There’s only a week left till the grand finale of Miss Nepal US and what could be better than to have the current Miss Nepal US 2012 Astha Shrestha speak to me about her side of the story. Yep, I am indeed talking about the controversy that has been blowing up for the past few weeks. We’ve read the former contestants public letter, heard from a former member Jyoti Shrestha who recently quit the organization and now let’s hear a different side. As they say, there’s two sides to every story and what Astha has shared below is just a glimpse of that.
Regardless of all the things that HAPPENED, I just want to wish all of this years contestants all the best – I really hope that their time, energy and hope does not come dashing down and they receive a fair judgement. And of course, I hope the organizers also feel the pressure and push themselves to make this third Miss Nepal US a very grand affair.
LEX: What was the reason behind your participation at Miss Nepal US 2012?
ASTHA: In 2011, when Miss Nepal USA declared their very first pageant, I had just been announced the winner of the 29th ANA talent show. As I walked downstairs to the lobby of the hotel, I encountered the booth that was accepting the applications for the year and when I tried to apply, I learned that I couldn’t apply since I wasn’t 18. So I waited till the next year to participate. The reason behind my commitment towards applying for the pageant was the opportunity and the experience it would provide to further my involvement in the community, fashion and the all the things the platform promised. I have always been gifted with opportunities that sometimes slip away because of ignorance and from that, I have learned to make use of an opportunity before the window closes. I also believe that everything is always worth a try because if you don’t try, you will never know how the odds would turn out to be. In this case it was a great opportunity to come out, explore myself, meet personalities, make friends and take home a great experience that would help me with my goals.
LEX: Did the beauty pageant meet your expectations?
ASTHA: Although it was my very first pageant, I had taken a professional training for runway modeling a few years back. So, when I started my training for Miss Nepal USA, I was very impressed with the quality of the training because it was almost suitable for a professional certification considering the amount of time we had. Keeping in mind that I had to pay close to $2,000 for the professional training and for Miss Nepal USA we only had to pay an amount of $1,000 for everything that included the hotel, travel, food and everything else. Yes there were some rough edges that I will not deny but the organizers tried their best to make it better and help us with the problems. Some may feel differently but when I make conclusions, I try to think of all the trouble they had in order to meet the expectations of all 28 contestants at the same time while under the pressure of so many more while keeping in mind that it was only the second year of the pageant. I truly believe that this pageant has potential to be bigger if given the chance. For me, it was a great experience and an amazing journey and nothing but a pageant. It was just a pageant, nothing more. It was up to me to use it as an opportunity but at the end of the day it’s something that will be talked about for maybe a few months and everyone goes back to their life. Also, I prioritize things in life which gives me the power to choose what is important and what is not and the 15 minute of fame is not something important and is not something I would stress about years after it was over. Do I think the pageant helped everyone to learn and grow? – Yes. Do I think that it provided a good amount of training and nourishing? – Yes. Do I think that there were some issues with management? – Yes. Do I think that the issues went to the extremes that we now hear from boiling rumors and accusations? – NO.
LEX: Some of the former contestants have issued a public letter against the organization and are asking many to boycott the event, is there truth in their revelation?
ASTHA: Since that question would take too long to answer, I will list some of the problems and accusations and explain the whole story instead of the ones we hear that only linger around the surface without a full insight on what really went down.
The first accusation on the article is about the false advertisement with the number of finalists and they are claiming that they took 8 extra contestants for the extra $8,000. Now I can’t even understand what triggered this because all you need are some simple calculations. The hotel we mostly stayed at was Mount Vernon in Baltimore, not to mention that we stayed at 3 more hotels in DC and New York. That alone costs roughly about $15,000, after that comes food for everyone, they also rented several vans to carry us around, they have other expenses to worry about such as equipment, sound, lighting, training hall and so on. If you spend $20 per person, twice a day, for 10 days, that is about $11,200. Therefore, if they wanted to make extra money, they’d cut people out instead of having to take care of everything for 28 girls for about 10 days.
I also read that we were fed at a gas station and that is only half the truth. During our travel to New York and back they stopped at sit in restaurants or diners for meals. It was only between them that they stopped at gas stations for gas and they asked us if we were hungry or thirsty, and if we were, we could get REFRESHMENTS from the gas station, all of which they paid for.
About the bed bugs, yes, there were bed bugs in some of the rooms. My room-mate and I didn’t have any in our room but there were surely bed bugs in the hotel. When all of us gathered and told the organizers the problem, they immediately reported it to the hotel after which, the General manager or the manager (one of them), came to personally apologize to us and she also gave them new rooms making sure they were not infested. First of all, here I don’t see how the organization is at fault because they were quick to react and solve the problem. Bedbug complaints in New York City alone grew from 10,509 in 2006 to 22,218 last year and it is very common to have bed bugs in cities. –“bedbug.com”
The other rumour is that a girl had a swollen face due to mistreatment, and I can’t express how that is ridiculous in many ways and how someone can take incidents and use it to completely manipulate the event. She had an allergy with a certain food that the organizers were not aware of and she ate the certain something she was allergic to which caused an allergic reaction. She was very positive about it herself and the organizers bought fruits for her so that she could be healthy for the training.
