochchar then carried the night forward along with co-hosts Sheena Chohan and Tina, the former being a contestant of I AM She 2010. The performance by AD boys had the audience grooving.
The panel of judges included Harman Baweja, Mugdha Godse, Mary Kom and Neeta Lulla among others.
The 20 finalists first walked on to the stage in beautiful cocktail dresses, after which 10 of them were chosen for the next round. When Hyderabad girl Aneesha Chowdhary entered the top five, there was a buzz of hope. She lost unfortunately and Urvashi Rautela was crowned the winner of I AM She. Urvashi will represent India at the Miss Universe pageant. The first runner’s-up title was bagged by Shilpa Singh and Arlette Grao won the second runner-up title.

Photograph by Krishna Chaitanya Salva