Like many little girls, Shweta Sekhon used to watch beauty pageants and had since harboured a dream that someday, she wants to be a beauty queen. Almost a decade later, just like a fairytale, her dream came true when she was anointed as Miss Universe Malaysia 2019. She is Malaysia’s newest women empowerment ambassador and intends to champion positive body image and self-confidence.
Shweta Sekhon is the girl next door who together with her sister Sabrina, was raised by a single mum, a former Malaysia Airlines stewardess. Fun fact, she was named after Bollywood legend, Amitabh Bachan’s daughter, Shweta Nanda. This beauty completed her Form Six at SMK Cochrane before taking a break to focus on pageantry. Her journey in beauty pageants began when she was scouted online for the Miss Malaysia World 2016 pageant which led her to being chosen as one of the top 18 candidates. With lady luck on her shoulder, Shweta was placed as the second runner-up and subsequently the winner. Shweta is the first in the history of beauty pageants in Malaysia to receive an unprecedented double promotion. Three years later, the leggy lass decided to audition for the Miss Universe Malaysia pageant and landed herself in the top 18. Next, as you know, is history. Shweta will be doing her country proud at the Miss Universe 2019 pageant.
CONGRATULATIONS ON BAGGING THE MISS UNIVERSE MALAYSIA TITLE! TELL US ABOUT THE JOURNEY.
The journey has only just started for me. In the beginning there was a lot of celebrations, of course – everyone was ecstatic to learn that I won the title. Now, it’s all about preparing for the Miss Universe 2019 pageant. I have started my catwalk training and advocacy planning. It entails the glam and glitz and work.
YOUR MOTHER IS A FORMER MALAYSIA AIRLINES STEWARDESS. DID SHE PLAY A PART IN YOU BECOMING A BEAUTY CONTESTANT?
She played a huge role. Being a stewardess entails discipline, grooming and the works and beauty pageants have that in similarities, so she has imparted to me her wisdom. She advises me all the time. She is my backbone and pillar of strength. In fact, it was my mum who suggested that I participate in the Miss Universe Malaysia pageant, having reassured me that I have a gift of the gab.
HOW HAS YOUR LIFE CHANGED SINCE BEING CROWNED MISS UNIVERSE MALAYSIA 2019?
Well, it is significantly different now. I wake up to lots of nice messages every morning. It’s really nice that my friends look up to me; I was just their ordinary and now they look up to me as their role model. They also ask me for beauty and skincare tips. It has been amazing. I find it surreal when I walk about in town and have people coming up to me and asking if I’m Miss Universe Malaysia. It’s honestly a wonderful feeling.
I’m working together with a brilliant team to prepare for the upcoming pageant. There’s a common misconception that beauty pageants are merely about beauty, walking on the runway, andthe outfits. In reality, there’s a lot of hard work and learning that go into the preparations for a pageant. For instance, I read a lot – it’s
something I have been brought up with. It helps that everyone around me is also keen on helping me, randomly questioning me on current issues and etc to prepare for the question round. A new adventure awaits and I find myself evolving as a person throughout the process.
ANY HINTS ON WHAT WILL YOU BE WEARING FOR THE MISS UNIVERSE NATIONAL COSTUME?
We’re still in the discussing stage. Everyone, including myself is eager to know about the national costume because it’s something I will be remembered for. There are various out-of-the box ideas being thrown in for consideration so we’re still brainstorming the look and the designer we will be working with. We will keep you guys posted!
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE RELEVANCE OF BEAUTY PAGEANTS IN THIS DAY AND AGE?
I love the whole concept of beauty pageants. I need to take my hat off to the brilliant person who pioneered this major event. Beauty pageant in my opinion, is a platform that transforms a girl into a woman. Moreover, it builds one’s confidence and provides a medium for people to discover themselves and their potential. I believe that if there weren’t beauty pageants, people wouldn’t be seeing themselves in a new light.
WHAT IS THE HARD TRUTH BEHIND BEAUTY PAGEANTS?
We do sleep. Often times, people have the wrong idea that we barely sleep but in fact, we do. We sit in makeup chairs for long periods that sometimes take up to eight hours. But no complaints from me because it’s nice to have someone pamper your face.
HOW OFTEN DO YOU GO FOR A FACIAL OR PAMPER YOURSELF?
