Challenging controversy in beauty pageants | Sunday Observer

Challenging controversy in beauty pageants

25 April, 2021

Truly achieving a dream is not something that comes easily in life. Doing so requires a great amount of dedication, patience and strength. Controversy and challenges exist everywhere in the world and in society. Pushpika De silva, the Sri Lankan beauty queen who recently made international news for the controversial situation she faced on stage after being crowned as Mrs. Sri Lanka for the year 2020, spoke to the Youth Observer and shed light on her experience dealing with adversity and challenges created by the recent situation regarding the Mrs. Sri Lanka competition held in Colombo, as well as what she has faced in the industry as a whole.

Q: What inspired you to enter the field of pageantry? Has this always been a dream or goal of yours?

A: Yes, becoming a Sri Lankan beauty queen has always been a dream of mine, ever since I was a child. I first entered into the field of pageantry in this country in the year 2010. During that year, although I didn’t win the competition, I won three mini titles and was selected as one of the top five contestants in the competition. In 2011, I re-applied to participate in the Miss Sri Lanka competition, with a better plan supported by the experience I gained through participating in the pageants previously and won the competition and was crowned as Miss Sri Lanka for that year. I then went on to participate in the Miss World competition held in London and represented my country amidst about 150 countries. Afterwards. I went on to compete in beauty pageants in countries such as China and Egypt, securing other titles and competing against many other countries. This competition was the fourth beauty pageant I competed in.

Q: You were recently crowned as Mrs. Sri Lanka for the year 2020. Could you tell us about your journey to achievie this and the way in which you worked towards it?

A: Given the amount of experience I had within this field, I never overestimated myself and let myself take it easy thinking that I have enough experience and practice and I don’t have to practice or try any harder. I always told myself, “I am a new Pushpika and this is just the beginning for me” and I do not think that I have ever dedicated myself to something as much as I did to this competition. The people who are close to me in my life like my relatives and friends know just how hard I worked to compete and win this title. I worked very hard and tired myself to get into shape for the competition and achieve certain specifics for the mini titles in the competition. Something I always wanted to be a representative of was the uniqueness of the Sri Lankan culture. Therefore, especially with regard to my national costume for the pageant, I wanted to do my country justice and represent the fact that our gem industry is unique and especially highlight the fact that our blue sapphires are of incredible beauty and are even worn by the Queen of England. Similarly, even in the talent mini competition, I did my best to express the pride I feel of being a part of and a representative of Sri Lanka as a whole. I never missed practices or rehearsals and this journey was one that I travelled amid many different challenges and burdens.

Q: Were there any women in your life who inspired you to enter the field of pageantry and pursue your dreams?

A: Although participating in beauty pageants was always a dream of mine, I had certain fears and reservations about entering the field. The two women in my life who gave me courage to enter the field and achieve my dreams were my mother and my elder sister.

Q: What is your opinion on the moral duties and responsibilities that should be carried out by anyone who wears the crown of Mrs. Sri Lanka or represents the country, towards the country?

A: Firstly, I believe that this competition is a very good platform for married women to come forward, use their many talents and achieve their true potential. A common idea that exists in conservative cultures is that a woman’s personal life ends when she gets married. However, I refuse to believe this and I believe that marriage is only the beginning for women and the Mrs. Sri Lanka and Mrs. World competitions are perfect platforms to encourage married women to see themselves for what they truly are; talented, strong and beautiful. When competing in such pageants, especially international level pageants, although I am the contestant, I am merely a representative of Sri Lanka. At these pageants, they judge you not only based on your physical beauty but also on your confidence, personality, intelligence, your passion and heart for what you do and the way in which you carry yourself. As someone who wears a crown and represents the country, it is one’s moral obligation to conduct oneself in such a way that you express the beauty of your country and especially the female population, through one’s personal beauty and personality.

Q: What would you say the title of Mrs. Sri Lanka means to you, personally?

A: Women possess a unique type of beauty through grace. When a woman gets married, she takes on huge responsibilities as a wife, mother and grandmother. The duties of a married woman do not include any sort of remuneration or holiday. It is a 24-hour job, every single day. Taking on all of these duties and responsibilities and also representing your country is not something that is easy and definitely requires a great amount of commitment and effort. To me, this title is the perfect representation of the incredible strength and dedication of wives and mothers not only to their families but to the entire country.

Q: As you were crowned as Mrs. Sri Lanka for the year 2020, if your divorce is finalised before the 2020 Mrs. World beauty pageant, as mentioned in certain media reports, do you expect to participate in the contest and if so, how do you plan to do so?

A: I did not work this hard and dedicate myself for this long, to make it all the way and then not participate in the Mrs. World competition. I am a person who always plans ahead and follows a sensible and honest route when doing something in life. My end goal is to participate and do my best at the upcoming Mrs. World competition and bring home the title for the third time. I do not give much thought to any of these other factors. I have overcome everything that has been thrown at me and I know I will achieve my goals through the grace of God.

Q: The event regarding the Mrs. Sri Lanka beauty pageant, gained international attention. What is your opinion on this?

