Natasha Happawana


18 April, 2021

“It is never too late” is a phrase that Natasha Happawana believes in and tells herself with regard to achieving dreams and taking bold steps in life. The Sri Lankan beauty won the title of Mrs. Sri Lanka in the year 2004 and was crowned the first runner up in the Mrs. United Nations World beauty pageant in the year 2005. She also earned numerous subtitles in the competitions such as, Mrs. Personality and Mrs. Elegance while also securing sub awards such as the Modelling International award and the Fitness award at the beauty pageant in 2005. Since then, the mother and beauty queen has worked hard to continue achieving her dreams and goals as a mother, a model and as an entrepreneur while setting a great example of what it means to her to be ‘Confidently Beautiful’ as a woman.

Speaking to the Youth Observer, Natasha Happawana expressed her views on the pageant industry, the lessons she learnt along the way and the way in which she continues to reach great heights in life with grace.

Q: Within the field of modelling and beauty pageants, you have achieved great heights by winning many competitions and titles including the distinguished title of Mrs. Sri Lanka in the year 2004. What was your experience regarding the Mrs. Sri Lanka competition and how did you work to earn this title?

A: Taking part in Mrs. Sri Lanka was never planned. I still feel like I am living a dream. The pageant was a wonderful experience and a lot of hard-work went in to it with regard to training, time and etiquette. I have been undergoing many training sessions and doing different modelling related shows. I only got to sleep for five to six hours and sometimes less, as I was working, studying for my MBA and attending pageant training all at the same time. However, it was worth the effort. After all, it’s all about making my country and the people proud.

Q: Are there any valuable and special lessons that being crowned Mrs. Sri Lanka has taught you? What would you say these lessons are?

A: It is true that different doors would open for a beauty pageant winner and more opportunities are created to explore. It is a huge competition and a great chance to make my mark in this big and ambitious world. The popularity I gained after winning the national and international titles has enabled me to build a name for myself. My pageant experience helped me to become a more polished and confident person. Therefore, I would say my experience with pageants has benefited me greatly. I developed exceptional inter-personal skills, I learned to present myself in a positive manner in society for business and at social occasions, and my on-stage experience helped me greatly to develop poise and confidence.

Q: You have also represented Sri Lanka on international stages such as that of the Mrs. World United Nations International beauty pageant, held in Las Vegas in the year 2005 where you secured the spot of the first runner up. What has been your experience with competing at an international level as a representative of Sri Lanka?

A: Something that any pageant provides, especially to women, is the platform to voice their opinions, showcase their talents and experience a sense of achievement. Mrs. United Nations World Pageant was one of the best platforms to find the visibility, discover and re-discover myself and my strengths, increase my confidence, enhance my personality (during grooming sessions) and interact with women from different countries and nationalities; thereby getting to know about other cultures, widening our horizons and represent my country and culture. I felt so proud to be referred to as ‘Mrs. Sri Lanka’. I had faith in myself that I had done the best I can when I was standing on that stage with all cheering around me. I did not expect to hear Sri Lanka being called as the first runners up in 2005 in Las Vegas. I also bagged two more subtitles. The ‘International modelling award ‘and ‘International fitness award’. At that moment, I felt that I had done the best for my country. This competition gave, a major boost in confidence and the sheer sense of winning. After all, one emerges as a better version of oneself.

Q: Contrary to popular belief, becoming a model and a beauty queen is not an easy and simple feat. What can you tell me about your dedication and work to achieve what you have within the field?

A: It has been a wonderful experience that included over 67 countries in the world with different cultures and backgrounds. There are so many things you learn not only about yourself, but also about communication skills, leadership, interviews, and poise. Pageantry is a doorway for those who want to be on stage, give back, and of course learn more about themselves.

Q: Did you have a particular inspiration or driving force to enter the field of beauty pageants or was it always a dream of yours?

A: As a child I have always been very interested in beauty pageants and I never missed watching any pageants on TV. When I watch them, I put myself in that situation and in my mind, I have won many pageants over and over again. Like I said, Mrs. Sri Lanka was a coincidence. Before I won this great title, I had only ever become the ‘queen of the night’ at a number of dinner dances and had won a few bridal competitions, that my friends got me to take part in. I didn’t have any modelling experience and I had never been to a beauty pageant prior to this, not even as a spectator. Winning the title opened so many different avenues for me.

Q: Were there any particular qualities that you developed within yourself in order to face and win these competitions?

A: Self - discipline, is what pushed me to reach goals and fulfill my intentions. Even when I am not physically or emotionally ready for something and I have to do it in spite of distractions, difficulties to work, or any other unfavourable odds.

Motivation and willpower contribute to this as well.

Q: As a representative of a small country like Sri Lanka, did you face any hardships, discrimination or biases when competing amongst people of different backgrounds in international pageants? If so, how would you say you dealt with and overcame such burdens?

