Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Confessions of a beauty queen

Confessions_of_a_beauty_queen_postnoon_news_1Anne Aneesha Chowdary , who was the only Telugu girl to make it to the top five finalists at the recent ‘I Am She’ beauty paegent, recounts the experience and how she missed the crown by a whisker.

There’s a reason why filmmakers in the Telugu film industry hardly cast Telugu speaking actresses in their films and instead look for aspiring actresses or models from Mumbai. Acting in films and modeling is still considered a taboo in most Telugu households. No wonder, it was a pleasant surprise when people realised that one of the finalists in the ‘I Am She’ beauty pageant, which was recently held in Hyderabad, was a Telugu girl from Hyderabad. Aneesha Chowdary impressed a lot of people at the contest and she was within touching distance from ending up in the top three contestants, who’ll represent India, at Miss Universe, Miss Globe International and Miss Asia Pacific World beauty pageants later this year.

Born and brought up in Hyderabad, she completed her schooling from Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan’s Public school and later, when she got admission in BITS-Pilani, she chose to stay back in Hyderabad. “I was a good student in school and in my intermediate first year, I got 4th rank in the entire State. I had got an admit in a five year programme at BITS-Pilani; however, I am the only child and I didn’t want to pursue the five-year programme, so I decided to stay back in Hyderabad,” Aneesha says.
 
She graduated with a degree in Civil Engineering from Muffakham Jah college of Engineering and Technology and went on to work with Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS) in Singapore for almost three and half years. Quite rarely does one come across a Telugu girl like her who would leave a lucrative job and take part in a beauty pageant. So how did her parents react? “I come from a conservative family and I had to convince them a lot,” she smiles and adds, “they wanted me to do an MBA from ISB and I convinced them saying that taking part in this beauty paegent will really help me build a diverse profile.” A smart move, indeed.
 
As cliched as it may sound, Aneesha says that she never wanted to be a model. What made her change her mind? “I have always wanted to represent India at an international level. I wanted to play cricket but I was told by NCA that I was too old to take up sports. I was quite
disappointed, but I Am She seemed like a good option to represent India. I won’t deny that I want name and fame that comes along with representing India, but it also gives people a great platform to follow their heart,” she says.
 
So what did she really want to do? “On my 18th birthday, I went to Sishu Vihar and I was heartbroken to see that out of 30 babies, 27 were girls; all of them healthy. It was a disturbing sight and ever since I have been contributing some part of my income for their well being. For a long time, I had been thinking about quitting my job, be actively involved with NGOs, raise funds and do something for the underprivileged,” she reveals.
 
Naturally, her decision to take part in the beauty paegent came as a huge shock to her parents. “I didn’t tell them when I applied for the initial round last year,” she says. But the most discomforting part of the whole journey was the bikini round. “I had no idea that there was going to be a bikini round on stage in the final round and it got worse when I came to know that the media was going to be present. At one point of time, I wanted to quit, but the I Am She team convinced me to stay back,” she reveals.
 
How did her parents react? “My friends told me after the show that my father was restless and he had walked out during that round,” she says, teary eyed. “I really wanted to win this for my father. He has always been my biggest support, be it a banking job or a beauty paegent.”
 
The biggest learning experience, she says, was walking on the ramp and being comfortable in a bikini. “I lost nearly 10 kg in six months for the beauty paegent. Most of the training sessions revolved around improving our diction and etiquette. I was very good at both of them, so it was a breeze when I made it to the top 5,” Aneesha recalls.
 
Judges at most beauty pageants are notorious when it comes to asking contestant questions, which can range from how will she change the world to how she’ll help bring global peace. But Aneesha faced a trickier question – What came first – The Egg or the Chicken? “According to me the egg came first because as a child, I ate egg first and until a certain age, I didn’t taste chicken” was her reply, which received a thunderous response. “It really was a spontaneous reply. Sushmita Sen had specifically told us to be honest with our answers and not give cliched ones. Unfortunately, most contestants do not follow such instructions,” she laughs.
 
In the final round, which she thought would be a cake walk, she was asked “What are the three qualities that a woman should possess to represent India, that you have learnt from I Am She?” There was an echo which cost her dearly. “I couldn’t hear the last part of the question, so I answered — self confidence, self belief and traditional values from parents. The last one was out of context, which worked against me,” she recalls, and adds, “Sushmita had told us that confidence and how you talk are more important than what you say. There’s a lot of partiality throughout the show because the winner made it from top 10 to top 5, despite stammering and giving irrelevant answers ”
 
So what’s next? Is acting on the cards? “I haven’t thought about anything. I’ve been approached for a lot of fashion weeks. Every one came and told me that I was a winner for them and I deserved to win,” she says, adding, “but I would try to convince my parents again, if I get a chance to act alongside Mahesh Babu or Prabhas.” Those final words are proof enough that she’s a quintessential Telugu girl.
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