‘Age is just a number’ says pageant winner


PHOTO COURTESY RENUKA CHANA

Vaudreuil-Dorion resident Renuka Chana smiles after being declared 1st Runner-Up in Mrs. South Asia Canada 2016 in Toronto and also taking second prize in the same competition for Mrs. Bollywood Diva 2016.

Until last year Renuka Chana had never considered entering a pageant. But on July 23 the Vaudreuil-Dorion resident was declared 1st Runner-Up at the Mrs. South Asia Canada 2016 pageant after taking the second prize in the Mrs. Bollywood Diva 2016 contest the previous day.

Her husband discovered the pageant on Facebook and encouraged her to try. “I had done a little bit of modeling a year ago for some fashion show,” said Chana. “So we filled out the application and sent the pictures and all the requirements and I got a confirmation that I was selected as a participant.”

Officially the contest is open to married women ages 25-60, who are at least one-fourth South Asian and who claim ancestry from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. But a woman of any age may participate, Saravpreet Minhas, CEO of Toronto-based Ragaa Models and Talent Agency, organizer of Mrs. South Asia Canada, told Your Local Journal.

Minhas said since its start in 2011, the pageant has grown every year and he plans to expand it to Montreal, Vancouver and Winnipeg, “so women in other provinces can participate.”

To prepare for the pageant, participants spent a week in Toronto attending workshops on everything from modeling to teamwork. “Every day there was a workshop for three-to-four hours with one of the Bollywood fashion directors - grooming and preparing all the rounds and all the different acts and the Bollywood dance,” Chana said.

She said interacting with people from different nationalities and regions within South Asian countries was a great experience.

The workshops were followed by sub-contests and a pageant awards show at the Rose Theatre in Brampton, Ontario. A sub-contest held a day before the big awards show included a Bollywood dancing contest, Chana said. She placed in the top five in an audition and won second prize in the dancing component.

The pageant involved five different rounds, with five different outfits. Of 19 married women “they were supposed to select only the top 10, I guess based on their personality, their looks, their confidence, their nature, everything was part of that selection,” she said.

Chana made the top 10 and then judges eliminated five more women during the third round, “where they asked you a question and you had to answer.”

A second elimination round left Chana in the top three. “I was the first runner-up.”

Because she placed in the top three for the Mrs. South Asia Canada pageant, Chana may not enter it again. “As a mother working full-time with two beautiful kids 12 and 15, I will not mind going to another level,” she said, adding she’s considering entering a “Mrs. International” contest.

Chana, who arrived in Canada almost 19 years ago, said her children are proud of her. “They were just overwhelmed with the joy and the happiness seeing their mom, being on the stage and being so confident with the questions and the answers.

“I really worked hard the whole year round to look good by working out five days a week, eating well,” she said. “It was not just I filled out the application and I made it to the first runner-up.

“For me it was kind of a dream come true because I’m 45 and at this age to achieve something like that it does make a huge difference in your life,” Chana said. “I would like to tell other women, you know what, do not look at your age. Age is just a number. Believe in yourself. You want to achieve something, work hard on it and you can fulfill your desires.”

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