KENYAN INDIAN PAGEANT COMBINES BEAUTY AND BRAINS
BY Margaretta wa Gacheru (Posted August 23, 2017)
The Miss India Worldwide Kenya (MIWK) pageant was launched in 2000. But after that, there was a 15 year hiatus which only got broken two years back.
This international beauty and brains pageant was revived in 2015 and tomorrow night, the final competition for the 2017 Miss IWK will be held at the new Diamond Plaza 2 in Parklands.
It took the 24 year old 2015 MIWK award winner Aliza Rajah to confirm the continuity of this unique beauty competition. She’s taken responsibility for organizing both the 2016 and the current MIWK contests.
This year as in years past, the Kenyan winner will head to New York City to the Miss India Worldwide headquarters where the pageant will feature finalists from 40 countries.
The 40 are countries where sizeable Indian communities reside and contribute to their respective economies. Among the countries to be represented at the finals are Australia, Canada, Spain, South Africa, UK and USA.
Aliza didn’t win in New York in 2015. But that didn’t dampen her appreciation for the competition. On the contrary, at last Saturday night’s press conference held at the new Concord Hotel, she explained how she’d received so much in the process of going to the finals that she wanted to keep the competition alive for young Kenyan women who would come after her.
“I felt like ‘a winner’ irrespective of whether I’d won or lost the contest,” she said. “Just being part of the event was an eye-opening experience,” added Aliza who now runs the MIWK contest through her company, Eventique. She also has her own fashion line and website. She also runs the Shesha Lounge in the Concord Hotel.
The same attitude of appreciation expressed by Aliza was shared by the 2016 MIWK winner, Finali Galaiya, 22. She also went to New York but didn’t win. Ever so, she’s been inspired ever since by the question she was asked at the MIW finals. It was “What would [she] do to bridge the gap between Asian and African Kenyans?”
The question has become a challenge that she’s taken seriously. She now works with a number of charities, including one foundation led by Sarah Obama, the grandmother of the former US President Barack Obama.
Both Aliza and Finali believe one of the most important things they gained from the pageant was self-confidence. It’s a quality that the MIWK choreographer and coach Bhargav Joshi, 25, hoped he’s instilled in the ten contestants during the rigorous three-week training that he just went through with them.
Ranging in age from 17 to 26, the young women have been coached by Joshi in everything from verbal skills, poise and presentation to walking the runway. On Saturday night, they’ll be wearing both Indian and Indo-Western fashions provided by Suvidha of India and Shenu Gadu of Nairobi respectively.
Joshi also taught the young ladies to perform together for the Saturday night pageant, which is open to the public. His training also featured largely when they displayed their specific skills yesterday at the MIWK Talent Night which was again held at the Concord Hotel.
Speaking to a number of the contestants last Saturday night, I found none of them seemed to lack poise or self-confidence. Most of them were students, like Hiral Gohil, 20, who is studying Business at the United States International University (USIU) and is also a freelance artist.
Shivani Shah, 20, is a student of International Relations at Nottingham University who spends half her year in school; the other half she spends in Kenya working with charities like Freedom from Hunger and the Helping Hands Trust.
Shivani is also a former NTV children’s show presenter. She ‘anchored’ the G3 show from aged 9 up until she was 18.
Judges who’ll be participating in both the Talent Night and tomorrow’s final pageant are a well-kept secret. Aliza would only disclose that they include members of the media, the arts and the business community.
The main sponsor of the Miss India Worldwide Kenya is Crown Paint, represented last Saturday by the company’s CEO Rakesh Rao.
Tickets to the MIWK pageant can be obtained tomorrow night at Diamond Plaza 2 or before the event either from the Concord Hotel or Shenu Fashions on General Mathenge Drive.