Beauty beyond pageantry | Sunday Observer
Chandi Aluwihare:

Beauty beyond pageantry

14 February, 2021

“In life, when you draw a picture make sure you draw yourself as a prominent character in that picture and add to that character. Don’t blend yourself into the background of any picture you draw,” Chandi Aluwihare recalls the inspiring words of her loving grandfather who was a role model in her life.

She strived hard and brought fame and glory to her motherland by being placed among the top 10 contestants of the Mrs. International pageant in the year 2016.

Chandi Aluwihare shares her experience, the lessons she learnt along her journey and her thoughts and views on the pageanting industry and her experiences as a social worker, with Youth Observer.

Winding back the clock to her childhood, she explains that she was never the type of person who planned what she would do as an adult. The dream of entering a beauty pageant, let alone proudly representing the country on an international stage, was one that never crossed her mind until her spontaneous decision to do so.

“It was a completely new experience and an absolute different one for me and unless you are strong enough to face it, you can get intimidated, lose focus and feel like you don’t belong, as you get lost in that new and completely unfamiliar world that you were not prepared for,” Aluwihare said when asked about her experience as a contestant in an internationally recognised pageant.

Although the experience of representing the country at the Mrs. International pageant was one that came with it’s fair share of challenges and lessons.

She said she did not experience any biases or face issues such as colourism within the industry and got the opportunity to connect and form friendships with a lot of people including many of the contestants she was competing against.

“The experience turned me into a different person. I would say that I left empty and came back carrying baggage that helps to refine a person,” she said.

When looking into the world of beauty pageants and the industry as a whole, from the outside, one might assume that a contestant’s physical beauty, the designer clothes and the accessories would carry her to the top.

Reaching the top

However, when asked about what it takes to reach the top, Aluwihare said that physical beauty alone is enough to help a contestant reach the top. “You need to have the whole package. You need to be strong, have the drive and be knowledgeable, articulate and you need to have bubbly interpersonal skills to blend with everyone. You also need to be very humble and down to earth; the wrong attitude won’t take you far. You need to be trained and educated on the world. Book education alone will not help.”

Although she did not receive as much support and help as the other contestants received as representatives of their respective countries, Chandi said that her main support system was her family and friends.

“As I dived into it, I realised that I had no clue as to how much work goes into doing this. You have to bring out the best in yourself with regard to how you think, act and look and it is definitely not easy. My son was an incredible source of support throughout, and my parents, family and my close friends helped me immensely. Not to mention, my mentor who is also a model. He trained me and helped me so much, in all aspects.”

Although it may seem difficult to balance the life of a beauty queen and the responsibilities that come along with representing the country internationally, with the great responsibilities of a mother and a career woman, achieving that balance was not difficult for Chandi.

She said that she was able to do so, by keeping in mind that, “Whatever one is doing at that moment should give one a sense of satisfaction emotionally, physically and mentally and that is the balance that one should strive for.” She added that the serenity and the happiness that she felt was achieved by being connected with people and never loading herself with stress and worries. “Connecting with people, especially my family and just seeing the little things that makes them happy, made me happy.”

Considering her experience as a Sri Lankan representative in an international pageanting stage, Aluwihare firmly believes that the pageanting industry should be encouraged and developed within Sri Lanka. “The concept of pageants has to be brought in with dignity because it represents both men and women and should not be taken for granted. You need to bring out the best in the country in that aspect through proper training and refinement because they will finally represent the country as a whole and not their individual selves.”

Social work

Since her achievement in 2016, Chandi Aluwihare has spent her time using her experiences and the lessons she learnt as guiding lights to give back to society in many different ways.

The inspiring beauty queen was conferred titles such as the title of Global Goodwill Ambassador, proving to the world that her beauty is not skin deep.

Speaking about her social work and how she was inspired to use her voice to help victims of social injustice, she said, “I have always been an emotional and passionate person. I connect with things not just through my mind but through my heart. Of course, I am also a mother so the thought of ‘what if my child was subjected to these issues’ helped me connect with the people and understand their issues better.”

Beginning with her work to empower and strengthen children, she connected with children psychologically with the aim of strengthening their minds. “I have a great team that works with me and we all worked really hard to reach these children and try to strengthen their mindsets,” she says. Aluwihare and her team extended their efforts to the parents and caretakers of the children, attempting to speak to them and solve certain issues and disputes that affect their children. “I also speak to and help single mothers to let them know that they are not alone and that what they undergo in life isn’t their fault, to give them the support that they deserve”.

Chandi has faith that with the correct training and understanding, passionate and eager youth have the ability to annihilate the wrong view of attaching a price tag to humanity. Working to help humanity while considering personal benefits is detrimental to society and must be stopped.

As an activist for women and children,she holds the opinion that social injustice can be reduced if not stopped, only when the respective authorities examine the core of the problem and take responsible courses of action, such as encouraging the strong and passionate youth of the country to make a difference.

As a role model and an activist, when asked what message she would like to convey to the young people of Sri Lanka about the issues she fights to shed light on and prevent, Aluwihare said, “Don’t ever be a follower. We are all born unique and there is no other person like us. Embrace your unique qualities and bring them out. Believe in yourself and learn to put your feet on the ground and spread your roots. Whatever you do, do it because you are passionate about it and finally, don’t just live. Live with a purpose.”

As her loving and strong-willed grandfather taught her to, Chandi Aluwihare continues to fight for the less fortunate and for what she believes is right. She hopes to continue connecting with youth, empowering them, teaching them not to be blind followers and helping them stand up and make a difference. Her view is to become a selfless and strong fighter, walking in the great and inspiring footsteps of her grandfather.

She said who she is today and what she has achieved in life is all thanks to her parents and family. She especially expressed her immense gratitude towards her loving son who has not only helped her understand the mentality of children but has been the joy of her life and has helped her open her eyes to the world.