When Manya Singh was declared Miss India 2020 runner-up, it wasn't just a dream come true, but also a shining example of where grit and determination can lead you. Because Manya's journey into modelling and pageantry was different from most other girls.
The daughter of an auto-rickshaw driver, Manya literally poured in her sweat and blood into reaching where she is today. From running away from home to working since she was a kid, Manya didn't let life's many hardships break her spirit, or rob her of her dream. And after years of struggle, the success she achieved is a glorious testament to her strength and hard work.
In conversation with ScoopWhoop, Manya talked about the challenges she faced, the way she prepared for the pageant, and that magical moment where years of hard work finally, paid off.
What was your first reaction to being crowned Miss India 2020 runner-up?
It was indeed mixed feelings. I was happy, crying. I was excited for the future. It was indeed a gamechanger for me. I knew that once I win this crown, I will get to learn so many things and meet so many people. I had that motto, that if I get that platform, I will try my best to amplify those voices and I will be the voice for each and every girl and woman out there. And I got that opportunity and I'm really grateful. And I will make it worth it.
You've talked about how you ran away from home, starved, and started working as a teenager to support your dreams. What kept you going during that time?
Yes, I ran away from home at the age of 14. But before 14 I had a big life. I was suffering from my grandparents' trauma. Mere parents suffer kar rahe the. I have seen those things in my life and that's why at the age of 14, I was so mature that I want to do something different. And when I came to Mumbai, I didn't have anything. I was completely blank... empty hands but dreams in my eyes and hope in my pocket. And I knew Mumbai will accept me. And it has accepted me with lots of examination. Yes, there were so many nights without food and small income. But I'm really proud that I've faced those days. Because the best teacher is my life. I've learned from my life and in future also, if I am stuck somewhere, I will definitely look back, recollect those memories, learn and go ahead. Because I know the lessons and woh maine apne backpack mein rakha hai. Jab bhi kabhi doubt hoga, I'll see (at my past) and know, 'okay now I have to do this'. I won't go, 'ab main kya karun?'. I'll be very sure because mujhe life experience hai. And that is very important.
Take us through your childhood? How did it help shape the person you are today?
My childhood was not a privilege. Because jaha pe bache padhne jaate the, vaha pe main kaam karti thi. Adjustment karti thi. Family ko emotional support deti thi. Sirf beti banke nahi, ghar ka beta banti thi, behen banti thi. Sab kiya hai maine. Aur khudke bachpane ko enjoy karne ko nahi mila mujhe. (But) I'm glad ki woh samay maine inn sab cheezon mein invest kiya hai, jaha mujhe kuch seekhne ko mila. And like I said, my life was my best inspiration and the best teacher. Because of that, I am today, person that I am. Woh sab seekh ke hi aaj maine khudko ek acha, compassionate aur humble insaan banaya hai. Sirf Manya Miss India khudke liye nahi, Manya unn sabke liye hai. And Manya kahi se nahi aai hai, unn aam aadmi ke bheed mein se hi aai hai aur unhi ka hissa rahegi humesha. Iss baar ki Miss India normal logon mein se uthke aai hai.
Did you face any judgment from your co-participants at the Miss India contest?
Miss India contestant was always a sisterhood. Jab hum kam se kam 15 din on-ground pageant mein the aur jab hum virtually bhi the, humne ek dusre ko kabhi dekha nahi tha, mila nahi tha. Par jo support aata tha, aisa lagta tha ki humari apni behen humein support kar rahi hai. I didn't believe hum vaha competition mein gaye the, compete karne ke liye. Because initially, competition humein khudse hota hai. Ki hum khudka kitna best version la sakte hain. Khudse ladke, kaise jo achi Manya hai, usko kaise kheechke bahar la sakti hain. Ki "No Manya this is not your best, you can go up. Let's go out of your comfort zone." And that's what I did. Kabhi kisi ne koi judgement nahi dia. Unn logon ne mujhe kaafi support kia. Meri heels kami padti thi, toh co-contestants ne help kari. Mere kapdo ko leke koi problem hoti thi toh unn logon ne mujhe help ki. Toh I'm really gratefulki main iss batch mein thi. And yeh sirf mere co-participants nahi hain. They are my sisters. They are my family. And whenever they need me, I'll just be one call away.
