Many of us will remember watching the very first Miss Malaysia India Worldwide pageant back in 2000. The pride of being represented on screen was unforgettable.

We had never seen so many gorgeous, intelligent Malaysian Indian women on screen. It was hard to root for one person but Jayalakshmi Appadorai stood out from the crowd. When Lakshmi, as she is fondly known, won, we all cheered with her.

Photography: Latiff Napoleon | Make up & Styling: Lakshmi Baker

Lakshmi is now a mother of two, and is based in Manchester, United Kingdom. We catch up with her to talk about her life beyond the pageant, and what the future holds.

Varnam (V): What made you join the Miss Malaysia India Worldwide pageant?

Lakshmi (L): My mum and I have always been fans of pageantry. It wasn’t like Miss Universe and Miss World was our most favourite thing to watch on the television, but it was good entertainment.

I suppose it was a representation of beauty, and more importantly, of acceptance. As a young child watching these pageants, you want to be on that stage. At the same time, there’s also the parallel thought that I could never be there.

V: You were the first classically South Indian face to grace the covers of magazines at the time after you won the title, especially that Her World Malaysia cover. What was that like?

L: It was surreal. Overnight, I was splashed across newspapers. I went from watching pageants on the TV, to becoming a pageant queen.

Photography: Ariff Budiman | Make Up & Styling: Shegar Chandra Sekaran

I remember thinking, “Oh my gosh, is this going to be my life henceforth? Am I going to be recognised every time I go out? I realised later that I didn’t really like being recognised. It’s interesting isn’t it? Be careful what you ask for, they say.

V: The Miss Malaysia Indian Global (Miss Malaysia Indian Worldwide back in 2000) is a personal development pageant, not a beauty pageant, what are your thoughts on this?

L: I really like the motivation behind the pageant because it focuses on self development. After I won, I was invited to judge a few other pageants, but none of them had this angle to it.

I am very proud to say that I came from a pageant that emphasises self development.

You know, the journey continues after you’ve won. A lot of what they taught us, many of us carried on doing. I am very proud to say that I came from a pageant that emphasises self development. This was such a powerful and fun platform to put what you have learnt out there for others to be inspired.

V: How has this shaped the woman you are today?

L: Fast forward 20 years, it’s not the most important thing to be the it-girl. The young Lakshmi who was trying to fit in, she was excited to be one of these girls. Really, it was a journey of self acceptance.

Photography: @baddogz_jin | Make Up & Styling: Lakshmi Baker

As a Malaysian Indian woman, it is up to you, how you want to further a title like this. If you don’t do it quick enough, it fizzles out. The lifespan of fame is very short. I did my best to quickly make a name for myself.

Now people still remember me. And I feel a responsibility to use whatever is left of that

Now people still remember me. And I feel a responsibility to use whatever is left of that. My personal life – marriage and motherhood is now stable, so I am ready to dive back in. I’m ready to speak about things that matter to me and influence positive change in the world.

V: Does that mean we can expect something from you soon?

L: Yes! I feel like there is no real platform for an English speaking Malaysian Indian face. That’s why I think YouTube is the place to be.

I’m not interested to be the pretty face, that’s not what I want to sell anymore. I am also less fearful of losing my audience at this point in my life.

Fame, beauty and beautiful skin isn’t a goal anymore, my goal is the change I can make in this world while I’m alive.

Photography: Satish Chandramohan | Make Up: Kalai Selvi Bala Chandran @profileartistmaker | Styling: Roova Li Juan

V: Now we’re excited too! What can we expect from your upcoming YouTube channel?

L: It’s going to be very woman-in-her-home-doing-her-thing.

Maybe some may have noticed that I’m a jack of many trades and a master of some. I’ve done tv presenting, nutrition, produced tv shows, a singer, a writer, a cook, a thinker…I hope to compartmentalise the different things I’m good at and focus on that. The beauty of this day and age is that we can talk about everything and anything we want.

Current affairs doesn’t necessarily mean politics and economics but also human interests.

V: What is your cause though?

L: Nutrition has become very important to me. I had some serious health issues, invisible illnesses. So I began doing some research on how to function better on a day to day basis. I started studying, and I now realise the importance of integrating the mind, body and spirit.

