She is beautiful inside-out. It wasn’t Dia Mirza’s ethereal looks alone that fetched her the coveted Miss India and later the Miss Asia Pacific crown all those years ago. It was also her warmth, her intelligence and her charming persona that impressed judges and the audience in India and abroad. Unfortunately, there haven’t been too many beauty queens from the sub-continent after her memorable victory. We guess they just don’t make more like her or even Aishwarya, Sushmita, Lara and Priyanka any more.
Nearly a decade after she was crowned a winner at a beauty pageant, Dia appears in a new role where she will be on the other side – as a judge of the Mrs India Dubai International 2016 contest that will be held next week in the city. So what does it take to be a winner on stage? Dia has a few tips…
What are your most abiding memories of your victories at the Miss India and the Miss Asia Pacific contest all those years ago?
Despite all the instant adulation, attention and fuss that surrounded after both wins I remember looking for my parents in the crowd at the Miss India contest. At the Miss Asia Pacific, I remember the same thing happened, only this time I had to wait to land back in India to my home city to meet my family. What remains a precious life lesson is the fact that I only felt like a winner when I met my family.
What was more difficult? The Miss India contest or the Miss Asia Pacific one?
The Miss Asia Pacific contest was very challenging. I was on my own in a foreign land amidst strangers. I had never traveled abroad before this pageant and I was very scared initially. I make friends easily so it became easier as the days progressed but the day of the pageant was tough it took all my training to remain calm, focused and happy.
What were the lessons you learnt at the contests that you still remember and apply in life?
That you are not better than anyone. You are your best when you remain peaceful and happy. And that goodness is contagious!
How big a platform is a beauty pageant for a contestant in today’s times?
It’s an opportunity to empower a woman with self-confidence. It can create many more opportunities to discover one's own potential.
Why do you think have beauty pageants lost their sheen?
Simply because suddenly there are so many of them! The novelty is lost when there are too many.
While judging the Mrs India Dubai International, what are the qualities you would be looking for?
I will be looking for an educated, thinking, confident women who is fearless, compassionate and expressive. I believe these are the qualities that make an individual truly beautiful.
The belief that most contestants use pageants as a stepping stone to films gets reiterated each year with more and more winners making a beeline for Bollywood. Do you think that affects the image of a beauty pageant?
Not at all! Cinema is a visual medium and it celebrates strong personalities. It may be a stepping to stone for pageant winners but only those that are driven by true passion for films will stand the test of time and make something meaningful of their career in cinema.
Recently, the mix-up regarding the winners at the Miss Universe contest was discussed a lot. What would be your advice to a contestant if she finds herself in a similar unfortunate episode?
There is a lot to learn from the incident. But the most important lesson is the lesson of forgiveness and understanding that it is human to make mistakes.
How would you define beauty? Is it possible rank beauty or even decide a winner based on just a question or vital statistics?
Beauty is what beauty does. To me the most critical aspect is the question and answer round. What a person chooses to say under some amount of pressure is very revealing of their intent, character and strength. It really defines what they would make of the influence one would enjoy if they won this pageant.