WOW | Coverstory

Of the many disarming qualities of Manita Devkota, the most obvious is her stunning good looks. Less talked about is her dynamic personality: Manita is a beautiful person who treats everyone with kindness. She’s fun, charismatic and smart. Most importantly, she is honest about who she is. The Miss Nepal Universe 2018 might have passed on her crown, but she still rules many hearts; she has proved that a beauty queen is more than just a glamorous figure.

The 23-year-old’s beauty pageant beginning was not easy. An underdog who had lived all her life abroad, she had no prior experience or connections in the glamour field. With limited support, she became the first Miss Nepal to appear in the Top 10 Finalists in the Miss Universe 2018 pageant.

In a conversation with WOW’s Mannat Shrestha, Manita talks about her journey as Miss Nepal which has made her as one of the most sought after influencers in the country. She also shares her thoughts on beauty, societal issues and empowerment.

What do you see when you look in the mirror?

I see a young woman with a lot of potential. I practice visualisation and when I look at myself in the mirror, my dreams and my future self that I envision flash before my eyes.

Why did you want to participate in Miss Nepal?

Miss Nepal was a great project to partake in while I rediscovered my roots in Nepal. I believed as a Miss Nepal, I could take the crown further than any of my predecessors, and I did. I made history as the first Miss Nepal to achieve the fastest international placement in one of the biggest pageants in the world; being placed in the Top 10 spot at Miss Universe for a new entry country like Nepal is no joke.

How has your journey as Miss Nepal 2018 shaped your career?

I think during my whole reign, rather than professional development, I went through a lot of personal development. I faced a lot of rejection and doubt, and how I handled them helped further build and strengthen my character. Beauty pageants really help improve your soft skills, skills necessary for career advancement. I will be using these soft skills in any area of my life.

Your thoughts on Miss Universe and why should people celebrate her?

A Miss Universe is a woman of courage who can tackle any challenges. She is confident enough to feel secure in herself in any surrounding. She is someone with a heart of gold. She is not only a lovely human being in the inside but also glamorous and fashionable on the outside. Always her Sunday best! Miss Universe or any other beauty queen for that matter are always their best version, their best self, or they try to be, and the effort they put behind being so deserves appreciation. I think that is why beauty queens are celebrated.

If you were the judge, what qualities you would look for in a beauty queen?

I would look for articulation, personality, glam factor, advocacy, confidence level. These are the foundations of a well-rounded beauty queen.

Do you believe you possess all these qualities?

I think my weakness was the glam factor (laughs), I lacked in that category.

Miss Universe pageant claims to be all about women empowerment, and that pageant winners become advocates for women’s rights, how influential do you think really are beauty pageants?

To keep up with the time, beauty pageants are evolving. Before beauty queens seemed like they just travelled and smiled for cameras, but the modern beauty queen is a woman of service and reverence. Many of my Miss Universe sisters are activists, they come to Miss Universe to raise awareness about their advocacy. They all had something they truly cared about and wanted to change for the better in their respective communities. Catriona, Miss Philipines, had her advocacy for children’s education in the slum towns of Manila. Helena, Miss Denmark, spoke about her body positivity advocacy. I advocated for my women’s menstrual health and hygiene.

I do believe that beauty pageants help to empower women. When you are a title winner, your voice and actions become powerful in the eyes of the public. You are uplifted into a position where you can make a change in society; you empower the youth. Beauty pageant titleholders don’t necessarily have to advocate for only women’s rights, it can be anything that they are passionate about.

Also, I truly do think beauty pageants are influential, maybe more so in certain parts of the world than others, but still very relevant and effective. For example, look at Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Grey, the whole world congratulated her when she won Miss Universe, and more than eight million people are following her MU journey.

How have you influenced bringing positive change during your regime as Miss Nepal Universe 2018?