Mainstream medicine needs to cohere these three, not just prepare a pill for every ill.

I’m currently studying nutritional science, doing my foundation in bioscience to begin with. What piques my interest is the side of medicine that will help people operate at their optimum. Only if your body is operating in a good way can you be of use to your family community and the world.

It’s interesting because when you talk about nutrition, people think diets and vitamins. There’s so much more to it!

V: Your social media feed is a breath of fresh air in a world of ring lights and photoshop. It’s refreshingly real. Tell us about that.

L: Honestly, I’ve been all made up all my life. It was a personal challenge for me to allow myself to look bare on my social media. It’s difficult because I come from the dazzling world of pageants.

View this post on Instagram

Morning coffee 🌞 plus Meditation Currently working on my Root & Sacral Chakras Something is happening… I feel them stir This year was the goal of DISCIPLINE (solar plexus chakra). To finish all procrastinated work. BUT… what the Universe is telling me lately is… you cannot engage discipline without SELF CARE. Without engaging in creativity,softness towards self, freedom, acceptance, passion & for those of us who haven't given up on all worldly experiences 😆… some pleasure…(Sacral Chakra) I think my body may be getting ready to menstruate again (also Sacral Chakra)… now that my precious baba is 7 months and sleeping through the night. The cycle a woman's body goes through, though everyone's experiences differ… infertility, preparing for conception, pregnancy, intense nausea, inability to eat, dizziness, painful pregnancy,thunderously painful labour, sleepless nights, breastfeeding phases of engorgement & pain, post pregnancy blues, playing mummy on demand. For me, this entire process started April last year. That's more than a year of lack of sleep. So we can't be surprised if new illnesses manifest. All I'm doing now is TRUSTING in this process… and trust i did… A full night's sleep now that it has come seems… strange… when I really think about the insane shifts in hormones that a body goes through to make all this possible in 1.5 years, it is absolutely CRAZY… your body does all this and you haven't any control over it… so yeah… of course i need self care…😊❤I'm grateful 🙏🏼 Today's Softness Toward Self Mantra: "I Love my body… it protects me, it speaks to me and i listen, it guided me in finding the right partner, then it created,housed & gave birth to 2 beautiful humans. I thank you, I love you and I put you first" #listentoyourbody #selfcarefirst #consciousparenting #trusttheprocess #answerscomeinmeditation #kundaliniyoga #chakrameditation #answersinyourchakras #babysteps #lovebeforediscipline #youcanhealyourbody #livingwithAI #wisdominmotherhood

A post shared by Lakshmi Appadorai Baker (@lakshmibaker) on

I feel that since I’ve come from that background, I need to look good, that’s what my audience expects. But to be completely honest, I hate dressing up. I’m done with that. I just want to turn on the camera and start. If people want to say nasty things about that, I’m going to say sorry, I’m not here to respond to that, that’s not my goal anymore.

There’s always a nervousness to press the share button because I am older and I have pigmentation and things like that. I want to encourage people out there to press that record button and start as well, because we need more of the real world out there.

Start being you and start being real. In challenging myself, I hope I challenge everyone out there

V: Speaking of challenges, how has motherhood been for you?

L: Motherhood has changed me completely. It has been the greatest teacher for me. It forced me to go deep down inside spiritually, dig up my demons and ugly inner self conflicts and let it rise to the surface. I also struggled with post natal depression.

I struggled with post natal depression.

I’m also going to say this for the first time in public. I was sexually abused as a child. People always ask me where does that girl who wants to make a change in the world come from? It comes from that trauma. That 7-year-old who asks, why did this happen to me? I couldn’t really talk about it growing up. But it resulted in a lot of traumatic experiences in my life because I was unhealed. I had to learn and heal myself.

