Glitz, glamor and ultimate glory. The one night that changes everything – forever. A diva is born.
You’re a part of a sea of people, waiting--with baited breath--for that one girl’s dreams to come true and the nervousness floating around infects you too. The anxiety in the room is obvious, you find yourself crossing your fingers, and hoping that your favorite contestant takes home the coveted crown.
“I was very, k bhanne– nakkali, huncha ni, bachhai dekhi. My mom is a fashion designer, so I guess I got that from her,” says Evana Manandhar, the freshly crowned Miss Nepal, as I ask her if bagging the most prestigious crown in the country was a childhood dream. Straight from another interview, she hasn’t had the time to sleep, let alone think about the night that changed it all. “I don’t look sleep deprived, do I?” she asks as she checks her reflection on the glass door. “Not at all,” I assure her.
“It was two years before I came here, during my graduation time, when I decided to participate in Miss Nepal. But my real journey began when I told my parents about what I wanted to do, of course, they were insistent that I be first done with my graduation,” she says, flashing a smile.
And thus began the story of a beauty queen. Right after Evana completed her graduation at Wilkes University, Pennsylvania, she started working as a Business Analyst in the US. A year after working, she decided it was time to turn her dreams to reality. “I had a comfortable lifestyle in the US but I left it to follow my instinct. You know, that gut feeling when you know that this is what you should be doing, you have to follow that. I had a good job but Miss Nepal was a lifetime of opportunities.”
The only Nepali student in her university, Evana says she took the decision to study at a place where there were no Nepalese to discover a person that she was not already. “I guess the years I spent in the US made me a lot more independent.”
I met Evana a long time ago, when we were in school, we were classmates. I have faint memories of a reserved girl who kept to herself most times. And nothing would have prepared me for the powerful woman she is today. “Yes, I was quiet back then, wasn’t I? A bit shy too. I guess life made me get out of my shell,” she says.
A double major in college, Evana won the International Student of the Year award at Wilkes and represented Nepal from 220 countries. She also won the Deans Excellence in Marketing Award along with the Multi-Cultural Award. A firm decision maker and quite stubborn, she calls herself. “I’m always looking for ways to impress people. And when I set my mind to something I do it. My passion, my dreams, my aspirations are something I always strive for,” she says.
As the lights are all set up in the studio and the makeup is done, Evana is all set for her first ever elaborate shoot after being crowned. You’d think she’d be nervous, you’d think she would be camera shy, but you would be wrong. “This is my first big shoot after Miss Nepal. I haven’t had the time to do anything else! Sleeping is on the bottom of my things-to-do list,” she says.
Evana swept away almost all the subtitles at the pageant: Miss Personality, Miss Intellect and Miss Gosh Girl. Being the second person in history to have won so many titles comes with a lot of expectation, does that make you nervous? “I actually feel very humbled to have won the three titles. It is a legacy that I will always be proud of. It sets a benchmark for me for what I will do further in life,” comes a thoughtful answer.
And what about the beauty with a purpose title-the most important title of all? Ishani Shrestha managed to bring it back home, and now all eyes are on you, what are your plans to bring it back? “Ah! The title! It was the first thing that was on my mind the morning after the crowning,” she says. “I have obviously given a lot of thought to it. Think globally and act locally, that is something have mentioned quite a few times now,” she says with a smile. “I want to implement the skills of sole entrepreneurs in the field of tourism, transfer the skills to the Neplaese people. The tourism industry has yet to be flourished and identified. I want to create a platform for women who are deprived of employment opportunities so that they can work from their homes, with their resources. This is my aim in life for now and that will be something I will pursue for the title too, if all works out. I want to be an eye-opener in our society. If a man can be a bread-winner why can’t a woman be one?”
Preparations are in full steam for the Miss World pageant, however, Evana is not just preparing herself physically but psychologically and emotionally too. With everybody constantly scrutinizing your every move, you have to be prepared for whatever comes you way. Success is, after all, learning from one failure to another without any loss for enthusiasm. “People will be there to criticize you. You have to face them and live with them and correct them. You have to be prepared for all that life throws at you,” she says. From a normal girl striving between a 9-5 job to a celebrity whose daily schedules are handles by a bunch of people, the transition must have something. “Oh my God, it is insane! I sometimes feel like the ambassador of the country!” giggles Evana, letting out the young girl in her. “But I have my friends who still know me as Evana, I hope people still know me as Evana,” she says.
Do you find it intimidating? Now that everyone’s eyes are constantly on you? “It is overwhelming, that is for sure, but not scary. You get tagged as a celebrity over night (in two hours actually). A minute you are Evana Manandhar-just Evana Manandhar and the next you are Evana Manandhar– a celebrity. Naam ta Evana nai thyo pahila pani, but now it comes with a title. I feel humbled and honored with all that I have gotten in the blink of the eye but it is scary to level up to everybody’s expectation. I get intimidated when I think about living up to what people expect of me,” she says.
Things have surely changed for Evana. One night was all it took for her life to change forever. “I am living the dream, truly. But at the end of the day you have to be a dreamer. You dream, you believe and then you achieve it.”