One thing I am most proud of during my reign was my time with Days for Girls. During my reign, I was truly able to highlight the good work this organisation was doing in the field of Menstrual Hygiene Management. Many Nepali women lack access to resources to manage their menstruation. This leads to missed days of school and work preventing opportunities in education, health and career. Days for Girls Nepal provides women’s health curriculum and reusable cloth pads to women and girls of Nepal. Although sanitary pads may seem like an insignificant solution, they remove a major barrier to gender equality around the globe. Reusable pads and menstrual health education is a solution that not only allows girls to stay in school, but changes the very structure of their future, ensuring better health, increased opportunity, and improved quality of life.

It felt good to continue my four years and counting involvement with Days for Girls here in Nepal. I am still working with Days for Girls Nepal and will continue to do so in the future.

I kind of feel like I have been the underdog. Hopefully, that inspires people to not give up on themselves and not give up on their dreams. I think I really highlighted the fact that even if you have limited support, keep doing what you do. You will get further than you can ever imagine.

I was no way beauty queen material in terms of fitness, but I worked hard for my Miss Universe body and I know that inspired many women and men to choose a healthy lifestyle.

How has your attitude towards beauty evolved since competing in pageants?

In Miss Universe, even with all the glam and makeup, it truly did come down to natural beauty and inner beauty in the end. That is what I observed. My pageant experience helped reinforce the idea that being the best version of yourself does matter.

What is your definition of beauty?

I think beauty is the truth. Beauty is love. And beauty is happiness. Beauty is the feeling we express when we follow our passion, when we spend time with our family and friends, or when we help others. Beauty is everywhere and can be everything.

Who you think possesses your definition of true beauty?

My sisters, Nemila and Sana.

 Who is Manita beyond the title of Miss Nepal Universe 2018?

Well, once a Miss Nepal always a Miss Nepal. Aside from that, I am a fellow earthling just trying to find my place and purpose in the world.

What do you think is the first impression you give off to people?

Sweet humble Nepali-American ‘gal’.

Five things about Manita that nobody knows.

•  I was actually born in April 1996, not 1995.
•  I was in the high school choir.
•  AB+ blood type

You have been an active influencer and brand endorser, how do you select the brands that you work with?

I have been fortunate enough to work with organisations and brands like Day for Girls, The Skin Clinic by Jebina Lama, Kasa and Sassy whose owners are genuinely good people. It’s not just about the compensation and remuneration. I have to bond and connect with the brand owners.

What do you think is the single greatest threat to humanity?

Climate change.

What is the essence of being a woman?

Strength, grace, willpower, intellect.

If you could change anything about the society what would it be?

How we raise our children into gender identity, I feel that if we were to remove gender identity, many social injustices and health problems would be removed.

What does it take for a man to win your heart?

They just have to be themselves. It helps if they are funny.

 Your biggest celebrity crush of all time…

Crushes are brief infatuation, when I was young I was crazy in love with Jesse McCartney. Now I am infatuated with Micheal B Jordan and Can Yaman.

Your current playlist…

Alina Baraz

On a Friday night…

Catching up with friends over dinner or at home browsing Netflix.

Art Direction/ Text: Mannat Shrestha
Styling: Sadhana Ranabhat
Photos: Pawan Joshi
MUA: Shradha Maskey
Wardrobe: Kasa, Patan Instagram: kasa.kasastyle
Accessories: ANX Studio- Accessories Nepal Instagram: anx_studio/ accessories_nepal
Location: Hyatt Regency

Hyatt Regency Kathmandu is a distinct mark of fine architecture and craftsmanship. The 5-star luxury hotel and resort is set on 37 acres of landscaped grounds. The hotel’s 280 rooms and suites enjoy views of either the Boudhanath Stupa or the lush gardens and the surrounding mountain ranges. The property houses four world class outlets. The Café, features a show kitchen and serves international cuisine. Rox Restaurant is the hotel’s signature outlet and features a show-kitchen with wood-fired oven and serves traditional home-style Southern European cuisine. Rox Bar features an island bar and offers a wide selection of beverages. The Lounge is a convenient and comfortable meeting venue and serves specialty beverages, light meals and afternoon tea selection. The Terrace serves light food, healthy meals, salads, juices and refreshing cocktails.