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When there’s much more than beauty underneath the crown
Beauty pageant winner Bhagyam Anantharaman Aravind wants to change the mindset of differently-abled people about opportunities where there are no special categories
A genetic researcher, Bhagyam Anantharaman Aravind came across an advertisement of a beauty pageant on Facebook and decided to give it a try. She called the organiser Lakshmi Raja and informed her interest in participating. “I clarified that I have polio and walk with the help of a walker. With no hesitation, Lakshmi asked me to come and said that it’s important to carry oneself confidently. I felt encouraged and sensed this was the platform for me,” says Bhagyam, who became the winner of Mrs Chennai Superwoman beauty pageant that was held in Chennai recently.
Initially, Bhagyam thought the pageant was just a contest but later realised that if she becomes a part of this, she could bring in a difference in the mindset of differently-abled people about various opportunities.
“This would be both ways — people with disabilities would open their minds and try their hands on opportunities where there are no specific categories while people who don’t have a visible disability will get a chance to share their warmth and lend a hand and be part of the world of physically challenged people. The advertisement didn’t mention that physically challenged people can apply. This is what usually happens — a physically challenged person would wait for an opportunity to knock and mostly, nothing comes their way. We have to make things work for us. The message I wanted to convey is that you shouldn’t wait to be categorised. Apply/be part of events you feel that could bring out the best in you,” she says.
Bhagyam underwent a one-month grooming session where Lakshmi Raja guided the participants through lessons on confidence, answering technique and presentation skills. “I took up motivational speaking for my talent round just to express what I felt and use this platform to bring that small change. Usually, in public events like this, a physically challenged person would either be reclusive or get into a phase of loving themselves the way he/she is. I enjoyed the training sessions and started believing in myself,” adds the winner.
Not only did she prove her point that a physically challenged woman can participate in a fashion show but also win it if she has confidence and trust within her. “I stood there hoping another 100 Bhagyams come and make that phone call asking to be part of an event and leave all inhibitions behind and walk ahead in life. After winning the pageant, people started looking up to me. I’ve been invited to colleges to give motivational talks and judge cultural events. Many physically challenged people have excelled in different fields. Now, it’s time for them to create a platform so that no one has to go through the same struggles,” sums up Bhagyam, who currently runs a food joint in a mall in Chennai.