A: What happened was not only a huge damage and shame to me personally but also to the entire country as the whole world witnessed what happened. I hope no one goes through anything similar to what I went through on that stage. I should also say that I am very glad that I handled it sensibly without panicking. I handled it by believing in the law that exists in the country and believing in the fact that everyone gets only what they deserve in life. No matter who is wrong and what people have done, a woman should never treat another woman in the way in which I was treated. There are always better and more amicable ways of handling any issues that arise and come our way, especially when the entire country and the world are watching.

Q: Given the recent unfolding of events, how have you dealt with the assumptions being made regarding you and the media attention that is inevitably falling on you?

A: To be completely honest, I cannot even fathom how I handled it. It is still like a dream to me. I could not believe the amount of phone calls and messages I had received when I woke up the next morning and the way in which this incident had gone viral through the media and the internet. It was a very traumatic event and I am still not completely comfortable with discussing it.

As per my doctors’ orders, I am supposed to try and put everything behind me and rest my mind in order to try and move on and concentrate on my life. Since the incident, I have not been able to sleep or eat properly and it definitely had a major adverse effect on my life and mentality. When someone is injured physically, over time and with care and medication, the injury will heal and may even disappear. However, when someone undergoes mental trauma, it is not the same and it is very difficult to deal with and overcome it. I would not wish for anything like this to happen even to my worst enemy.

Q: What can you say about the impact of being crowned Mrs. Sri Lanka and the controversial events that the situation created had on your life as a mother and your loved ones in general?

A: This event created a great amount of stress and trauma especially on my son and my parents. The way in which we were treated after the competition and what happened, scared and traumatised my son. No matter what happens to me, I cannot stand by while my son and parents undergo such trauma and bad treatment. Certain people were shouting at me as I left the stage and I obviously faced an incredible amount of backlash and harsh treatment.

Q: Regarding the situation you faced at the Mrs. Sri Lanka competition, is there any circumstance or action taken on your part that you would change and correct in order to remedy the unpleasant situation you faced?

A: I faced a lot of harsh treatment throughout the pageant from many people. However, I did not let that affect my performance or discourage me because I took part in this competition with a lot of confidence and I know that I did everything that is possible to do my best and to do what I did the right way.

Q: What would you say are your personal traits that have helped you face and overcome this situation?

A: I believe that one of the best things that I have received from God is patience. I have always had the ability to bear adversity and challenges quietly and with patience. These traits are what helped me and continue to help me to get through what I faced and what I continue to face with regard to this event and every other challenge that I have faced in life.

Q: As you have been crowned as Mrs. Sri Lanka and are a representative of the country, how do you plan to use your position and influence to serve and better this country and the public?

A: My constant goal throughout my pageanting career has always been to bring recognition and pride to my country. However, with what happened on the Mrs. Sri Lanka stage, the country has faced a certain amount of embarrassment and has been painted in a negative light. So, I believe, during this crucial time, the entire country, regardless of race, religion, cast, political views and background, should band together and support me in representing our country at the upcoming Mrs. World competition.

Q: The general idea behind beauty pageants is to uplift and encourage women and contestants and help them be an example to and make a difference in society. However, modern beauty pageants seem to pit women against each other and cultivate and encourage toxic and selfish habits in order to win the crown. What are

A: Contestants with malicious thoughts, trying to win the crown by being jealous of one another and by being rude and crude towards each other will not do justice to anyone. In any competition, there can only be one winner and the others have to understand and gracefully accept that. Even if you do not win the crown, you can do so much with the experience you have gained. If someone is meant to win the crown, that is his or her destiny and it will happen no matter what or who tries to stop it. Therefore, we should all try to develop past these trivial acts of rude selfishness, hatred and jealousy and inculcate better practices and understanding within and outside the field of pageantry. That way, the entire country and society would be in a better footing.

Q: In today’s world, there are many young children and adults who look up to you and aspire to compete in and achieve heights within the pageanting industry. What advice can you offer them in order to help them gracefully achieve their dreams while also setting good examples to the rest of society?

A: Whoever is interested in joining the pageanting industry, should know that no matter where you are from whether it is from the village or the town, you can achieve your dreams and win the crown if you work hard and remain honest and sincere regarding your intentions and actions.

Even if you do not win the crown at a beauty pageant, this platform is something that will open up many other opportunities such as modelling, advertising or media opportunities. I believe that the pageanting industry is a good platform to encourage youth to achieve their dreams irrespective of their backgrounds, race or religion. Throughout one’s career in this field one will undoubtedly face many challenges and setbacks. However, one should always do one’s best no matter what one does and always take the honest and morally correct path in order to be truly successful.

Q: Is there anyone in your life that you are grateful to for helping you achieve everything you have achieved within the industry and in life?

A: Yes, I owe everything in my life to my beloved parents and my elder sister among my other relatives. I must also thank my friends Shana and Yamu, my hair and makeup artiste Saji, Pavan, Michael Wijesooriya, Ramani Fernando, Chandimal, Rukmal, Sanka, Venuka, Rosy Senanayaka and Rishini. I especially thank the Sri Lankan society irrespective of race, religion, class, creed and background, many other people in other parts of the world and all media personnel for helping me in many ways through all of this.