She is a Haryana native, studied in Mumbai and her mother lives in Delhi. As Kanishtha Dhankar sets out for the world to face tough competition as the new Miss India, she says she would like to use her title to work for the rural masses like her grandfather.
"I can feel the power that the Miss India title has. It's been just a few days and I can already think of so many things that I can do with this platform," the 22-year-old, who hails from Kasni, Haryana, revealed.
"My granddad has been actively involved in a lot of social work and I want to do the same like educating the rural masses, getting funds for a village's development or spreading HIV awareness," she said.
Kanishtha, Ankita Shorey and Hasleen Kaur won the Pantaloons Femina Miss India (PFMI)-World 2011, Miss India International and Miss India Earth respectively at the grand finale held at Mehboob Studios in Mumbai on April 14.
Kanishtha, who did her post-graduate diploma in advertising and public relations from H.R. College, Mumbai, believes the competition was healthy.
"All the contestants were really nice. Even though all girls were fighting for the same crown, it was a very, very healthy competition. The journey was special and that is why the crown is special to me.
"And, of course, in a competition like this you have to be confident and keep imagining yourself as a winner because you are in a competition and you have to win it; so I never let my focus get side-tracked."
Just before the big announcement, Kanishtha says, her mind went blank.
"There were no thoughts in my mind. I went completely blank. I was standing there holding hands with the others. However, my mind was calm. And just as they announced my name, I was super happy that all my hard work has been rewarded. I was blowing kisses to the judges and the audience," she said.
The trained model, who walked for the Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week (WIFW) and Lakme Fashion Week (LFW), admits that experience in the fashion world helped her a lot.
"I think having an experience is a good thing. One year of modelling definitely gave me exposure and it worked for me. I was fortunate enough to get selected for modelling by some top notch designers. The experience helped me in building my confidence and eventually winning the crown," she told.
So will this be an end to fashion weeks and ramp shows?
"Not at all, but the difference will be that now people will consider me as a showstopper, not a regular model. I love walking the ramp, I love wearing designer clothes and getting attention," she said. She will represent India at the Miss World contest to be held in September this year.
Kanishtha says by winning the crown she gave her parents the best anniversary gift as the Miss India contest coincided with their marriage day.
"My biggest dream came true. After going through so many rigorous exercises, now, when I have won the title, it all seems worthwhile. It was my parents' wedding anniversary when I was competing with other contestants and there could be no better gift than this," she said.
Her father Raj Singh Dhankar is in the Indian Navy and her mother, Kusum Dhankar, teaches in a school in the capital. Her mother was associated with the Naval Wives Welfare Association while in Mumbai.
Kanishtha says support from friends and family worked for her.
"The experience was amazing and I felt so happy and special on D-day. I am feeling blessed receiving support and love from family and friends. It's the presence of people who love and care for me that acted as my lucky mascot at the grand finale," she said.
She is open to Bollywood offers. "Of course, I would love to be a part of Bollywood if given amazing scripts. However, the Miss World crown is my main focus."