WOW | Coverstory

BRINGING THE UNIVERSE HOME

Miss Universe Nepal 2017 Nagma Shrestha and WOW’s digital cover girl is on an important mission: to challenge societal perceptions regarding Miss Universe Nepal pageant and help women love and embrace their bodies as they are.

Founder of Ma Nepali, Nagma has also represented Nepal in Miss Earth in the year 2012. She has a leadership major from Cornell University. And has worked as a Video Jockey for Image Channel.

In conversation with Ankita Jain, Nagma talks about her new journey as the National Director of Miss Universe Nepal, shares her positivity mantra, what and who inspire her, and how she handles life like a pro.

When you were a contestant of the pageant in 2017, what areas do you think you could have been better at?

I was a one woman army in 2017. Also since I was the first one to represent Nepal in the Miss Universe pageant, it was a new territory for everyone. Hence starting from this year as the National Director of Miss Universe Nepal, I am putting a team of professionals together so that the contestants can completely focus on their learning and overall growth in order to win the crown they deserve.

Miss Universe Nepal 2020 is among the first of its kind to have a virtual show. How are you planning to take it forward keeping in mind the challenges involved?

I fully understand its challenges but I am also equally excited to create a digital platform to democratise the pageant. It’s a bold step and a brave move for every beautiful Nepali woman to take part in Miss Universe Nepal this year. Furthermore, as a former Miss Earth Nepal, I’ve been advocating for the impact of climate change especially in developing countries like Nepal, so going virtual is our experimental contribution to reduce carbon footprint, although this is not an ideal scenario for a prestigious pageant like Miss Universe, but we are embracing the new normal.

Further, Miss Universe Nepal 2020 app is being developed and will be available in the app store and Google play store by August.

women are judged relatively more than men, and are held to higher ethical, moral and excellence standards.

You are working with the international norms of the beauty pageant by making it more inclusive with no weight, no height criteria and the participation of transwomen. How difficult will this be for Nepal?

This is the international guideline to celebrate every brave, bold and beautiful woman. I am very proud that the Miss Universe platform is inclusive in participation and has created an equal platform for any woman to shine. Through this, I am encouraging all the girls who have a dream to be the next Miss Universe to participate, regardless of their body type, background or orientation, reminding everyone that they are all beautiful in their own way. Any woman of age 18 to 28 can participate. There is no height and weight requirements and transwomen are more than welcome to participate at Miss Universe Nepal. Further it’s not necessary for the delegates to speak fluent English to participate and the organisation is also trying to give opportunities to people living outside of Nepal. Many Non-Residential Nepalis can’t participate in beauty pageants in Nepal. Those aspirants who live outside Nepal can now be a part of Miss Universe Nepal 2020.

The team of Miss Nepal Universe 2020 seems quite interesting. From Manita Devkota, Anusha Peterson to internationally celebrated beauty pageant mentor, Jonas Gaffud, you seem to have a selected from among the best. How will the trainings of the contestants be different from the past?

We have been blessed with amazing experts and friends both nationally and internationally acclaimed in their own respective fields. We at Miss Universe Nepal strongly believe that our women also deserve the best coaches to become equally competent and able to carry their values, their stories and their beauty with confidence on the national and international stages. We are committed to meeting the MU standards.

How are you planning to highlight the Nepali flavour on an international platform?

I have already represented Nepal in several international pageants and have seen how every contestant represent their country with their own unique culture and traditional costumes. This time I am bringing all my experiences and learnings and also exploring everything that the word “Ma Nepali” implies.

 You were often seen in the youth led protest ‘Enough Is Enough’. How are the youths driving Nepal?

This is all about the new way of thinking of the youth of Nepal. As a young Nepali, it’s wonderful to see that many of the youth are now able to express their frustrations, hopes and dreams for the country. As the constitution of this country has given the right to express to every law abiding citizen which is both currently relevant and also paving the future of Nepal, that is today’s voice of youth. Also, we have to take the responsibility to listen and be the voice for many who are suffering from injustice and unfair decisions made by relevant stakeholders. The movement sends a strong message that the youth of Nepal have the ability to understand and take action when and where necessary, like many of us who did not carry any political ideologies came together and made sure that our voice is heard and our ideas are implemented for a better Nepal.

A crisis should never be a barrier to your end goals. This unique situation has given me an opportunity to reinvent ways to reach my end goals. This crisis also connected me with people who I never thought would have crossed my path. I have come to an understanding that more people carry common values than differences.

How well do you bond with your grandfather, Shyam Lal Shrestha over the art of painting?

I have inherited his creativity and patience of art. But most importantly, he has been a true inspiration and has constantly reminded me that I must do something for the country. I owe that to him.

What has been your biggest realisation in the current crisis?

A crisis should never be a barrier to your end goals.This unique situation has given me an opportunity to reinvent ways to reach my end goals. This crisis also connected me with people who I never thought would have crossed my path. I have come to an understanding that more people carry common values than differences.

What or who inspires you to do better in life?

All the brave bold beautiful women from all around the world have inspired me. Their consistency and determination in their respective fields have inspired me to do better in life.

While growing up, what was your relationship with your body?

When I was growing up and was the tallest amongst my friends, I was name picked and body shamed which made me feel I was the odd one out. However, in later years and till now my height got me where I am today. But every now and then, people do make me uncomfortable because of my height by passing unnecessary comments and gestures. However, I never fail to stand tall because this is who I am and I have accepted myself.

Do you think women are judged more than men on their appearance?

Yes, women are judged relatively more than men, and are held to higher ethical, moral and excellence standards.

If you could meet your younger self now, what advice would you give her?

I could have loved myself more and appreciated the differences, but my past has made me who I am today.

How do you handle toxicity on the internet?

Everybody has a right to express what they feel but I too have a right to reject and block what I don’t like. I have developed a very professional way of dealing with it.

What is the one notion that you think is highly overrated and women need to believe less in?

That women need to be the primary caretakers of the family and seek to be perfectionists. We have the right to be as experimental, to take as much time as we need to figure out what we love doing, and follow our passions. We can’t give up without trying.

What’s the one message you would like to give women who are battling society’s narrow beauty standards?

Try to find your inner self and what truly represents you.

Wardrobe: Kallisto Designs
(Instagram: kallistodesigns_nepal)

Accessories: AAMO by Aayusha Shrestha
(Instagram: aamo_nepal)

MUA: Pragati Maharjan
(Instagram: makeupbypragati.1)

Text & Styling: Ankita Jain

Pet name: Nags
Favourite travel destination: Spain
One discovery about yourself: That I can do anything I put my mind to.
Secret talent: Chess champion
Often used word: Pageants
Style mantra: Brave. Bold. Beautiful.
One thing people got wrong about you: People think that I am short!
One thing which relaxes you: My mother’s company
Skincare: Moisturiser, Vitamin C, Retinol cream, eye cream, sunscreen, lip balm, cleansers.
Three essential in your closet: A classic blazer, quality denim, a trusty work tote bag.
Five things in your everyday bag: Laptop, two cellphones, mask, sanitiser, wallet.
Can’t live without: Sunglasses and lenses.
What does love mean to you: Love is being In-Sync!