View this post on Instagram

Last year I prayed hard… I sent a message out to the Universe that I wanted another baby as a 40th birthday present… also that I was ready to work in broadcasting again so I vigorously applied for jobs in the BBC. They do say be careful about what you wish for… and how true cos what I didn't realize then is that both these 'by 40 years old' goals don't really work together! 😂 I am grateful and blessed for having both wishes come true, and it's quite obvious which goal naturally took precedence because we've been trying for a second bubba for tooo long- a trying journey it was. So this is what I've been mainly up to the last 7 months- growing my second son inside my vessel, months of unbearable nausea, brimming gratefulness, sheer awe all over again at how this body grows a human from what seems like a dot of a cell to a moving and kicking whole human being inside of me- I may create much nourishing work in my span of career, but NOTHING matches this seed of creation, the beginning of ALL creation, where all other creations stem from. That's why for women, if we encounter a creative block, it's great to place your attention on your sacral chakra and call upon your creative forces. So I had to celebrate this milestone with a photoshoot. My wish came true. I'm pregnant and turning 40 this month. And where else to celebrate this photoshoot if not at the seat of all creation itself,Mother Nature. He's a very special baby boy. And I celebrate with you, all my well wishers out there. May our lives be showered with the already existing and boundless abundance of love, peace & happiness all around us… Much love💗🙏🏼 . Photography: Hubby 😊 @yewhanbaker Wardrobe,Make Up,Styling,Direction: Me . #motherhood #mothernature #theseedofallcreation #fertilityjourney

A post shared by Lakshmi Appadorai Baker (@lakshmibaker) on

V: We are so sorry you experienced that. How did you heal yourself over the years?

L: That healing happened when I left Malaysia. I had to peel off all those superficial layers one by one, and get to the core. I told myself, “Okay, Lakshmi, now it’s time to heal,” So I saw a therapist, and the therapy brought out the important things I needed to work on.

Motherhood also healed me. My son, Zach, started crawling near the fireplace one day. I am watching this tiny human I made just crawling in front of me, and it threw me back to that 7-year-old Lakshmi. How can anyone do that to a child, I thought, horrified.

My parents didn’t really know how to handle the conversation surrounding it. You know the standard response of tough love- “You need to snap out of it” or ” You shouldn’t keep bringing it up” or “Think Positive”. Sure these responses can be positive,but not in the situation of sexual abuse. I haven’t any hard feelings for them as I understood later that their intentions were good, they just didn’t know how to deal with it.

V: What advice do you have for the many people who are still searching for their calling?

L: People are good at advising but not good at listening to their own advice! What life coaches and mentors need to do is teach people to follow their own advice. (laughs)

We all have things we enjoy doing. Your purpose lies in what you enjoy doing. That’s why everyone enjoys doing different things. It’s completely fine to be influenced by the many influencers out there. But ask yourself, what is it that you really love doing?

Your purpose lies in what you enjoy doing.

Sit down and list them out. Whether it is world changing material or just fun, it doesn’t matter. Write it all out.

I’d also recommend reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. Anyone who’s trying to start somewhere, just read that book. I have a formula that goes like this – You have 6 months to live, what would you want to do with your life? It forces you to choose something, focus on that. Then for a month, spend at least 20 minutes a day doing that.

View this post on Instagram

When you can't escape anywhere at a whim for awhile, When you're tied down by two small beautiful humans who make you count your blessings every day, That perfect cup of coffee made by hubby every morning, Had in your dressing gown, greasy hair, don't care, gazing at 'The Kiss', IS my HOLIDAY… I look forward to these 30 minutes every day, when I allow myself to be 'transported' to anywhere in the world i want to, Despite loud little human chitter chatter in the background,interrupted every 10 seconds if lucky, Cos one day they'll fly away my darlings, and I'll yearn the noise I know. #30minuteholiday #myinstagramjournal #gratefulmummy #mummydiaries #2monthspostpartum #breastfeedingmum #sleeplessmummy #mybeautifulbabies

A post shared by Lakshmi Appadorai Baker (@lakshmibaker) on

And please, do not focus on the number of likes. Do not focus on the bots that say I’ll give you 10,000 followers in a day. If you go down that road, your inspiration will die.

Do it because you love it. As for fame and following, if it comes, it comes. If not, it’s okay. It is perfectly fine to influence 100 legit followers, rather than 80% bots on your page.

I have the ability to project myself to that deathbed, I’m able to feel what it’s like. I want to live a life where I was honest with myself. Ultimately, you need to be happy with yourself.

If you’re not, think about what you are going to do to change that today. This is what you’ll have when you leave this earth.

Keep up with Lakshmi on Instagram here.