10 May 2019: The first time Anushka Shrestha, a former student of the Australian Catholic University (ACU), realised that she had just been crowned Miss World Nepal 2019 was the moment she fleetingly saw a selfie taken by the host of the beauty pageant.
“That’s when I felt oh my God it’s real!” Ms Shrestha exclaimed when she realised that the first leg of her journey had been successfully completed. The second stage will begin when she soon starts training for the 69th Miss World 2019 competition to be held in Thailand.
“It’s a feeling of immense joy and pride but also a feeling that the title comes with a responsibility,” Ms Shrestha told southasia.com.au over telephone as she gave her first exclusive media interview since winning the title Thursday evening.
The weight of that responsibility has grown heavier since her predecessor Shrinkhala Khatiwada became the first Nepalese beauty queen to finish in the top 12 at the 2018 Miss World Final in China. That was the highest level a Miss World Nepal had ever achieved at the international beauty contest.
But the Australian-educated commerce graduate remains unfazed and looks at Ms Khatiwada’s achievement as a source of inspiration rather than thinking of her success at the world stage as something to compete against and beat.
Ms Shrestha had arrived in Australia in March 2014. Between her 18 years of age when she landed in the country as an inexperienced international student and 23 years of age when she left Australia to chase her dream of winning the Miss Nepal crown, Anushka Shrestha saw it first hand the dark places international students go through as they struggle with their financial issues, substance abuse, gambling addiction and all manners of mental health challenges.
Hence, when and if she returns to Australia to pursue higher studies, she does plan on working towards helping these young Nepalese men and women as they fight to gain a foothold in this distant land.
Asked what role Australia played in her being crowned Miss Nepal 2019, Ms Shrestha says she feels grateful to Australia in so many ways!
She is particularly grateful to the United Nepalese Arts and Entertainment (UNAE) that organises Mr and Miss Nepal Oceania which draws participants from both sides of the Tasman Sea. UNAE beauty pageant has an arrangement with Miss World Nepal pageant that allows its winner to participate in the top 25 of the competition.
According to Bhoma Sanba, the chair of UNAE, the winner of the Miss Nepal Oceania title does not automatically qualify to participate in the Miss Nepal competition. “They have to satisfy certain criteria set by Hidden Treasure,” she explained.
Asked if she would have made it to the crown of Miss Nepal without the pageant Australia offered, she agrees that it definitely had a constructive role in her career. “It definitely was a push. I don’t want to sound arrogant by saying that I would have made it regardless. Of course it had a huge role to play in however things turned out. I believe the timing of everything was just fine,” the former ACU students said, “I owe a lot to Australia for what I am today.” The beauty pageant held by the UNAE provided her a good training ground to practice various aspects of a beauty competition like walking on the stage, answering questions and dealing with media.
The commerce student is painfully aware, specially among younger international students from Nepal, of “a lot of complaining” about “not getting a good job”, lack of income, high tuition fees and other hardships.
“What I would like to say to them is you’ve made a conscious decision, we’ve made a conscious decision, to go to a land that has offered you so much. It is up to you what you make out of it, whether we complain and only see the negative and go ahead with it or we accept the challenges and decide what to make out of it,” the 23-year-old beauty queen said, “So never lose faith in what you want to achieve out of it.”
It’s not that the beauty queen’s life in Australia was a bed of roses.
Right in the beginning of her life in Australia as an international student, she nearly went back home. The struggle was too much for her. She was even looking at the possibility of transferring to some university in Nepal or India. But she continued to fight back the challenges life threw at her, eventually not only graduating from ACU but also ending up to work at the same university for two years.
She is currently toying with a number of study areas that she wants to carry out her higher studies in. Areas like “financial crime” and “financial inclusion”, for instance, are two subjects that are currently appealing to the student in her.
Our Australian beauty export is addicted to watching cooking shows of all kinds. “I watch every cooking show on TV,” she says. Asked what she loves to cook, pat comes the answer, “Kauli ko tarkari and pakodas are the best, my friends say!”
“I am very thankful for all the support from Australia, friends have been calling, there have been overwhelming support. I am very grateful,” Ms Shrestha wanted to convey her message to her community members in Australia.