Back from the Miss India Worldwide pageant held in Dubai, Melbourne’s Swetha Raj who represented Australia, might not have bagged the crown but she is back with a renewed energy and positive experiences.
With over 45 contestants taking part in one of the oldest pageants, the Miss India Worldwide, Raj says the competition was fierce but there was also a lot of camaraderie. She says she made ample friends with whom she is now connected on a regular basis. As for the future, Raj has plenty of model assignments and speculations are rife about a Bollywood project coming up soon.
For this Melburnian aerospace engineering student who has eyes set on the world of glamour, change is the constant in life. As a daughter of an Air Force officer, Raj, born in Hyderabad, had to deal with constant changes in her postal address. Frequent transfers that her father’s job entailed meant not only seeing a lot of places but also tackling the challenges of adapting to newer surroundings, more often than not. Of those memories Bhutan stands out and she vividly recalls the beauty and experience of those childhood days. When she turned 16, her father took voluntary retirement and the whole family migrated to Australia. But for someone who had learnt assimilation into newer cultures very early in life, the transition to Australia was not hard. It also gave a new impetus to her dreams.
“The person I am today is because of my life here,” says Raj displaying a level of maturity as she switches off from her peer group. A third-year student of aerospace engineering at RMIT, she had finished her year 12th boards in Maths, Physics and Chemistry in India only to join university in Australia straight after arrival. But leaving India also made her realise two things – if she watched a lot of Bollywood movies then she watches them ten times more now and if she loved them then she loves them ten times more now. “My grocer knows what to pack for me when I go to the shop,” she laughs.
Raj candidly admits her love for Bollywood, dressing up make up and dancing were sown at probably the age of four. “I used to look in the mirror and do all the walking, talking and posing from the time I was a child. I am not the best looking girl I know but I was fascinated by dresses and make up.” And through her later years even if she was going out for just a coffee, she was always dressed well, inviting curios looks from her friends who would automatically ask ‘where are you going’ and ‘why are you dressed like that’. Being overdressed is always better than arriving ugly, she thought.
So, while the burning desire to step into the world of glamour was always there at the back of her mind, she was too shy to admit this is what she wanted. However about a year back, she had her light bulb moment. She decided now is the time to take action. With her exams just over, she needed a break from her studies and gave modelling a shot. A designer friend roped her in and she started photo-shoots with a photographer friend, attended the African Fashion shows and began testing the waters. “It was tough in the beginning. I didn’t know how to pose or what angle they were looking at or what angle works best. But after a couple of shows here and there, the grooming gradually came into place,” she says.
About that time, organisers of the Miss India Australia were inviting applications. Raj happened to see a post in her Facebook newsfeed and as luck would have it, she managed to download the forms, fill up and send them just in the nick of time. This April end, she was called for interview and a day long auditioning vying for the coveted title with a number of contestants from all over Australia. A few weeks back she got a call. The news almost threw her into a tizzy. She was declared the winner and crowned Miss India Australia.
Her philosophy in life is that one has to chase one’s dream with immediate effect. “These days it is important to get on top during one’s prime years,” says the 22-year old who is also fluent in Hindi.
Back from the June 15 Dubai Miss India Worldwide contest, Raj has her eyes set on Bollywood. Her love for Bollywood is deep-seated, something that is born out of a genuine interest in the craft. And if that happens “I will start living the dream”. She plans to learn some acting in the future. In her free time, she is forever surfing the net catching up on programs such as Koffee With Karan or a dance move. “I have favourite performances rather than favourite actors,” she adds. “Today the opportunity is huge. Bollywood has evolved so much, it is just not just the dancing round trees anymore, there are films being made for every kind of actor and audience. There is a lot of substance. You also can’t stereotype and say Bollywood is where the bad girls go.”
At 5 ft 9 inches, Raj stands tall. While she is proud of her roots, she is thankful to Australia which has given her the confidence and the independence to do choose her calling.