Ms Congeniality with an injured knee | Sunday Observer

Ms Congeniality with an injured knee

She nearly didn’t go for the show as she developed serious knee problems with water collecting in the knees. She was in intense pain and movement was difficult. Driving was impossible and a friend had to come to her rescue 

Nilusha Fernando represented Sri Lanka at the Ms. Super Model Worldwide contest and won great acclaim for herself and the country. She won the mini contests Ms Congeniality and Ms. Talent. Twenty beauties vied for the title of Ms. Super Model Worldwide 2019 and among the countries were host country India, Thatasthan, Turkey, Mexico, Phillipines, New Zealand, Estonia, Belgium and Kazakhasthan.

She was nominated by veteran fashion designer and stylist Lou Chin Wong under whose tutelage Nilusha made her foray into the world of Sri Lankan modeling. She had only two and a half to three weeks to prepare for the contest as it was brought forward from November to September and was soon after she returned from a prolonged stay in Japan. It was a whirlwind time for her as she had to rehearse her catwalk movements for the show, practise her dance and attend to a hundred and one other things prior to departure.

Lou Chin Wong handled her choreography for the event. She nearly didn’t go for the show as she developed serious knee problems with water collecting in the knees. She was in intense pain and movement was difficult. Driving was impossible and a friend had to come to her rescue. This posed serious problems for her especially concerning her dance. Nilusha’s dance was based on the traditional martial art- the Angampora. She had almost made up her mind to withdraw from the contest on medical grounds, but those around her especially her friends kept urging her to participate in the contest. Foremost among those who encouraged her were her close friends Madhu and Pradeepa. A devout Catholic she resorted to prayer and sought the Lord’s guidance on what she should do. And she felt that the Lord wanted her to go.

Armed with the confidence that it was the Lord’s will for her to go and the encouragement of family and friends she sought medical help from Consultant Specialist Dr. Harindu Wijesinghe to obtain a medical certificate and withdraw from the contest. The Doctor heard her out and said she must participate in the contest and that he would help her to do so. He then gave her a list of do’s and don’ts along with medication. Jumping was a no, no and her dance had to be re–choreographed with no jumping. Gayan Srimal handled the transition to perfection.

Nilusha’s costumes and clothes too had to be done on the double. Her dazzling costume for the Angampora dance was created by Aravinda Radhawa Samurdha . The unique narilatha flower inspired national costume was designed by Amila Udayanga. Shevon Shaker achieved the near impossible by creating seven kits for her within 24 hours working all night. This included the glamorous and expensive gold and flesh toned dress worn by her when she walked on stage to collect her awards.

Meesha Gunawardene gave his time to do the photo shoot here in Sri Lanka prior to the event. Rozelle Plunkett too gave of her time and advice to help Nilusha reach victory. After her win Rozanne Diaz complimented her and gave her the opportunity to work with her.

Nilusha had no sponsors or any other financial help except for Rs. 50,000 thousand given by a caring and generous friend. All other expenses amounted to 500,000 including air fare and had to be borne by her. Her ardent wish is that there should be a structure to extend financial support for people like her when it becomes necessary to participate in contests such as Ms. Super Model Worldwide 2019.

Travelling with luggage and bad knees was an ordeal, but this courageous beauty surmounted it. In Delhi, she was warmly received and everyone helped her. Nilusha can speak Hindi and this stood her in good stead in India.

Nilusha’s friendly and warm personality (which she had even as a child) won her many friends at the contest and thus paved the way for her to bag the Ms. Congeniality title. Not even in her wildest dreams had she imagined that that she would win this title. She had mentally wandered miles away when she was suddenly brought back to earth by hearing chants of Sri Lanka. Through a daze Nilusha saw everyone rooting for her as Ms. Congeniality. With tear filled eyes she heard herself proclaimed Ms. Congeniality in what were very emotional moments for her.

Nilusha had a heart rending experience when the contestants were taken to a home where HIV/ Aids infected children were being cared for. As tears welled in her eyes, Nilusha quickly put on dark glasses so as not to upset the children. When one child one asked why she was wearing shades she quickly attributed it to the strong sunlight. She also donated some cash to this home.

She did her first formal photo shoot with Tennyson Edirisinghe when she was 16 years old in 2000 and he also handled her first post victory shoot too. Hair and makeup for this latter shoot was by Parakrama Dimitri.

Nilusha’s passion was modelling from childhood and to realise this dream, she chose top ranker model trainer Lou Chin Wong. “I would not be where I am today if not for Lou Ching”, grateful Nilusha acknowledged. Geraldine Bandaranaike is also one who has guided Nilusha’s early footsteps and helped her immensely.’ “She was like a mother. She showed me how to drape a saree in around two minutes and do my make up quickly. All this has helped me in my upward journey”.

Nilusha’s first tele drama was Sasara maga and talent scouts picked through the model bank she was registered with. In it she plays the role of a young girl with a child. Veteran actors H.A. Perera and Hemasiri Liyanage who also acted in this tele drama were very helpful to this novice actress.

After Sasara Maga she received more tele drama offers, but did not get parental permission as she was still studying.

Nilusha’s father, an Air Force Officer maintained a very strict discipline in the home and it was a battle for Nilusha to take to modelling as her parents disapproved of it. She is grateful to husband Asanka Galagoda, her son, her parents, K. V and Manel Fernando and sisters Nalika and Kanchana for their unstinting support .

Nim Him is Nilusha’s first movie and is directed by Michelle Fonseka. Nilusha plays the role of a girl who misunderstands her boyfriend and is happy to have her good friends Gangu Roshana and Milinda Madugalle appear in the movie. This movie premiered at the National Film Corporation theatre while she was away.

She says a firm grounding is necessary to be a good model. Merely posing for a few pictures does not make you a model, she says.

A deeply religious young woman she goes forth in life confident that the Lord is always with her.

Nilusha’s future plans are many, including the resumption of conducting aerobic classes which she did some time earlier.

Good Luck Nilusha!

Pix by Tennyson Edirisinghe