Twenty-three-year-old Anjali Sinha, from Essex who recently won Miss London 2022 is now gearing up for Miss England final 2022 in Coventry this year – the only contest in the country that goes for Miss World.
In a freewheeling interview with Eastern Eye, the beauty pageant winner who is also a scientist shed light on what beauty means to her, her charity work, dangerous internet beauty trends, and much more. Edited excerpts:
Tell us something about your decision to participate in the Miss England beauty pageant.
Even though I have done pageantry when I was younger, this was my first Miss pageant. The whole process to enter Miss England is a huge one; it takes a long time to get admitted into the contest.
I applied in December and received an invite for an audition in February, and to get photographed by a celebrity photographer called Alan striker. It was all a wonderful experience.
I never really expected to get selected to participate for Miss London but being crowned Miss London has taken me straight to Miss England, as a finalist.
Was there any particular round in the contest that you liked the best?
There were 12 of us competing for the Miss London title. One of the rounds required us to wear an outfit which had to be collected from a charity shop or created from our own sustainable materials.
I got my outfit from a charity shop called Oxfam. When I found that dress, I got really inspired because not only did the outfit look stunning – like something out of a Jane Austen’s book – an author I love, but I think I got very lucky because it’s very hard to find such clothes in a charity shop.
So, were there any challenges you faced during the preparation for this beauty pageant?
You have to be on top with your time management and your organization skills. Other than that, I didn’t think I found anything that was challenging. Also, I don’t like to look at challenges as challenges I like to look at them as opportunities. I always convert my weaknesses into strengths.
Did you at any point during the contest face any kind of racism?
No, not at all. I feel like Miss England, all pageants to be honest, are very accepting of inclusivity. There were four other Indian girls competing in the contest. I feel, every year, more girls come in from all different backgrounds, and from all different walks of life.
I think the pageant industry is evolving, and it will continue to evolve. And that’s what we need. We need more diversity in our pageant industry, because there are incredible girls out there who are such incredible leaders.
Is there any person you look up to for inspiration?
I admire a lot of people and one of them is my mom. I think most young girls would say this – my mother is like my best friend. She herself was into beauty pageants when she was young and she has been my biggest support throughout this whole process.
I also admire Mother Teresa. I also like Emma Watson because I love Harry Potter books. I enjoy watching movies too.
Mother Teresa showed us how to be kind, giving and compassionate to the underprivileged people and I think I just got inspired by that and do the charity work that I do.
What are the different kinds of charity work you are associated with?
I am associated with Rare Disease U.K, an organisation that supports people living with a rare disease and for enhanced research in this field so that lives are saved.
Also, for the last seven years I am associated with AngelXpress foundation, a charity based in Mumbai, India. This charity aims to give the right quality education for underprivileged children.
Last but not least, I am involved with WASUP (World Against Single Use Plastic) founded by Professor Gatrad OBE. This organisation aims to reduce the use of single use plastic by litter picking and educating children about this issue.
Since my heart lies with the charity work that I do, I am looking for opportunities to raise my voice for the causes that I truly believe in and hope to gather attention from social media and the public to support me on this and my pageant journey.
Let’s assume you win Miss England 2022 – what are your future plans?
I think everybody is asking me this question. But honestly, it will take me some time to digest the fact that I’ve just won Miss London 2022. But you know, my aim is to focus on my Beauty with a Purpose project, which is at the heart of Miss World, and created by Julia Morley, chairman and CEO of the Miss World Organization.
She created the purpose so that all the women around the world who are competing for Miss World will come to the pageant with a purpose, hence the name.
All of the contestants have all these individual projects, which they really want to believe in and push further so that it can be funded globally. So, they can actually help not just their nations, but the world.
My Beauty with a Purpose project is called Hello Happiness – it comprises the three charities I work really closely with – mentioned earlier.
When I was studying, I came to the realization that we as scientists in the pharma industry, don’t pay attention to rare diseases. Therefore, I want to put the knowledge I’ve gained to good use, and use it for a good purpose, because rare diseases are actually quite underrated.
There are 6000 of them and 6000 rare diseases can affect one out of 300 million people – those 300 million people right now are going through a rare disease, and 75% of them are children.
So altogether, Hello Happiness is a project that ensures the wellbeing and health of children, access to good education, and a good environment for children to flourish, which I think is much-needed in today’s world.
That’s all I can say, I’m just really excited for this journey, and hope for the best. But obviously, for me, winning isn’t everything. It’s more about the journey than the destination – whatever I’ve learned from these experiences, I just know that this whole journey has made me into a more powerful woman.
What do you think it takes for a woman to win a beauty pageant such as Miss London?
Being yourself is the most beautiful accessory you can wear. But obviously you can layer up accessories and you can be confident. So be self-confidant and be yourself – basically, just be proud about who you are, no matter where you’re from in this world.
If you believe in yourself, I think that’s the biggest attribute and greatest quality you can have when you’re entering a beauty pageant.
Obviously, people will say a lot about the fashion industry because it is one of the oldest systems in terms of beauty. But beauty isn’t what we look at from the outside, it’s got to do a lot with what is in the inside.
Speaking about beauty…what do you think about the bizarre beauty fads that celebs endorse?
I think it’s quite dangerous for our mental health to be able to idolize these people on social media. And obviously, I think it is more common in women, because we look up to these other people and we think to ourselves that this is what we need to feel beautiful, and to be beautiful.
There’s so much going on in terms of how beauty standards are shown – in terms of plastic surgery, in terms of changing the way you are, in terms of how much money you’ve got and how many followers you have, if you have a blue tick or not.
In my opinion, since we cannot remove social media from our lives, we need to use social media more positively and also be able to perceive it more positively – to be able to understand and connect with people and discuss the issues that really matter.
For instance, though people may be having a hard time – they may just post a picture and you would think it’s a beautiful picture. But you may be unaware as to what that person is going through, what they go through after uploading the picture or if they are even happy about it.
It may be that it’s just a pressure thing that they’re going through themselves that they need to keep up the happy front.
So, I feel like on the receiving end, when you’re looking at the photo, you’re being pressured, the person posting that picture is also being pressured and many people don’t really realize the other side of the story.
Most beauty queens in India, sooner or later join the films. So, does being a part of Bollywood feature anywhere in your journey?
If I did receive a great opportunity to do a movie, or to do anything related to the industry, I would be more than grateful and honoured, because I never need doors closed; I always leave them open. So, for me to receive such an opportunity, it would be a blessing and if I do receive an opportunity, I think it would be the greatest experience ever. But at the same time, I’m very devoted to my work. I will never change who I am.
So, if it comes my way, it’s fine, but at the same time, I’m not going to venture out for it because I genuinely believe that if something is meant for you, it will happen – I’m just happy with the way I am right now.