DU Beat got a chance to chat with the newly crowned fbb Femina Miss India, Priyadarshini Chatterjee, who also happens to be a student of Delhi University. Priyadarshini shared with us her thoughts on her journey from being a three year old kid dressed as Miss World to the winner of fbb Femina Miss India, her future plans, and also her preparations for the upcoming semester exams!
Q) How are you feeling right now? Has the feeling sunk in that you won such a major event?
It’s been almost 25 days since the win. I had a lovely homecoming after it. By now, yes, it has definitely sunk in. The kind of response I’ve got is something I never imagined I would get. Initially when it happened, I really couldn’t believe it.
Q) How confident were you about winning, when you were standing on the stage, given that you were competing against some of the most beautiful and capable women in the country?
Before the finale show actually started, I was very, very nervous. In fact, I was panicking and I was calling my parents and friends and saying, “What do I do? I’m really nervous.” But I remember that the moment the show started, when the music came on and I had to go on stage, I forgot everything and I was just enjoying. What helped me was the fact that I started enjoying the moment so much that everything else just kind of flew out of my mind.
Q) You are from Guwahati, you went on to win Miss India Delhi and now you are the Miss India. How would you say your journey has been? What made you want to enter the pageant and what kept you motivated?
I come from Assam. It’s the kind of place where everybody knows everyone and I was there for quite some time. Then I came to Delhi, where the exposure was understandably much more. Once I started working in Delhi, I figured out that I have a lot to work on with myself. I was already interested in participating in Miss India but there was this fear of rejection that was stopping me. However, when the Delhi auditions happened, I just knew I had to go for it. The credit actually goes to my parents who kept me motivated. I gave the auditions and I won, and once you’re there, there’s no looking back. The pageant continued and I kept going. The journey- the flow of it- has been very smooth for me and I’ve learnt a lot.
Q) Where did that first thought about entering the pageant come from? Did you follow the earlier pageants, or was it something you became interested in after starting modeling and entering the circuit?
I never wanted to participate in any pageants other than Miss India because it’s the most reputed one. Moreover, it’s not just about beauty and looks but beyond that. I was scared too. There are so many beautiful and smart women in India. When I was three years old, my mom dressed me up as Miss World for a fancy dress competition. That was when I knew that a platform like this existed, and it fascinated me. I never used to watch pageants. I’ve not followed any of the previous Miss India pageants. It was something that I personally wanted to do and I went forward with it.
Q) You’re now set to represent India at the Miss World pageant, which puts you in the same league as many other formidable women. Have the preparations for it already begun? What are your expectation from this even bigger platform?
Yes, they have begun. In fact, I just got back from one of my sessions. We have many sessions – a make-up session, hair session, nutrition session, and others. The two-other rank holders have these sessions as well. It’s about bringing out the best in ourselves. The next thing that we’ll do will be at the global level. It requires a lot of hard work. Another important thing I have to do is to know about the culture of India. I’m working on that by reading books, familiarising myself with places by travelling. What I need to do is be aware of our culture and put my best foot forward at a platform where there’ll be many smart and beautiful women from around the world.
Q) You’re currently a B.A (H) Sociology student in Hindu College. The previous two winners, Koyal Rana (DDUC) and Aditi Arya (SSCBS), were also Delhi University students. Do you think being from DU gives a person a certain edge?
When I came to Delhi from Guwahati, Delhi University itself was a big exposure for me. Being from a small place and then coming to DU, where I met people from all over the country and made friends with them, gave me a confidence boost and opened me up to new possibilities. I wouldn’t call myself an introvert but I was used to my own little world and my own friends. When I came to DU, I started exploring. I auditioned for the Dramatics society of my college and I am, in fact, a part of Masque, the English Dramatics society of Hindu College. My audition for Masque was one of the instances where I walked out of my comfort zone to achieve something. I definitely think DU has given me confidence and exposure.
Q) How do you plan to balance your studies and your duties as Miss India? Would you like to continue with your studies or do you want to pursue something else?
I want to continue with my studies, that’s not something I want to lose out on. It’s something that gives me a base in life. After graduation, I’d love to pursue Anthropology of Travel and Tourism.
It definitely gets hard to balance the two but I don’t think it’s impossible.
Q) Since you’re already involved in modeling, the next obvious question people would ask has to be- does Bollywood figure into your plans?
*sighs* Oh yes, it’s definitely the most common question. Personally, I don’t see myself in Bollywood right now. I think the people who do that have different aspirations and different motives in life. However, if you ask me if I would like to work as an Assistant Director, I’d love to do that. Being onscreen is something I’m not aiming for yet. Of course, if the right opportunity comes my way and if I really like a certain role, I’d consider it but I’m more of a behind-the-screen person.
Q) Switching over to slightly different questions, do you consider yourself a feminist? How would you define feminism?
Concepts like Feminism are very subjective. I may have an opinion which may be different from yours. I don’t think I am in a position to define something like this. But to me, Feminism means putting women in the front too so that men and women can be equals. It’s not just about women having the upper hand but rather both the genders working as equals for the progress of society.
I wouldn’t call myself a feminist because right now it is going somewhere- who even knows where it’s going? I think the concept of Feminism is being misunderstood and people are being misled. In a situation like this, I wouldn’t really call myself a feminist.
Q) How would you correlate the concept of Feminism to platforms like Miss India which, while amazing, also perpetuate certain ideologies?
People always assume that beauty pageants are all about how a person looks and how tall they are, but trust me, there were girls in the pageant who were taller and prettier than me. It’s not just about looks, it’s also about how smart you are and if you can go and make conversation with anyone at a moment’s notice. I think it’s a stereotype associated with beauty pageants and it’s something we need to get rid of. I don’t think it’s accurate at all.
Q) Having been involved in Miss India now, do you think there’s anything about the Indian beauty pageant scene and the modeling scene that needs to change? Is there anything that irks you?
I don’t think so. With respect to the Indian beauty pageants scene, I think we’re doing well and going places, and we’ll do even better in the future. If I can get the Miss World crown, it’ll go even better. It’s definitely something I want to do for the industry as well.
Q) How about as a participant? Do you think anything needs to change in the way the industry treats and welcomes participants and newcomers?
I was more than welcomed. We were all staying away from our families and friends during the pageant. We made families there. The people I’m working with right now, who are a part of my team, I knew them during the pageant too. They are family to me. If people believe something else, I think that’s a misconception. Everyone’s been very sweet.
Q) What do you aspire to achieve with the power that comes with being Miss India? Is there a cause that’s close to your heart that you want to work for?
Yes, I have my project Shishu Kalyan. I don’t like talking about it as people may think it’s a clichéd thing to do, that I’m talking about social work because I am Miss India. I feel for the cause and so I’ve taken it up. Shishu Kalyan is about child labour. I want to put in my bit for the betterment of the children in slum areas. I educate not just the children but also their parents about the importance of educating their kids, even in the smallest of ways. If I can even teach them cultural activities like dancing, singing, and about culture, it can give them to incentive to stay away from things like substance abuse which is very common in those areas. I’m working on this and am planning to collaborate with an NGO soon to take this forward.
Q) Was there anything you watched or read throughout the entire journey to keep you company and to motivate you?
Yes, I did. I am a firm believer of the Law of Attraction. I’ve been reading the book ‘The Secret’ for two years. I’m not a person who reads a lot. I’d rather watch a movie than read a book, but this one book changed my life drastically. The law of attraction is about how you can attract positive things in your life. It works on the principle of Ask, Believe and Receive. You ask for what you want, you believe in it and you receive it. This is something I’ve followed and I think it has played in part in getting me where I am today.