Did you ever tell anyone that you wanted to be a model or Miss India?
Initially, jab maine start kiya tha, toh maine 2 saal tak kisiko nahi bataya tha. First year ke mid, graduation ke first half mein, tab maine apne parents ko bataya tha, ki I want to be Miss India. They were like, "kya yeh sab dekhti hai yaar. Padhai kar. Heels ko bag mein leke nahi ghumte. Saraswati hai. Kabhi kuch nahi kar paegi agar aise karegi toh." Maine kabhi palat ke jawab nahi diya tha because I know ki agar main palat ke jawab dungi toh shayad woh meri kamzori ho jaegi. Let's take this comment as motivation and I took it. Jitna mujhe jo logon ne bola, maine humesha khudko motivate kiya. Ki this is for you Manya, woh tumhein bata rahe hain ki tumhein aur mehnat karni hai. Aur jab unhone (family) mera hardwork aur passion dekha, they started supporting me.
People often think of makeup and modeling and even beauty pageants as shallow/superficial things, not worthy of proper respect or attention. What is your reaction to it?
I think a pageant is a platform. And it's not just about beauty, looks, or makeup. It's all about the person you are. Miss India organization mein, ya koi bhi platform ho, woh chahta hai ki aap apni real personality kaise laate ho. Agar Smriti Irani ko dekha jaaye, toh woh bhi Miss India contestant reh chuki hain. Priyanka Chopra, Aishwarya Rai, sab hi Miss India reh chuki hain. Aur vaha se unhone apni voice amplify kari aur logon ki voice bani. Aur aaj bhi woh sabke liye inspiration hain. So it's not just about makeup, dress, or looks. It's all about the way you carry yourself, the way you present yourself. And Miss India should be for everyone, each and every woman out there. And not just women, I can say every person. And this platform gives us an opportunity to represent those faces.
What has been your greatest learning from the Miss India contest?
To always be passionate and never let that fire die, that you have inside (of you). And always uplift yourself. And the very most important thing, appreciate and stand tall. Because every girl has an invisible crown. Toh sab winner hote hain. Toh apne sir ko humesha upar uthaiye aur apna pair humesha zameen pe rakhiye. That's what I've learned from Miss India.
Who would you consider a role model?
Definitely my life. My life is my biggest inspiration and also my role model. And also my mother. Because unhone kaafi mehnat kari hai mujhe leke. She went out of her comfort zone and she went out of her home to give me a proper life and jaha se woh apne bachon ko khush rakh sakein. Bahut mehnat ki hai unhone aur aaj bhi main unse bahut kuch seekhti hun because she is one of the most amazing women I've met in my life. She's the most hardworking. So she is my role model.
What are your plans for the future?
Whatever will come, I will definitely accept with both of my hands. Jo bhi future meri taraf throw karega, Many apne aap ko vaha pe throw karegi. It's definitely give and take. Jitni mehnat main karungi, utna hi mujhe milega future se. So I'm ready to throw myself into my future and let's see what comes next. And I know whatever I will do in my future, people will get inspired. Because now they will look up to me. And I'll make sure I am making them proud and I'll leave that legacy behind me, that if Manya can do, I can too.
What has been your parents' reaction to your win?
Oh, they were crying, always! Whenever they see me with the crown, they start crying. Unko rona aa jata hai. Kyunki yeh humari family ki sabse badi khushi hai. Yeh sapna sirf Manya ka pura nahi hua, Miss India ka. Yeh mere pitaji ka bhi hai. Unko bhi kuch karna tha, unko police banna tha, woh nahi ban paaye apne financial issue ki vajah se. Meri ma ko teacher banna tha, woh nahi ban paayi. Lekin main Miss India bani. Toh woh sabke sapne ek mein hi aake jud gaye aur aisa laga ki sabke sapne ek saath pure ho gaye.
Manya has certainly proved that with hard work, determination, and the never-ending power of dreams, you can, quite literally, forge your own path and shape your future.