Despite being a doctor, Sakshi Singh has always been drawn to the world of performing arts and the creative industry. It was something that came from a very young age in India where she was born. She used to spend a great deal of time watching movies on television and enjoyed enacting in front of the mirror or dancing to popular numbers. Sakshi was 13 when her parents migrated to Australia and never thought getting into the world of fashion and glamour here was a possibility. She went on to study medicine at the University of Melbourne but at the same time the urge to find a pathway towards the glamour industry was strong. This year, while training to be a psychiatrist, Sakshi did a bit of her own research and came across Raj Suri’s Miss India Australia pageants. She gave it a shot and the rest, as they say, is history. Sakshi not only won the Miss India Australia title, the Miss Talent but also was the first runner up at the Miss India Worldwide 2018 held in New Jersey in December.

Just back in Melbourne after winning the first runner up at the Miss India Worldwide 2018 contest, Sakshi has now set her sights on working towards charity works around mental health and wants to keep honing her acting skills. In conversation with Sakshi Singh.

Photographer and film producer Raj Suri founded the Miss India Australia pageant in 2001 and his is the first ever-national talent search in Australia for women of Indian origin. It is affiliated to the Miss India Worldwide which celebrated its 27th year in 2018. This year over 20 countries represented the competition. “Miss India Australia embraces the best of Australian and Indian culture presenting a unique opportunity for Australian women to engage with and celebrate rich heritage with contemporary Australian identity,” says Suri. Pallavi Sharda, Sharon Johal, Zenia Starr and Vimala Raman are some of Suri’s products who have a made a name in the Indian film and Australian TV Industry.

Tell us a little more about yourself and why you joined the contest?
I am a doctor and currently training in psychiatry. Apart from medicine, I love dancing and acting. I have acted in an Australian short film (which is in its post-production stage) this year as the lead. I participated in Raj Suri Miss India Australia pageant because I believe it will guide me in achieving my dream. I also wanted to showcase my talent on a global scale and inspire other professionals like me to pursue their passion and maintain a work-life balance.

How does it feel to win the Miss India Australia 2018 title?
Absolutely Amazing! Like the song “aaj main upar, aaj main neeche, aaj main aage, zamana hai peeche” (today I’m on top and the sky is below me, today I’m in front and the world is behind me) but in a less grandiose way!

What was your onstage strategy to win the judges over?
Self-confidence, the fact that I can do this. I didn’t go in thinking I will win but that this is a new experience in my life and I want to see where it takes me. Next thing I was on a plane to New York!

To those readers that are unfamiliar with the Miss India Australia 2018, please tell us a bit more.
It’s been run by Mr Raj Suri since 2001. It provides girls with a platform to showcase their beauty and talent and encourages them to become leaders in their respected fields. I think it’s a great platform and I have seen the opportunities past winners have got out of winning his pageant.

Is the Miss India Australia pageant empowering?
Most definitely! Auditioning with Raj Suri boosted my confidence especially regarding my acting skills. Raj has a lot of experience in the industry and what it takes to be a good actor, so his feedback really gave me the courage to pursue this forward.

Do you see this win as a stepping stone to entering Bollywood?
Bollywood is a big industry. There are thousands of people who go to Mumbai every day with the hopes of making it big in the industry. I am passionate about acting and my aim is to act. I am open to all options -whether that is in Australia or overseas. Working in Indian cinema would be a dream come true though.

Given a choice between working full time as a doctor full time or being involved with the world of glamour, which would you choose and why?
I love my work and I would never give up being a doctor. It’s a very satisfying profession. I believe it’s important to have a balance between your work and passion. If given the chance to work in films, I would definitely take it and work as a doctor when I’m not filming. The acting industry can be quite challenging especially if you’re just starting, so you need some form of income to pay the bills. And the great thing with being a doctor is that you can work anywhere in the world.

What would you like see changing for Indian women in Australia?
Perhaps more inclusion within the broader community. As an actor, I would advocate for better representation of women of colour on screen. This has been a challenge for me and I hope to see this change come about sooner rather than later. I believe we are capable of playing regular roles on screen and not just be the person working at the gas station or driving a taxi. We are much more diverse than that. There must be equal opportunities for new migrants in Australia.
I remember when we migrated here, we used to live in a small country town in the Grampians. Initially it was very challenging as we were the only non-Caucasian family in town. But what helped was attending community service groups at libraries and churches which helped us integrate into the new environment.

What was your takeaway from the global contest?
It was a whole new experience; the contest was at a much larger scale. It went on for five days – three days were spent on training and the other two main big days were when we had the competition rounds. There were contestants from all over the world and they were beautiful and talented. The message I took home regardless of who won is that no matter how talented you are, there is someone more talented than you. So, one must always keep working hard and keep doing one’s best.

Moving forward, what are your immediate plans?
Winning the Miss India Australia title and runner up in the Miss India Worldwide 2018 come with a lot of responsibilities. I will try and do some charity work. I am training to be a psychiatrist and there is a lot of work around mental health that I can get involved with. That is something I am focussing on, perhaps at a global scale. At the same time, I am thinking about committing some time for my acting career as well.

(As told to G’day India)