Aug 30, 2009
Just when Mangaloreans are celebrating Mangalore girl Freida Pinto making us proud going places after “Slum Dog Millionnaire” winning accolades globally, there is one more girl with Mangalore roots Diana Pinto who has been creating ripples in the glamour world in the international arena. Diana was recently crowned Miss India America 2009 in the Jinder’s 18th Annual Miss India America Pageant on August 7, 2009 in a glittering ceremony held at The Hilton Hotel, Long Beach, which was attended by a galaxy of tinsel and tube world stars of Hollywood and Bollywood. Diana’s success is a welcome respite for Mangaloreans who have been in the news recently for all wrong reasons. Diana was declared winner from among 14 contestants who were vying for the prestigious crown. To her own surprise Diana also walked away with the coveted JINmodels.com Miss Photogenic award.
It was a quiet journey for this Mumbai girl to sizzle in a big stage and emerge winner amidst stiff competition. Her traditional upbringing and clean habits and values imbibed in early stages of life helped her to make a difference to her life. “It is the small habits and values that we imbibe early in life that actually define us as adults and make us different from one another. These little values were taught to me by my mother that helped me shape my future and to achieve whatever little I could achieve. From my father I have learnt that "We fear not because we are inadequate, but because we are powerful beyond measure. This has greatly helped me realize my potential and minimize my negativities”, she told Daijiworld.com in an email interview.
Glitter and glamour is not new to Diana who had earlier participated in Miss Asia USA pageant before her winning this title. She made it to the top ten in that contest and that experience proved to be a great boon for Diana in coming out with flying colours in the Miss India America 2009 contest. “Meeting and interacting with lot of contestants from different countries boosted my morale and enhanced my confidence levels. That experience came in handy in this contest”, she says.
Diana though born and brought up in Mumbai traces her roots to Mangalore as her parents hail from this coastal city. Her father Joseph Pinto hails Urwa, Mangalore and mother Irene Pinto is from Moodbidri. Both Joseph and Irene work for Bank of Baroda as Managers and are settled in Mumbai. Despite a hectic schedule Pinto family visits Mangalore every year to visit family and friends. It is these visits that gave Diana a glimpse of Mangalore, its scenic beauty, the serene atmosphere and its distinct culture and she says these vivid memories are still fresh in her mind. Given a chance she says she would have loved to make an annual trip to Mangalore. Her parents are unswerving about their roots and want their children to Diana and her younger brother Brian to keep rooted to their families back in Mangalore. Their reaction on winning the pageant “we had no doubt you would win and make us proud. But remember, no matter how high you soar, don’t forget your roots and where you belong to”, is just in tune with their mental fortitude to be grounded to their moors.
Diana says she still misses her annual trips to this coastal belt where her grandparents (mother's parents) and her mother’s brother and sister and their family members live there. Diana had left for America a few years back to complete her Post Graduation in the University of Southern California and has been working there as a Physical Therapist after completing her studies. But she wants to be back to where she belongs and on coming to India she aspires to be a part of the Indian Sports Association. Being a sports person (she was a state level volleyball player in India) it is natural that she has channelised her interests and career in the same line. “I hope to bring about some change in the way sports recruitments are being carried out in the country. I also pray that I can contribute to bringing talented athletes/ sportspersons to the forefront, and help them represent our country at international levels”, she elaborates.
Success always does not come without hard work and grooming. Being an athlete as been a great boon to Diana who says she has been able to scale the ladder of success because of her strong foundation in early childhood. “I do believe that being an athlete and a Physical Therapist has helped me immensely. I work hard for everything I believe in. If I had not won I would not have behaved like a sore loser. I would rather try harder next time and bring the trophy home rather than brooding. Being an athlete just helps you to become a strong individual who never calls it quit and strives to achieve what he wants the most! At the same time, being a Physical Therapist makes me realize my boundaries. I realize that though I need to work hard I also need to fine tune my body like a machine. I believe it is a delicate balancing act and it has shaped my outlook & thoughts”, she reasons.
Having participated in Miss Asia USA pageant earlier Diana was bent upon giving her best go at this pageant. The event organizers had asked aspiring contestants to send applications and photographs last year. The only criteria required was the contestant had to be of Indian origin and had to be less than 29 years of age. Diana was directly short listed for the semifinals after she sent her application and her real preparation for it began just then. As a working woman she had very little time at her disposal to prepare seriously for the pageant. She had to do everything on her own. She purchased her gowns online at discounts. “Participating in pageants is quite an expensive proposition in India or America. One has to put in a great deal of money to buy outfits and pay for hairdressers/make up artistes. It is sensible to try and cut costs as much as possible so that one does not end up being broke at the end of it””, she states.
The beauty pageant comprised traditional wear round, an evening wear round and the talent round. No marks were awarded for the talent round and it provided an opportunity for the contestants to showcase their talents. For the talent round Diana presented the Lavani dance, a form of dance and music that deals with a variety of issues such as religion, society, politics, romance etc. She had asked her mother to send her the Navvari Saree required for the Lavani dance. Dressed in the red saree she danced to the tunes of the folk dance form much to the delight of the assembled gathering. She says she rehearsed the dance 5 hours before the actual pageant began. Costume was not a factor at all “as I had the gowns, the traditional saree and everything ready with me. All I had to do was to go on stage and perform”.
The actual pageant lasted only 3 days starting from August 5 and the finals were held on August 7. The training programme included tips to walk on ramp and talk with the judges and give interviews to T V channels and also to conduct oneself with poise, dignity and confidence on stage. While one not sure what the judges look for in the contestants she says “I believe every beauty pageant looks for a combination of grace, personality and wittiness among the contestants that is finally counted”.
While every participating contestant is endowed with these qualities one may wonder what might have titled the crown in her favour. She explains: “In the final rounds we were asked a question and I gave an honest reply. When they asked how I would promote volunteerism I said “charity begins at home. So I would volunteer myself for a charitable cause of my choice which is a best way of promoting volunteerism among others. I would also drag my friends and loves ones to help me for such a noble cause”.
She says she never felt threatened or intimidated by other younger contestants. All the contestants in her category were younger than her. “I never felt threatened by them. In fact being older gave me that extra edge over other raw contestants. I was cool as a cucumber and was least perturbed about the contest. I did not put myself under pressure and that worked. If I was younger may be I would have lost the crown unable to handle the pressure that comes with it”, she states.
Dian's parents and her brother
It was her confidence which finally helped her clinch the title as she felt she had given everything that night. But she was surprised to be crowned Miss Photogenic. “Surrounded by so many good looking women it seemed like an absolute impossibility to win the Miss Photogenic title. But I did it”, she replies confidently.
Surprisingly Diana does not have anyone as role models as she feels having any one as role model is like trying to copy some one else “ I’d rather be myself – and maybe become an idol for others”, is her prompt response to a question on who her role model is.
As for fitness she exercises when she finds time which she hardly finds considering the hectic schedule she has. The fitness mantra for her is to cook at home and practice healthy eating habits. “I exercise as and when I find time - I prefer to cook at home and I eat outside only when I am bored of my own cooking. I think the secret to good health is 90% of a good balanced diet and 10% of proper attitude & exercise”.
The future of course looks bright for this young lass who is bent upon using her success for doing something for the betterment of the society. And does she foresee any chances of getting into Bollywood? “There are a lot of opportunities out there for anyone who wants to go out and grab them! I am not sure about Bollywood - and I will cross that bridge when I come to it”.
With success sitting pretty on her delicate shoulders Diana Pinto is sure to go places. One more bright face with strong Mangalore roots is sure to shine like a twinkling star in the international arena.