My favourite part is the insurance company that drew our bloods. Again, yes it is true but barely the accusation. The reason this is my favourite part is because I clearly remember that day I was very upset about the life insurance policy they were giving us. So basically, they told us that we will all have a half million dollar policy for a year for free but for which we have to give our blood samples. Since I already have a good life insurance policy of my own and I didn’t want to give my blood samples, I was rebellious towards it and I went around the room telling the girls that it was not mandatory and that they didn’t have to if they didn’t want to but I was unheard since a lot were afraid of judgments. After my efforts were wasted, I went to Mr. Amit Shah and Sujita Basnet (the co-founder of Miss Nepal USA and the winner of Miss Nepal USA 2011 respectively) and I insisted that they should announce that it wasn’t mandatory and upon the contestants’ own will, and so he did. Everyone was fully aware of it as they wilfully gave their blood samples. I was the one who did not sign the papers and give blood samples.
All personal comments and accusations are something I am not aware of because those are clearly just assumptions until you can prove them but the party for the finale, I was there and I clearly remember that there were some wine and champaign but they were only serving those to 21 and over. I know that fact because I wasn’t drinking myself and I heard Mr Sarad tell everyone that it was for the 21 and over only. Now at this moment, if someone snuck themselves a drink, that I don’t know of.
Now coming to the night after the finale was over, the winners Ashma Dhakal, Nurja Shrestha and I had to stay down for a bit for pictures and interviews but when we went upstairs, we could already see that some of the girls were drunk out of their minds and one was lying on the hallway crying. I went up to her spoke to her a little bit and I did not feel good myself, I wasn’t happy. I walked into the room and there were a lot of people and they were just enjoying a drink having fun. They weren’t just organizers and the participants, there were many more, some I didn’t recognize. The only problem I have with the article about this night is that no one else has ever heard of them and by no one else, I mean the participants. I was there the whole time with my roommates and friends but some things in the article are unheard of and questionable. I still love my friends that I made and I would give them full support if I believed them or even learned about them because I have never heard of them until I read the article.
Only three hours before the show, no one seemed to be complaining about anything, rather everyone was happy and hugging the organizers. Also, the day after the finals, when everyone was leaving for home there were nothing but smiles walking about. We had fun, we bid farewell, we hugged and took pictures. I do understand that there were some rough edges. Time issues, managements and many more but I know that it was not at all on purpose to make extra money for themselves because they were short a few thousand dollars after the show. We have to find which accusations are rational and which are assumptions.
Lastly, the article talks about how the finalists and the winners were all planned out. Now let me tell you that when I auditioned for Miss Nepal USA 2012 I didn’t even think that I was going to make it through the auditions let alone winning the title. I did not know any of the organizers personally.
LEX: How does it make you feel to be the winner of a pageant that some have branded as corrupt and unfair?
ASTHA: I am completely against disrespect and insult. I can be the sweetest person in the world ever but if I do encounter disrespect and insult, I get enraged. I believe that the article is an insult to everyone related to the pageant and to my title as well. I tried to explain to some that respect goes both ways and you can’t have it forever. Right before doing this interview, I tried to explain this to a few but it is hard to explain things to people who have already made up their minds and won’t listen to anything else. At the same time, I am a very care free person who won’t stress about something if it isn’t as important to me. So to me, it really doesn’t matter, I barely care. I had a great experience and I learned a lot from it and now it’s time to step into another challenge in life. The reason behind this interview for me is so that people can hear both sides to the story. Also, I am going to be there for the whole training period for the 2013 pageant so that I can make sure the contestants don’t go through some of the things we had to. This way, I will feel like I can do my part to make it better rather than bringing it down.
LEX: Do you have any words for the organizers?
ASTHA: I would like to thank everyone for giving us an opportunity and staying strong even when the world around is throwing foul thoughts at you. I also want them to know that prioritizing in life is key for reaching your goals because there are many things in life that doesn’t matter at all and by ignoring them, we can focus on what’s important. In this case, the accusations don’t matter at all if you can do something better for the pageant this year.
LEX: Do you have any words for those that feel they have been let down by the Miss Nepal US organization?
ASTHA: I am not taking sides; I am only talking about my experience and what I saw. I was nothing but a participant in a pageant like everyone else. I am not better than anyone; the judges only gave an opinion of theirs about us, which does not define any of us in anyway. I understand that a lot of things that went down during our pageant were mismanaged or unfair in some ways but the organization has publicly apologized for that and all they are trying to do now is make it better. As for me, I am not a part of the organizing team at all. I am just there to make sure the girls get everything they are promised. This way I can do my part to help.
LEX: How are they making it better this year and how can be sure of it?
ASTHA: The girls will get to train on the final stage they will be performing on. They will also be able to have a grand rehearsal on Friday where they can go through all of their rounds with the same amount of pressure as they will face on the finale without stopping. The girls will be staying in the same hotel throughout the training so we won’t have issues with travel. There will be professional trainers and performers both Nepalese and non-Nepalese. They have hired professional CPA to count the votes and scores in front of the public eye and the judges. The only person who will be judging from the organizing team will be Malvika Subba as their choreographer. They have also hired professionals for lighting and sound who work at the Queens Theater themselves. The judges are diverse and come from different fields. The training will strictly run on schedule modified by none other than the choreographer Malvika Subba. The hotel is very close to Queens Theater in order to minimize travel time. These are just some of the improvements, there are plenty more.
LEX: To wrap it up, your final words?
ASTHA: It was a great year for me and I accomplished a lot. People have a better chance getting hit by lightning than winning a lottery but still, hundreds of thousands of people try the lottery. This year in Miss Nepal USA, there are 16 contestants and every one of them have an equal chance of winning which is about 6.25% for each contestant, which is a lot. You will never know how much you can accomplish in life if you never try. It all starts with a baby step. This is a great platform for us to get ready and gain confidence which can lead to a lot more in life. So, Why not?Read More: Former Miss Nepal US Team Member Jyoti Shrestha Breaks Her Silence Former Contestants Issue A Letter Against Miss Nepal US