Being in the spotlight leave little room for privacy and with the constant scrutiny of the media and keeping up appearances, the true identity of the person behind the fame slowly fades. The Miss Nepal pageant brings forward the most recognizable faces in

Miss Nepal Unfiltered: Beyond the Crown

Who is Priya Sigdel, before and after Miss Nepal?

By profession I’m a social entrepreneur, and with that I’m a girls’ and women’s right activist.  I lead an organization, as the President, called ‘Hatti Hatti’ Nepal, which works for marginalized community women. Along with the works for the organization, I also work toward menstrual hygiene management, an area in which I have actively worked for five years. Within the same field, I have represented Nepal in Switzerland, Bangladesh and India as a Women Rights Activist. In terms of studies, I’ve already completed my Bachelor’s in Development Studies for Kathmandu University and will be pursuing my Master’s in 2020.

Have there been any changes, personally, before and after Miss Nepal?

Obviously there have been a lot of changes! Before, I was just a random girl who wasn’t recognized by people. Well, how should I put it?! Life was random, I was carefree, part irresponsible, thinking that my opinions do not matter as much. But after Miss Nepal things changed. The things that used to be uncomfortable to work with have started to become more comfortable, like the shoots, makeup and the interviews as well. Most my life I lived differently as a normal, random, bubbly tomboy but that all changed ‘dyangai ’after Miss Nepal.

If there was an instance where you suddenly went back in time, what would you say to yourself from that time?

I’m more of a bold, carefree person so even if I went back in time, I wouldn’t say much to myself. I would tell myself to ‘grok on’ because you are doing amazing things and continue learning. From back then till now, I’ve always believed in learning so I would just say ‘grok on,’ give a thumbs up and a virtual hug to myself (scoffs). Maybe! So narcissistic! (laughs)

After Miss Nepal, you are one of the most recognizable faces in the country. What had been your dream before all of this?

My dream has never remained the same, it fluctuates. I believe that a certain dream doesn’t and shouldn’t keep me bound. Miss Nepal wasn’t my life’s biggest dream; being happy has always been my biggest dream. I need to reach out to young girls, maybe because it has been my field for the longest time, but I’ve always wanted my message to reach large scale audience. After achieving this platform I want my voice to reach all the young girls, young entrepreneurs around the world and build a platform that promotes capacity building and makes them learn of their capabilities. This is my dream for which Miss Nepal has been a platform for me to take a step forward.

Why did you choose Miss Nepal as the platform for it?

Yeah, I was pretty clear. I was working out in the field as an activist but even with all the activities that I was taking part in I didn’t have the platform that would reach a large mass. So since I was already active in the social entrepreneurship field, I searched for a field that would be best beneficial, and one that young girls would look up to. During that I found the Miss Nepal platform, and I thought that it could be the right platform. If I was able to win I would be able to get a very good audience that mostly had young girls, and that’s how I decided that Miss Nepal would be the right stage for me to take forward the work I was doing.

How did the people in and around you react when you told them that you would enter the Miss Nepal stage?

I’ve never fallen under the standards of beauty that Nepal has -- fair skin, girly attitude and the likes. So people kept telling me not to take part because I wouldn’t able to compete against the standards of the previous Miss Nepals. Even if they did support me in their own ways, they themselves had uncertainties because of the myths everyone have accepted about Miss Nepal. But they told me that if I was strong enough and if it would make me happy then I really should go for it.

Who is your biggest inspiration and source of strength?

My mom has always been my inspiration. She doesn’t stay in Nepal for a long time, because she has to travel quite a lot so she lives in Hong Kong. Mom used to tell me that people will say a lot of things because that is what they’re good at, so let them! She would tell me that I needed to learn what is right and what is wrong for myself, and not pay attention to all the opinions but fall and fight back myself. During those times as well mom told me to just go for it and not cower out and that I would learn something from the experience. When it’s about source of strength I can never miss my darling BFF Shreya who was a solid rock for 14 years now. Despite being anti beauty pageants she believed in my dreams and worked really hard to make me stand on that stage like a star.

What position did you envision yourself winning before the pageant began?

Again, I’ll sound so… (chuckles) I was always my favourite. I was always number one for myself. I was like “Okay, fine!” There are other girls with their own backgrounds but since the first day of the auditions, it was only Me; after being selected it was still only Me; and after that there were the other girls that I had to work with. For me, all of the other contestants were a team that I needed to work with so that our stage presentation would be perfect. Apart from that I would tell myself things like “You are so good! You’re doing so good!” I was always the best for me.

What was the overall experience like?

