Madhu Valli, an emerging hip hop artist and a student of criminal law at George Mason University in Virginia, was crowned as Miss India Worldwide 2017 during a glittering pageant that drew crew contestants from around the world at the 26th edition of the beauty pageant held at the Royal Albert’s Palace in Fords, New Jersey on Sunday on October 8th. “I want to be the next biggest bridge between Bollywood and Hollywood,” Valli said a day after winning the pageant. She bested 16 other contestants to get the crown from the last year’s winner, Karina Kohli.
Another Indian-American, Sarita Pattnaik, an interior designer from Texas, was declared Mrs. India Worldwide; the mother of two, said she wants to be a social activist and become a voice for women’s empowerment.
Stephanie Madavane from France was declared runner up Sangeeta Bahadur from Guyana took the third spot at the pageant that had contestants from 18 countries. Canada-based Guyanese and humanitarian Sangeeta Bahadur also secured for herself the Miss Congeniality Award.
Valli, 20, released her latest album, “High School,” a day before the pageant. “I want to be the next biggest bridge between Bollywood and Hollywood,” Valli said. She said her dream is to be a recording artist, and music is her passion. Valli started learning vocals at the age of eight. The beauty pageant attracts people of Indian origin from across the world. It provides a platform to showcase how Indian culture has been preserved thousands of miles away, she said.
Organized by New York-based India Festival Committee, Miss India Worldwide is the only international Indian pageant with affiliates in over 35 countries and considered among the top ethnic pageants in the world. Last year, it also launched the Mrs India Worldwide, which provides a platform for married women of Indian origin.Namita S. Dodwadkar of Boston won the first Mrs India Worldwide crown, while Karina Kohli of New York won the Miss India Worldwide title in 2016.
“I definitely want to speak to a lot of young Indian American women about women empowerment and positive self- image,” Valli said. “I love both my countries, India and the US and I always wanted to discover a way to be a leader in both!” she said. The beauty pageant attracts people of Indian origin from across the world. It provides a platform to showcase how Indian culture has been preserved thousands of miles away, she said.
“This past week has been the craziest yet happiest week of my life,” Madhu, centre, wrote on Instagram. “Last night, I walked in as your Miss India USA, but I walked out as your new Miss India Worldwide 2017 with France as my 1st runner-up and Guyana as my 2nd runner-up, both who I love dearly.
“I still can’t believe it. All that was going through my mind throughout the whole week was ‘USA BABY!!’ I love both my countries, India and US and I always wanted to discover a way to be a leader in both! Cheers to dreams that come true and cheers to God, who loves us enough to make those dreams come true.”
Miss India Worldwide draws contestants from India and from among the members of the Indian diaspora residing in other countries. It is conducted by India Festival Committee (IFC), founded and headed by Dharmatma Saran in New York City.
A total of 18 contestants from different countries participated in the international pageant and Fairfax-resident stole the show which also witnessed a stunning performance by TV actress Shiny Doshi. The judges of the event were Fashion Choreographer Sandip Soparrkar, Host Aman Yatan Verma and supermodel/ramp trainer Jesse Randhawa. The pageant started in 1990 and Valli is the eighth Indian American to win the crown followed by the 2016 winner Karina Kohli.
The beauty pageant attracts entrants of Indian origin from across the world, organizers say.. It is yet another forum for Indian living abroad to showcase how they have preserved Indian culture thousands of miles away from their original homeland, organizers believe.
Congratulating the contestants and winners at the pageant, Dharmatma Saran, chairman and founder of the New York based India Festival Committee that organizes the trail blazing Miss India Worldwide, said, “We have used the title to raise funds for the poor and the needy. We made the beauty work for a good cause. We are pioneers in organizing Indian pageants and fashion shows in the USA and other parts of the world, of which the Miss India Worldwide has been acclaimed as the “most glamorous Indian function in the world.” And, of course, the Miss India Worldwide is the only international Indian pageant.
“When Miss India New York started in 1980, I had perhaps not even in my wildest dreams imagined that in less than twenty years, we would fledge out to be a mass movement with affiliates in over 40 countries, let alone that we would one day have a live internet webcast and broadcast our most prestigious function, the Miss India Worldwide, to an audience of over 300 million people!” Saran recalls.
“We are very proud of the fact that we have been able to provide a common platform for the international Indian community through pageantry. We are equally proud of the fact that we have been able to imbibe Indian values, traditions and culture among the youth of Indian origin around the world. We have also been successful in promoting Indian performing arts in the world,” he says.
“I sincerely hope that our website will provide all information regarding Indian pageants in the world. We plan to include many more channels, especially of interest to the youth, and believe this will become the one-stop website for Indian youths around the world,” Saran hopes.