EXCLUSIVE: Lara, Priyanka won before me & I was expected to do the same; Pressure was high: Celina Jaitly

In a candid chat with the former Miss India winner, we talk about beauty pageants, pressure, learnings and how renowned designer Ritu Kumar encouraged her! You don't want to miss this.

Updated on Jul 22, 2021  |  10:32 AM IST |  405.6K
EXCLUSIVE: Lara, Priyanka won before me & I was expected to do the same; Pressure was high: Celina Jaitly
EXCLUSIVE: Lara, Priyanka won before me & I was expected to do the same; Pressure was high: Celina Jaitly

It has been two decades since Celina Jaitly was crowned Miss India at just 20. The army kid then represented India on the International Miss Universe beauty pageant and even placed 4th, putting India on the world map!

Post that, Jaitly began her tryst in Bollywood with Janasheen and then we saw her in some of the biggest blockbusters including No Entry and Golmaal Returns. A lot has changed since then. We caught up with the former Miss India winner to talk about stereotypes, anxieties and more that come with the pageant stream.

It's been two decades since you were awarded the Miss India title; what has been your biggest learning from the event?

Beauty is a Powerful Tool of Persuasion and I am so thankful for having the opportunity to represent my country on various platforms since I won back in 2001. From being a successful actor to a UN goodwill ambassador I continue to have phenomenal opportunities to make most of all my abilities to lead and inspire in any way I can. Becoming a Miss India & Miss Universe Runners Up definitely changed the course of my life. I started to model at the age of 14, I was doing runway at 15, and as a very young model, I had been through a lot of harassment which I didn’t understand and torturous bullying from other models. Winning the title along with the journey that lay ahead was proof that when one is determined nothing can stop them.


From the outside, the pageant world looks ultra-glamorous; what are some of the lesser-known struggles that models face behind the scenes?

Speaking from personal experience being away from home at an early age is a struggle. Many start booking jobs in their early teens. It's hard when you're 14 or 15 and the world is waiting to pounce on you, not always in a positive way. 

Also, a lot of models suffer from low self-esteem and when you are 14-15 Dealing with criticism of one's body or puberty ravaged skin can be very demoralising.

Additionally, sexual harassment and of course bullying wishing your own industry and substance abuse.

What's the most common misconception/stereotype about beauty pageants and their winners?

Some common misconceptions are that pageant winners have no brains, beauty pageants are superficial or the fact that the most beautiful candidate should always win is absolutely ridiculous! Candidates are also tested in terms of their poise and regal stance, ability to express themselves, having the necessary social skills and showing off a superb stage presence and representation.


Representing India on an International level comes with its own set of anxiety and stress factors; how did you deal and cope with it then? 

I was under extreme pressure because Lara (Dutta) and Priyanka (Chopra) had won the year before me and everyone expected me to do the same. I was going to Ms Universe wherein they never usually give the crown to the same country consecutively so it was really stressful. I was also constantly told I was not tall enough as I was exactly 5.6ft and extremely petite so I had to find focus despite all odds and never-ending engagements as a Ms India to prepare for Ms Universe. Designer Ritu Kumar really was very encouraging and guided me immensely with her wisdom and my mother and aunt (who was a naval officer) their constant support kept me focused and I became the shortest contestant in 103 countries to become a Ms Universe runners up!


When you look back, is there something you wish you did differently?

Even though each and every step of the way contributed to me becoming who I am today, I wish I had spent more time with my parents for I did not know their life journey would be interrupted so abruptly. 

What according to you has changed in the field of beauty pageants from then to now?

Pageants are losing relevance in India because of the emergence of social media and OTT platforms as well. Contestants today look at it only as a way to further their careers in films. When we participated our aim was doing India proud, films happened for some of us successfully as a side effect of the representation but now it’s the other way around. Our commitment and discipline also came from years of hard work in the modelling industry prior to the pageant also.

For the girls who want to be Miss India in the future, what are some tips you can suggest?

Competing in a pageant takes up a ton of time, requires a tremendous amount of energy and focus. When it comes to the pageant world looking your best is vital. If you are new to the pageant world you may need some guidance and having a background in runway modelling certainly helps. The most important thing to remember is to be confident and have fun and believe in yourself.


Do you remember watching Celina Jaitly take home the crown on the Miss India pageant? Comment below and let us know.

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Sneha Kalra
Sneha Kalra
Fashion Writer

Sneha Kalra is a dedicated writer with a sharp focus on the world of fashion. Armed with a


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