It was a rollercoaster ride. Many of the things that I used to be against, like the standards of beauty in Nepal, I suddenly found myself being the Brand Ambassador for! It’s so hard to convince young girls to focus less on outer beauty and to help them build their own personalities but I still tried somehow. For me, the work was not what was difficult but balancing the message that youngsters would take from us was difficult. I have now seen how it can be ideally managed and learned using social media for it.

Miss Nepal was only 20 percent of the journey and the international stage was 80 percent of it. Being in a foreign country as the sole representative was truly the hardest time in life and even with that my pageant was the longest one. It certainly was hard but I got to learn a lot of things. And the things I learned throughout the year as Miss Nepal, I doubt I’ll get another adventure like it again ‑‑ because my life changed completely in one year. So it has been a rollercoaster ride that is still going strong.

How did you boost yourself up during all the highs and lows?

I haven’t felt that low to be honest. I’m favouring myself even more! This is disastrous (laughing)! I’m not much of a panicking person. I believe that whatever happens, happens for good, and given my profession, I’ve seen a lot more of the negatives and the downside to things. Miss Nepal compared to that is so simple, so I never felt so low and I knew what I was doing because I chose to be there. At times, hearing things behind the scenes like Miss Nepal can be unfair used to be quite a headache for me, but as I went on and learned, I felt more comfortable doing what I was doing. I did go back and forth with being comfortable and uncomfortable but I didn’t feel that low. I was mentally prepared for everything before the pageant.

Going from being a simple girl to being Miss Nepal Earth, what’s it like being under the spotlight?

It’s bad because you cannot be you all the time! Sometimes things turn out to be overly rational, and because I used to be part of the debate team as a student, my attitude was different and I just have to win! But after being Miss Nepal, even when people start spewing utter nonsense, I have to nod along and that is one of the things that I absolutely abhor! I always believe in women empowerment and I’m a hardcore feminist and it’s terribly difficult to balance a lot of things. Before becoming Miss Nepal, I used to be more vocal, and had a debater’s personality but now adding more I have become calmer, subtler, and more responsible and look at things with a two-way perspective because of Miss Nepal, and I believe that is a good thing.

What is the greatest aspect to life--the dream or the struggle? How have you established your work ethic?

Obviously, it’s struggle! I don’t believe in banking on dreams too much! People have set this standard of following dreams! I don’t follow things like that! If you don’t struggle, you’re not going to gain anything!

In my profession, you need to be responsible for the things that you are doing. I have to be very responsible in the projects that I have undertaken because I would be representing a certain community and working under it. I never take it lightly. Being responsible enough and being punctual enough is my work ethic. People these days are hardly ever punctual and loosely responsible with the things that they do, but if I find myself being that way then I’m not cut out to be the representative of anything.

What side to you represents who you are--a strong, ideal daughter and family person, having a quiet life or the headstrong model and personality in the spotlight?

I don’t mind the spotlight or even the quiet life; I guess it depends more on my mood. I think I’m more of a family girl who is sure of the things she is doing, be it in personal life or professional life. I don’t really care much about what people think, and I continue to grow stronger every single day. I do things in a responsible way, and work in a way that doesn’t harm others and I believe that’s the best way.

What would you tell the youngsters that aspire to achieve the spotlight and reach their goals?

I would tell those people that they need to believe in the struggles. Don’t expect to instantly be successful because your parents are successful or rich or already in the field; that mentality doesn’t work. As for the ones who have accepted the struggles, don’t give up! You need to believe in yourself and don’t let other people decide for you. The concept of being popular and being in the struggle has already lost its flair because people aren’t getting the right way of doing things. Just do it in a responsible way! If you’re responsible enough for what you’re doing, without waiting for approval and are happy with who you are, then at the end of the day, your talent will determine your success.

What message would you give to the new batch of contestants for Miss Nepal?

Stop being pretentious! For all the young girls that want to take part in Miss Nepal next, I want to advise them to not leave the real and struggling world that you have lived in so far. The ideology of a beautiful world, where you need to wear branded clothes, accessories, shoes, cars, should be given up right now! You should research what the pageant is going to be like! Research is important! Don’t try to create a fake persona and just be yourself! Come to the pageant focusing on you being a woman who has a choice, who stands for herself rather than trying to copy someone, and just do your best and have fun.

If you could stop and look back at the entire journey, would you do it all again?

No! No! Sorry! I’ve already lived my life my way to this day. There’s no point in looking back and I want to keep pushing forward. I don’t want to change anything by looking back, there’s no point! So I’m going to keep moving on.