Miss India runner-up Manya Singh: Always keep your confidence in your backpack

Mumbai - The VLCC Femina Miss India 2020 runner-up shares her inspiring story of beating the odds to become a pageant winner.

By Arti Dani

Published: Sat 20 Feb 2021, 6:29 PM

Last updated: Sun 21 Feb 2021, 8:05 AM

In her early teens, Manya Singh decided she wanted to be part of the glamour industry. Last week, the 19-year-old won the crown of VLCC Femina Miss India 2020 runner-up.

Though she did not win the main title, the experiences that shaped her life, the trials and turning points that tested her, touched a chord with the entire nation.

“At 16 I decided that I’ll be Miss India one day,” said Manya while talking to City Times.

After facing extreme poverty throughout her childhood, at the young age of 14, Singh boarded a train from her village in Uttar Pradesh and left for Mumbai to follow her dreams. Singh posted on her Instagram that she comes from a patriarchal family where “I was told that women are lesser than men.”

In the city of dreams, she found a cleaning job at Pizza Hut. They gave her temporary accommodation as well. Worried for their daughter, the Singh family also left for Mumbai immediately.

“I worked in restaurants. I worked in a call centre. I had to do my 9 hours at night, attend my lectures in the early morning. And after that, I had to go for auditions without food and water,” said Manya.

Many are attributing her win at the beauty pageant as an overnight success, but it took years of hard work and sleepless nights for Manya to achieve this.

Singh used to walk for hours to reach places to avoid spending extra money on travel. For a long time, her life was about studying during the day, cleaning utensils and mopping the floors at a restaurant in the evening and working in a call centre at night. At the call centre, she polished her diction and language as she needed to build her confidence before taking a bigger chance. “I used to walk 8 to 10 km regularly in the afternoon but never lost hope because I had a belief in myself. Facing hunger, thirst was a daily affair, but I was constantly holding dreams in my eyes and hopes in my heart. I never gave up and always kept that wide smile on my face whether I was cleaning dishes, mopping the floor, studying or modelling.”

Manya’s journey is a testimony that hard work can create wonders. “I want to give one message to everyone - smile and enjoy your journey. Sometimes you will get tired but you have to push yourself and say ‘Thoda aur (little more)’. Believe in yourself and work hard. Be confident. Be yourself and always keep your confidence in your backpack. Stay grounded, make your will power your ‘brahmastra’ (powerful weapon).”

At one point, Manya’s mother had to sell her jewellery to pay for her college fees. The beauty pageant winner wanted to pursue an MBA but couldn’t because of financial challenges.

But now that the tide has turned, she is proud of her challenging past and doesn’t shy away from highlighting her parent’s hardships. At a recent event, she arrived in her father’s auto-rickshaw for her felicitation ceremony.

When we asked Manya who her role model was she said, “My mother is my role model. Because she works so hard. Despite our poverty, she had a wide smile on her face and always stayed strong.”

After graduating from college, Singh auditioned for over 10 pageants but was always rejected. She wrote on her Instagram that they rejected her for “not having a beautiful face and for not speaking good English.”

But since she doesn’t believe in giving up, she kept trying. Last year in December, she applied for Miss India and gave her interviews online from her small room in a slum. And two months later, she not only won a title in the competition but also the heart of the nation. “I was always clear in my mind and heart that whatever I will do - I will work towards my dreams. I know the journey is never easy, but I also know that nothing is impossible. I joined modelling to learn by my observation. I worked hard every day, always kept myself motivated,” said Manya.

In times when inspiring stories are sorely needed, one like Manya’s is truly encouraging.

Manya has now embarked on a new chapter in her life and career. So what’s next for her? “Whatever God will throw at my way. I’ll take every opportunity and squeeze each drop from it.”

Manya’s dreams and aspirations are to reach that stage in her life where she can tell herself, “Manya, now rest.” Before signing off, she says, “But, I have not reached there yet.”

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