“I can’t think of anything beyond December 19,” says a radiant Shilpa Singh. That’s the date of the Miss Universe finale at Las Vegas. And the 18-year-old who will be representing India at the international pageant can’t stop talking about how unexpected a contender she is for the title. It was less than a year ago that her life was going according to the ideal Indian education-get a job plan.
Engineering – check. Infosys – check. And then an ad in the paper for ‘I AM She 2012’ came along. “I just wanted to give it a try,” the Mumbai girl recalls, as she settles down into a cushioned chair at Vivanta Taj-Connemara.
Crowned ‘I AM She Miss Universe India 2012’ just last month, Shilpa was in Chennai over the weekend to play showstopper at the Seven Islands International Film Festival fashion show.
Asked about her plans while in Chennai, and she smiles in response, “One thing I really wanted to do was watch some films. I mean I am here at a film festival....so hopefully do that.” Kollywood films may be a little difficult considering she hasn’t learned any Tamil yet.
“The last time I was in Chennai, I was in school and my family was going on a trip to Tirupathi,” Shilpa reminisces. Also she adds quickly, “I was hoping to go to the Infosys campus in Chennai actually, a lot of my friends have been posted there.
But I don’t think there’s any time. “Given that this 5’8 beauty never entered the pageant with the prospect of modelling or acting, one wonders, will Kollywood or Bollyood be on the agenda after this next pageant is done? Her answer comes easily.
“I’m just going to go with the flow, whatever happens,” the leggy lass smiles. Then pauses, as she suddenly remembers, “You know, if I hadn’t gone with the flow, I would probably be getting ready for my CAT exam in November!”
It turns out her story really might be a tale of the fates aligning to change destiny. For starters, the beauty queen laughs, “I’ve always been a tomboy.” That’s means, she elaborates: entering a national level pageant, she had no idea how to put on make-up, use a blow dryer and least of all, any interest in shopping.
“When my friends heard I was participating in ‘I Am She,’ they would joke and ask me: ‘Are you sure it’s not ‘I Am He?’” Glancing down at her five-inch something heels, it is clear that jokes apart, her tomboy days are well behind her. But the real twist of fate came in fact, post her pageant win.
Those who followed the event on television will remember that Shilpa was actually crowned First Runner Up. It was only when it was discovered that the winner at the time – Urvashi Rautela had violated her contract and was underage at the time, that she was by default placed in the running for Miss Universe.
So what was the scariest round of all? “Ooh the question-answer round,” she responds with a nervous giggle. “I remember back in college, I took part in a speaking event were I just went blank. So I was determined that it didn’t happen again.”
And as one can guess from her success, she sailed through with flying colours. “I spent a lot of time getting advice from Sushmitha ma’am (Sushmitha Sen).
She doesn’t lecture me, she just talks to me and always says: ‘Be Yourself’. It’s been a lot of fun,” Shilpa beams. Still fresh with the excitement from her title win last month, her ride of a lifetime continues, with more prep work, grooming, costume fittings and of course, mock Q and A sessions. Any special words from home that she holds dear? She responds lightly, “My dad is always saying – ‘Beta, you’ve become thin! Just do well and come back healthy.”