I get a facial done every Sunday because Sunday is our family day, so I do it together with my mother and sister. Part of the job requires me to have makeup on my face most of the time so my mum stresses the importance of allowing my skin to breathe at least once a week. While I do have sponsors such as La Jung where I can get my facials done, I prefer sticking to home
remedies such as honey mask. It gives me satisfaction and makes me feel productive when I make my own masks.
IS THERE A NON-PROFIT ORGANISATION THAT YOU ARE KEEN TO SUPPORT OR A SOCIAL CAUSE YOU WANT TO CHAMPION?
As mentioned previously, I’m currently working on my advocacy so I’m still in the process of it. I have been speaking about confidence and I’m very passionate about championing body positivity so it would be a dream to be an advocate of this cause. I feel that everyone is facing a body image issue, especially in this day and age. My friends face it and I, myself used to suffer from it. Based on personal experience, it’s not easy to get out of that mental state. I want to be the hand or light that pulls people out of suffering from lack of confidence or body image.
WHAT IS YOUR MESSAGE TO THOSE WHO SUFFER FROM LACK OF CONFIDENCE OR BODY IMAGE ISSUES?
Love yourself. I believe that the root of this problem is not loving yourself enough. When you love yourself for who you are and comfortable in your skin, you will feel empowered. So, go ahead and learn to love yourself!
THE BEAUTY INDUSTRY IS EVOLVING. DO YOU THINK PAGEANTS WILL SOON ACCEPT PEOPLE WHO DON’T FIT IN THE COMMERCIAL BEAUTY STANDARDS?
YOU SPEAK ELOQUENTLY. HOW DID YOU DEVELOP THE CONFIDENCE FOR PUBLIC SPEAKING?
Thank you. The credit goes to a teacher of mine when I was studying in SMK Cochrane. It was during my Form 6 when she saw the potential in me for public speaking. She believed that I have a talent in conveying a message and being heard. So, she urged me to participate in competitions and here I am today.
IF YOU HADN’T JOINED PAGEANTS, HOW DO YOU THINK YOU WOULD EXPAND YOUR MODELLING CAREER?
I guess by joining an agency. That’s basically the first thing to do, to attach yourself to an agency which will then do its part in promoting your career. Furthermore, modelling comes with meeting so I believe it would evolve from there.
WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING IF YOU HADN’T JOINED PAGEANTS?
I think I would be sitting behind the computer because I love IT and I’m a nerd at heart. I’ll also be into my books because I have been brought up reading. I would have pursued a degree in IT or engineering.
COULD YOU SHARE WITH US WHAT THE RESPONSIBILITIES OF A MISS UNIVERSE MALAYSIA ENTAIL?
It’s a huge responsibility. It goes beyond the red carpet and beauty. It’s honestly about the whole package. People look up to me and regard me as their role model so that on its own is a huge responsibility. There are work responsibilities that I have to adhere to which involve attending events, photo shoots and of course, my advocacy. Besides that, I take care of my well-being such a eating right, doing my Yoga and HIIT training.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO FOR FUN WHEN YOU’RE NOT DOING YOUR PAGEANT RESPONSIBILITIES?
A day at a café or of karaoke with my group of frie mensely fun for me. I could spend the whole day with them.
HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH NEGATIVITY?
I just leave it be. I don’t let it affect me. That said, if I’m receiving a huge wave of criticism, I also check on myself and determine why am I receiving criticisms.
IN YOUR OPINION, HOW DO BEAUTY PAGEANTS EMPOWER WOMEN?
I think it is a platform that allows women to embrace their beauty, confidence and allows them to shine. It also showcases how dreams do come true if you truly believe it and work hard. We queens, are role models to many and become inspiration to those who would like to tread the same path.
IS THERE A PAST MALAYSIAN BEAUTY PAGEANT PERSONALITY THAT YOU LOOK UP TO?
My all-time favourite has to be Deborah Henry. I love the way she is, how she speaks, and the confidence she carries. She also sprea active in her charity work. I love her!
Words by Hiranmayii Awli Mohanan
Photographer : Selva @ bravography
Videographer: Sam Goh @ samguw
Hairstylist: Derek Tan @ anagen
Make-up: Harshini @ hadhi.co
Venue: The Royal Selangor Polo Club