Pavithra Panirselvam was always conscious of her smile. A year after winning the much coveted Miss MalaysiaIndian Global 2018 pageant, the 25 year old cannot stop smiling, and she has the personal development programs of the pageant to thank.

Currently pursuing her Masters in Educational Psychology while working in the student affairs department, Pavithra has wonderfully balanced her work and study commitments with the community service projects organized by Miss MalaysiaIndian Global. Pavithra talks to Varnam about her reign as Miss MalaysiaIndian Global 2018.

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Varnam (V): Congratulations on your win! How has your year been?

Pavithra (P): Thank you! It has been such a wonderful eye opener. Before the pageant, I had only helped out with community service projects as the committee member. Working with an organization that has been focusing on such projects for twenty years has taught me so much.

V: What made you join the pageant?

P: Two of my friends signed me up without my knowledge! But it was my brother who really encouraged me. I remember him telling me, “You’re a good student and an excellent debater, but can you join a beauty pageant?”

I got the call form Mrs Rani (Mrs Pushparani, the founder of Miss MalaysiaIndian Global), and I was shocked. It felt like a good opportunity coming my way, and I just wanted to prove to my brother that this is something I can handle. (laughs) It was a really good challenge for me – a beauty pageant, for a biker who only wears sweaters to class!

V: Kudos to your brother for challenging you! How has the pageant and your year as the pageant winner changed you?

P: I used to be this wild, loud girl. I’m a biker, and I was raised to believe that in order for me to survive in this touch world, I need to be reckless, wild and most importantly, loud.

When I participated in the personal development programs of Miss MalaysiaIndian Global, I learnt that I have the potential to be better. I was taught when to be loud and when to lower my volume, but still get the point across.

V: Did you feel a dissonance, as if you were being asked to change who you are?

P: Initially, I felt that way. It was almost, “Why should I change, shouldn’t I be accepted the way I am?” As I participated in the workshops, it dawned on me that I am still the same person, these workshops were making me the best version of myself. In fact, they didn’t stop me from being my reckless, wild, loud self, it was more of there is a time and place to be reckless.

As I participated in the workshops, it dawned on me that I am still the same person, these workshops were making me the best version of myself.

V: What was one of the beautiful experiences you garnered during your reign as Miss MalaysiaIndian Global 2019? 

P: My visit to a slum in New Delhi, India was one of my most cherished experiences. We had raised funds with the Global Outreach Program, and we went to present it to the slum dwellers there. It was a life changing experience for me. The people there are so poor, they don’t have enough food for themselves, and yet, they want us fed. It was beautiful. Their warmth is something I will never forget.

V: We understand that each of the top 5 finalists have to conduct a community service project during their reign. Tell us a little about the project that you conducted.

P: We organized the Holi Colours Charity Run earlier this year at the Padang Kawad, Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) Selangor. We roped in the students of UPM and Asia Pacific University to volunteer and to be a part of a fun filled day for 120 children from 6 different shelters across the state. About 800 people were involved in the event.

Pavithra and the top 5 finalists of Miss Malaysia India Global 2018 at the Holi Colours Charity Run held earlier this year

The run was conducted in aid of the Kapar C3 Upliftment Center for at-risk kids. We generated funds to start a year long English and Financial literacy workshop and training in collaboration with UPM for the kids.

For someone who usually just helps behind the scenes, organizing this run from start to finish was a real learning curve for me. It was no joke!

Mrs Rani guided me throughout the planning and execution phase, she was a real pillar of strength. Gythiri, the first runner up in Miss MalaysiaIndian Global 2018 joined forces with me and conducted the educational portion of the day, which was the first half of the program. Another person who helped me out was Tharani, a finalist from Miss MalaysiaIndian Global 2017. You would not believe the amazing sisterhood that has supported me all the way!

A volunteer running with one of the kids during the Holi Colours Charity Run
V: Interesting you should mention that, sisterhood is a concept that’s foreign to our community, as women are constantly pitted against each other by films and other media. Has Miss MalaysiaIndian Global made you look a female friendships differently? 

P: That’s obviously not true! I have always had good female friends, but I was taken aback by the sincerity of the women I met in Miss MalaysiaIndian Global. We are all so different, and yet the chemistry we shared was unbelievable. With the pageant, I have built a sisterhood with like-minded women. They are women I can count on, women who celebrate each other’s victories, and savour our collective success.

V: Did the Holi Colours Charity Run turn out as you envisioned it?

P: It didn’t actually! There was a thunderstorm right before the run, which was a dampener. I felt like the 6 months of my hard work was being washed away thanks to the rain. But it turned out fine, the kids had a wonderful time, they painted the holi colours on a wall and they really enjoyed themselves with the clown and other activities we had planned.

V: That’s a nice turn of events! Ms Mohanaapriya Sina Raja (Miss MalaysiaIndian Global 2001) mentioned that this happens quite a bit, where a finalists’ workshop does not go according to plan, and how you deal with that is an experience in itself. 

P: It certainly is! It just goes to show that things may not always turn out the way we want it to, but it will all work out at the end of the day. My main aim for the event was for the kids to have a great time, and that is exactly what they did. We also managed to raise sufficient funds. Mission accomplished!

V: We hear that you were very hesitant to smile before the pageant…

P: (laughs) You know, before the pageant, I could not even bring myself to smile, baring my teeth. Now, I feel like my smile is my biggest asset. It’s not that people didn’t find my smile attractive, it’s just that I thought people won’t like it! I realised that it was all in my head.

And it doesn’t end there. I’ve always felt like I am too skinny, so I never wore sleeveless clothing. The pageant gave me the confidence to experiment with clothes. Before, I would always be in sweatpants, and Mrs Rani would always tease me by calling me the homeless girl! Now, I make an effort to be presentable, and put on some makeup when I go out.

V: So is makeup a necessity for you now?

P: It’s safe to say that I am equally comfortable with and without makeup now. I understand that it works to enhance my features, and I’m not reliant on it, or anything. You’d be surprised, before the pageant, I had no clue how to even apply eyeliner!

V: Any advice to the girls who want to be the next Miss MalaysiaIndian Global?

P: If you are joining this pageant for the title, please don’t waste your time. Join this pageant if you want the biggest takeaway in your life. The women behind the scenes of the pageant work very, very hard to bring out the best in every participant. It is only right that you pay it forward with your own community service work!

The finals of Miss MalaysiaIndian Global 2019 will be held on the 22nd of September. To sponsor or attend the event, please email [email protected] Until then, keep up with the pageant updates on Instagram here.