UA student crowned Miss India America
Meet Maya Sarihan: physiology junior with medical school on her mind, fluent in Hindi, teaches Hindi in the UA critical languages program and was recently crowned Miss India America 2014.
While everyone was getting ready to go back to school, Sarihan was getting ready for the runway in the Miss India America 2014 beauty pageant in Los Angeles from Aug. 20 to Aug. 23, the day of the crowning.
Prior to be being crowned Miss India America 2014, Sarahin had spent about five months preparing for the competition. Part of this preparation was an application process, which included essays and photos.
“The whole application, you can imagine like you’re applying to college,” Sarahin said.
After submitting an application, Sarahin was selected as a semifinalist, which was another step in the process: a $1,000 sponsorship in order to compete. This sponsorship requirement did not include the costs for clothing, jewelry, hair and makeup.
“I didn’t want to take money from my parents, because I just felt guilty,” Sarahin added.
Sarahin asked local businesses in her hometown of Scottsdale to sponsor her. One of the first places she went to was Saffron Market, a small Indian boutique.
Shy Khan, the fashion director of a June fashion show Sarahin had competed in, also played a role in Sarahin’s sponsorship. Sarahin said Shy Khan was the reason Sarahin got involved with beauty pageants.
Nazila Couture, a bridal-wear business based in Canada, also sponsored Sarahin. The pageant included a bridal-wear competition.
This was Sarahin’s first time participating in a beauty pageant. Her best friend in high school participated in Miss Teen Arizona competitions and always told Sarahin she would be good at beauty pageants, because she was a debater and could answer questions on the spot. However, Sarahin had never considered herself as a pageant person and said she didn’t start wearing heels until a year ago.
“I never really thought about it, but the opportunity kind of fell on my plate,” Sarahin said. “You gain so much out of doing something that is totally out of your comfort zone.”
Sarahin said the most memorable aspect of the competition was conquering her fear, because she had moments where she didn’t think she could do it.
Another memorable experience for Sarahin was the competition’s talent portion. Sarahin said she was originally planning to perform a dance, as it’s customary to dance instead of sing in Indian pageants. But when she sang her song, everyone went crazy and loved it.
Sarahin, who considers herself a “bathroom singer,” had never performed a song for an audience. The only exception was when she sang a solo in sixth grade.
“I’ve always low-key-sang Indian music,” Sarahin added.
One of Sarahin’s challenges with the pageant was convincing her parents to let her do it and to come to the competition. Her biggest fear, she said, was disappointing her parents, especially after convincing them this competition was worth it.
Sarahin has kept an open mind about her future and beauty pageants.
“I’m not going to close those doors,” Sarahin said. “[It’s a] couple years of growth in three days.”
Now that she’s back in Tucson with her junior year underway, Sarahin said she is a little more stressed while balancing academics and pageant life. With being crowned Miss India America 2014 also comes the responsibility of jobs and making appearances in Los Angeles and Phoenix.
Some of the appearances include fashion shows in LA. If the event is within the same month of notification, Sarahin can choose if she wants to attend or not, but if there is advanced notification, she is required to attend those events.
Despite the added stress of this new part of her life, Sarahin said it’s worth it. She said she always thought the performing arts were a part of her life. Now, she found a way to incorporate that into her everyday life.
“It kind of feeds a part of my soul,” Sarahin said.
—Follow Meghan Fernandez @MeghanFernandez