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THE SOUND OF SUCCESS

Like almost every young girl, Surabhi Manandhar dreamt of strutting down the ramp clad in gorgeous outfits, and being applauded for her grace and poise. However, her dream of hitting the runway seemed distant every time she was reminded of her severe auditory impairment. But as they say—”Determination gets you through anything,” Manandhar is now not only living her dream but also taking big steps to reach the top. The inspirational diva talks to WOW about her struggle, success and more.

At first glance, Surabhi Manandhar’s portfolio looks like that of any aspiring young model. She seems to have both the face and figure to make it to the top in the fashion industry; it’s easy to imagine her catching the eye of designers, photographers and choreographers. But as you communicate with her, you realise that she speaks a special language— a language with no linguistic structure but that of expressions and gestures. Hence, this is where she is unique. On July 10, 2017, Manandhar made the headlines and gave the country a moment to be proud for; at Nepal’s very first participation in an international deaf beauty pageant— Miss & Mister Deaf International, she won the title of Miss Deaf Asia 2017. However, it was not an easy journey for the 23-year-old.

Walking the rough road

Born and brought up in a family of eight in Kathmandu, Manandhar is the second of three siblings. She was only nine months old when she suffered from a severe fever that caused her to live with auditory impairment. “Before I became sick, I could utter words like ‘papa’, ‘nana’, ‘tata’, et cetera. Now, it’s very difficult for me to even say those simple words,” Manandhar explains.

Although her parents were extremely supportive, society created impediments in allowing her to live a normal life. “Most schools do not provide appropriate resources for the differently-abled and enrolment for such students are not given priority. I had to wait until the age of six to get admission at Central Higher Secondary School for the Deaf,” she reveals.

Manandhar was only able to finish her education till 12th grade due to limited choices of courses for her further studies. “I wanted to take up management studies for my bachelors, but unfortunately they are only offering B.Ed degrees for people like me. I refuse to take a course that is not of my interest!” she states emphatically.

Paving the road to success

Despite the hurdles, Manandhar never stopped dreaming. She was always fascinated with beauty pageants and says, “Watching beauty pageants on television and seeing winners photos published in newspapers stirred my interest towards modelling. I wished to become one, but at some point, I also began to feel that there wasn’t any platform for people like me.”

It didn’t take too long for Manandhar’s perspective to change, and her dreams to take a flight again. Creative Hands for Deaf Women announced the Miss & Mister Deaf International and her name was selected among 19 other female participant. After an intense 20 day training session by The Hidden Treasure, Manandhar went to Paris to compete in the international pageant which had 20 contenders from different countries. Citing one of the most difficult moments at the competition, she shares,” The biggest challenge for me was to communicate in international sign language. I am not accustomed to it.”

At the gala event, Manandhar stood out with her traditional Kumari dance, showcasing the cultural richness and diversity of Nepal, which lead her to win the title of Miss Deaf Asia 2017. “Although I couldn’t win the title of Miss Deaf International 2017, I feel proud of what I have achieved. One of the most memorable moments for me was when my photo was projected as Miss Deaf Asia 2017,” she recalls.

ONE MINUTE WITH SURABHI

Other than modelling what are you planning to do?
Craftwork, visual art, calligraphy and photography

What makes you keep going?
Confidence, strong willpower, positive attitude.

Your biggest inspirations
My late grandfather and my parents. Also, I really look up to former Miss Nepal, Asmi Shrestha.

Your message
Don’t give up on your dreams! Even differently-able people can achieve heights of success provided that they were given an equal opportunity.

Ruling the road

Manandhar claims that her life has not changed much post-event, but one can see her making the news; she has been featured in many news articles, editorial covers and has even walked the ramp for a prestigious fashion show. “I was selected as one among 15 wildcard contestants out of about 100 candidates in the fourth edition of the Classic Diamond Jewellery Fashion Show. Then I became one of the three finalists for the wildcard entry to be selected through public voting. It was a great learning experience, “she says acknowledging that she is now working on herself to become a better model.

– Text by : Rojina Adhikari
– Location: Hotel Kaze Darbar, Kamalpokhari