With the Miss World Pageant happening in India, there is a lot of buzz in the beauty pageant space currently. The former winners and ambassadors of the coveted beauty competition have arrived in India for the grand press conference for the upcoming Miss World 2023 pageant. Amongst the many beauty queens who are currently touring the country is Miss World America and first runner-up in the Miss World 2021 competition, Shree Saini.
Shree Saini, who is of Indian descent, was brought up in the United States since she was five-years-old. While her heart always belonged to India, her love for the States was no less. Always involved in charity work, Shree Saini got a chance to represent the United States at Miss World 2021. And it all started with winning the 2020 Miss Washington World. Her first win led to her appointment as the Beauty with a Purpose National Ambassadorship, which Shree Saini says comes with a great responsibility. She went on to become a World Peace Messenger award recipient from Passion Vista, and was appointed Miss World America 2021.
Beauty queen Shree Saini had already created history by now as she was the first Indian-American to hold the Miss World America title. But soon, she represented the United States of America at Miss World 2021, and finished as the first runner-up in the competition, adding another leaf of achievement to her list.
And yes, Shree’s journey was never easy. The beauty queen was once involved in a major car crash that resulted in her suffering from significant facial burns. But this never slowed her down. Lively in spirits, Shree fought every battle heads on and is now all about body positivity and healthy thinking. She sat down for a chat exclusively with us to discuss beauty pageants like Miss Universe, and Miss World; her life; her goals and everything else under the roof.
Excerpts from our exclusive interview with Miss World America 2021 Beauty Queen Shree Saini
You created history by becoming the first Indian-American to hold the Miss World America title. Did you ever get apprehensive about the responsibilities that came with this title?
I was never apprehensive at all. I felt very prepared for this because my job is about using the title and the crown to create a positive impact. I have been into philanthropy work for over ten years, so even before I stepped on the Miss World America stage, I had volunteered with hundreds of charities. I had visited 30-40 US states and 11 countries. My life story is about the troubles that I went through, and how my story gives a message of resilience and kindness, and how I would be to take everything I have done on a national and international stage. I believe that the gift of encouragement is one of the biggest gifts you can bless others with, and I knew that being Miss World America would give me a bigger voice to do so.
Looking back, is there anything you wish you had done differently?
I don’t think so. I won a lot of subcategories including talent, Beauty with a purpose, and top model talent — so I was very ahead in the point system. I had accumulated the maximum amount of points, and I was ahead of the other contestants at Miss World America. My work and my passion were rewarded accordingly, and I was able to earn that title. I think I did a good job and I also made sure that my co-contestants felt really loved and respected. We are like a family now. We actually are the national directors of Miss World America. And now, I am mentoring the upcoming girls to feel relaxed and motivated throughout the entire process.
Miss World 2023 is happening in India, which is a huge deal when it comes to cultural representation. What are your thoughts on it?
I am so overjoyed. India is the best place to host Miss World 2023. We have taken care of our former Miss Worlds so well. I know how important women’s empowerment is in this country and I know so many women in power and leadership that the entire world can learn so much about diversity from India. Because even though we look the same, every region in India has a different culture, different language, food and history. We have the biggest democracy in the world. We have hundreds of languages and thousands of dialects. So I am so excited to promote that as Miss World 2021 first runner-up and Miss World Beauty with Purpose Ambassador, and just show the entire world how truly diverse we are.
Any advice for the contestants of Miss World 2023?
Yes, to do a self-study on who you are and what your purpose is. You are going to be asked questions about you, your life and your purpose while you are here. So assure that when you come to Miss World, you are the most confident, assured version of yourself, and speak from your heart. Don’t let the stress that might come up every single day with your heels, your outfit or your makeup make you nervous. Just keep your focus on the big picture, because it is a thirty-day long pagent. It is a very rigorous pageant where for thirty days you are surrounded by the most beautiful, intelligent and talented females around the world, so you have to be more assured about who you are and what unique talent you bring to the table.
How did your life change after Miss World 2021?
I got several great opportunities. I got to serve alongside the ambassadors of India and the governors. I’ll get to cater to the almost 100 nations in India with the contestants for thirty days. So just being a part of this organisation has been a blessing and it is something that I going to continue being a part of now as a national director of Miss World America. And also just being a mentor in the organisation, helping young girls around the world and making them feel energised throughout the year. They should not just focus on the competition, but also focus on what they can do every day and every week to be of service, to be a positive addition in the community. So make them very goal-driven and purpose-driven throughout the year.
Being brought up in the United States, how did you make sure you are familiar with your Indian roots?
My family has this rule at home that you can only talk in Hindi or Punjabi when you are inside the house. I was able to be very close to my culture and language during my teens. And both the cultures have taught me so much about hard work and being consistent. It also has taught me a sense of gratitude because when I was born in India, I saw a lot of poverty in the country as a child. I always remembered that image in the back of my head and I feel lucky that I have the basic necessities in my life like food and shelter. Later on in life when I saw struggles like my heart surgery and being a burn survivor, I always reminded myself that life is such a huge privilege. As long as you have a heartbeat, you have a purpose that when such challenges come your way, you don’t let those challenges define you You have to define who you are based on the choices that you make every day.
How have beauty pageants evolved in the last few years?
I think beauty pageants have evolved alot. It is an arena where you create confident role models and you create community leaders. So there is a huge emphasis on being a good communicator, role modelling the community and using your title and crown to empower your self-esteem. So it is more about the size of your heart and what are you going to do with it. And there have been many contestants who look different, so it is remarkable to see the diversity at Miss World.
Do you think there is something that should change about the Miss Universe pageant?
I think a lot of times, for many contestants, it is an all-or-nothing situation like it is either “I am Miss World” or “I am done”. There is a lot of emphasis on being the winner. But we need to realise that there’s more to that. You are still a city winner or a state winner so utilise it because it is as important a title as Miss World. Don’t forget about your own power because you did not win the title. It does not mean that you cannot have an impact. So just focus on the work that you are doing, stop comparing yourself with other contestants and be captivated with your purpose.
You have bravely talked about your car accident and created awareness about body positivity. How has this journey been so far?
It is a story of resilience and hard work. When people hear my story, I just want them to have a positive mindset that even in the darkest moments, you can find your strength and focus on your emotional health. I do not think I would have been able to overcome the physical challenges of my heart condition or my facial burn condition if I had not stilled my mind with the right thoughts. You need to let go of all the negative thoughts and consciously choose positive thoughts.
What is next for the beauty queen?
I will focus on helping my family run our business smoothly. I will continue being a mentor and energising my contestants. I also want to ensure that every state in the United States has a beauty with a purpose ambassador. I would also love to come to Mumbai and explore the opportunities I have in the film industry. I have studied acting at the Yale Drama School, so I would want to explore this side of mine.
Rapid Fire with Beauty Queen Shree Saini
– What is your favourite food?
I love Paneer (cottage cheese).
– What’s the one skincare product you don’t leave the house without?
I guess it is my sunscreen and moisturiser.
– What’s your favourite travel destination?
I just love spending time with my grandparents, so Ludhiana. I will be heading there after my stay with the Miss World.
– What’s the one thing in your bag that you always carry?
It is my ID proof.
– Who is your celebrity crush?
Sidharth Malhotra, but he is married.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
– Who is Miss World America?
Beauty Queen Shree Saini is Miss World America 2021
– Who is the runner-up of Miss World from India?
Miss World 2023 is yet to take place.
All Images: Courtesy Shree Saini/Instagram