A: I would say that it was a warm welcome and a very sad and emotional goodbye. We were all treated equally with love and so much of care. They made us feel at home. I made friends with many and up to date some of them are still in touch with me. In the pageanti system, the interview portion is the most important part of the competition. The judges know that you will be representing the brand of the pageant you are competing in and it is necessary that you can speak well and with grace to the public.

Q: An international stage is a platform for representatives of many different backgrounds and cultures to interact and learn about each other? What would you say were the main lessons you have learnt through your time as a representative of Sri Lanka in an international beauty pageant?

A: In today’s world, pageants are a huge global business. Often people are very critical of pageants and what it takes to be in pageants. Pageants are more than the makeup and hairstyles; they are community service opportunities for the participants. With today’s level of competition and the fact that many new pageants are being introduced I feel that the industry is losing its quality and the real idea behind it. Sometimes this happens through the way in which the pageants are done or organised. Therefore, one might think some victories happen through influence. Furthermore, sitting as a judge of a beauty pageant is serious. A judge of a pageant should be taken seriously. The event might not seem like a big deal to you, but I assure you that it is indeed, a big deal for most of the contestants and their loved ones. These people put a lot of time, money, and practice into competing and they expect to be judged fairly and they deserve to be judged fairly. Of course, no matter how fairly the competition is judged, there will be some hurt feelings and some disappointed contestants. There is no way around this, as everyone cannot win the crown. A judge should always do the best he or she can do as a judge.

Q: Through personal experience, what would you say are the main traits a person should possess and develop in order to excel in the field of modelling or in beauty pageants?

A: In my opinion, there are many traits a person should possess to excel in this field. The major traits I consider important for someone in this field are, self-love, being humble, polite and down to earth, being social, being grateful, patient and having an easy-going attitude and a positive mindset.

Q: Do you believe that the modelling and pageant industries should be further encouraged and developed in Sri Lanka?

A: In the good old days, we would only hear of about two to three pageants taking place per year. Now we have more than 20 pageants in a year. Pageants are platforms that enable a person to enhance their abilities. To do so, they have to be well trained and guided in such a way that they not only build their self-confidence but also sharpen their skills.

Most of the time, the directors of the national level pageants schedule the national pageants on days closer to the international pageant dates and that does not give the winner of the national level pageant, the adequate training she or he requires to compete in the international arena. Especially with regard to a contestant who has not competed in such events before, he or she should be qualified and trained to compete with international beauties.

Once someone is declared Miss Sri Lanka, Mrs. Sri Lanka or any other title, I have seen them in a few movies or a few music videos for a few years and then some of them disappear after these few years in the limelight. Some beauties are working hard for the country. Due to lack of preparation and time to do so after winning the national level titles, I sometimes wonder whether they are ready to compete and represent our country. With the crown and title comes responsibilities. One must not forget that.

Q: As a result of recent events, the integrity of beauty pageants in Sri Lanka has taken a hit. What are your thoughts on how Sri Lanka should develop with regard to attitude and the way in which we conduct and encourage beauty pageants?

A: My view on the pageant industry is that transparency is essential. Having said that, each and every contestant too has a duty to go through all rules and regulations and see how well he or she fits in and whether he or she eligible. It is important that one does not find gaps in the system to creep through and that one does not manipulate the system for one’s benefit. We must not forget that we mainly stand on the international stage as a Sri Lankan and not as a representative of our individuality.

Q: You are also a founder and an entrepreneur of your own organisation. What can you tell me about your journey to becoming an entrepreneur and has this always been a dream of yours?

A: I started off when my daughter turned one, I had actually wanted to start my own venture and I thought that this was a good opportunity to do so as, unlike at a 9-5 job, I can spend quality time with my daughter Ranuki Senanya while working. One of my friends who came for my daughter’s party wanted me to decorate her son’s party as well and Voila! I began my business venture.

Blissful Parties and Blissful Beginnings is the name of my organisation.

I consider myself a hard-working person because at the end of the day I work hard to achieve what I am truly passionate about and I look forward to continuing to inspire.

When I started my organization, there were only one or two major event companies in the country. Now there are so many more. By the grace of God, the competition has not affected us greatly.

Q: Finally, what do you hope to accomplish regarding your career and life as a whole in the future? Do you have any other dreams that you hope to make come true?

A: Yes, I have a few. Venturing further into the world is one of them.

I have an idea to open up a finishing school, where all pageant lovers can enroll from a very young age and they will be moulded and groomed to face a pageant. It is only through proper training that we will be able to build confidence in contestants to face the international arena. A confident woman has the power to make a real change, starting in her home town with the potential to reach a global audience. I strongly encourage every woman to get out of her comfort zone, be herself, and continue to define what it means to be ‘Confidently Beautiful’.

I am also looking into having my own designer label and street food venture.

I always dreamt of becoming a movie star. But that never came true due to various ups and downs I had to undergo in my personal life at the peak of my career, especially as an International title holder. I greatly regret some of those ups and downs and the consequences. However, I haven’t given up on this dream yet. I believe it is never too late. If one has the will power, anything is possible.