CAS senior is Miss Pakistan World 2010
By Leslie Friday
Annie Rupani (CAS’11) is crowned Miss Pakistan World 2010 in Toronto, Canada. Photo courtesy of Annie Rupani
Calls and text messages started pouring in. Most, she says, were variations of the same thing: “What? What? You’re Miss Pakistan!”
Rupani, a student ambassador at the Howard Thurman Center, BU’s multicultural center, was crowned the eighth Miss Pakistan World before a crowd of 400 people on August 20 at Toronto’s Pearson Convention Centre. She was among eight international contestants in her first-ever pageant.
Competing in a beauty contest had never been one of Rupani’s life aspirations. But two years ago in her hometown of Houston, where her family runs the Rupani Foundation, she met a former Miss Pakistan World. The foundation focuses on reducing poverty and creating employment opportunities for people living in the mountain communities of South and Central Asia, and the former Miss Pakistan World had come in support of its work. The two women met again at the United Nations, where the beauty queen worked and Rupani was interning.
At first, her family didn’t take her running seriously. “I mentioned it at the dinner table, and it was kind of just a joke,” says Rupani, who remembers giggling about it with her two sisters and her parents, who are from Karachi, Pakistan. But what began as a lark became more serious after the college senior applied online and found herself a finalist.
Preparation for the pageant began in earnest over the summer. From June to August, Rupani juggled her responsibilities working as an intern in Washington, D.C., for Representative Ted Poe (R-Tex.) and the Texas Office of State-Federal Relations with the demands of competing in a pageant. When not working, Rupani found herself taking a crash course in all things Pakistani. She even polished her talent routine with flamenco lessons.
To get ready for the big event, Rupani returned home for five hectic days to be coached by her mother and sisters. “I think it’s brought my family closer together,” she says, “because we kind of united behind this.”
She traveled to Toronto the week before the pageant and joined seven other young women as they attended seminars covering everything from image consultations and fitness and nutrition to a broad range of issues about Pakistan. She wrote essays about the country and even memorized its national anthem in Urdu, a language she speaks fluently.
Meanwhile, pageant officials observed the contestants’ behavior under pressure. “You’re part of that company for the next year of your life,” Rupani explains, “so they want to see how you mesh.”
Then it was showtime. Scores in four separate events determined who would succeed to the crown and sash for the coming year. Contestants participated in a talent competition and floated across the stage in their black dresses, traditional wear, and evening gowns.
Four awards were given before the top three contestants were chosen. In the early awards, Rupani came away with the title of “Miss Perfect 10,” or best physique. “I wasn’t expecting it at all,” she says with a laugh.
And, she says, she never expected to find herself one of the three finalists. She thought she’d flubbed her chances during the first interview question, about the Kashmir conflict. “I stumbled on my words, needed to breathe and speak again,” she remembers. “It just wasn’t coming out.” But her answer to the second question, about whether Canada should allow refugees arriving by boat, went smoothly.
Decision time finally arrived, and the three judges made their choice. Rupani stood under the hot, bright lights of the convention stage with the other finalists as Mrs. Pakistan World approached with the coveted crown and sash. It took some time before Rupani realized she was wearing both.
“I froze,” Rupani recalls. “It was a completely surreal experience. People just were coming up to me and taking pictures.” It was at least half an hour before the crowd parted to let her family through. “My mom was crying—she was bawling.”
The newly anointed beauty queen hopes to use her title as a platform to promote awareness about Pakistan and the work done by her family’s foundation. “I think a major reason why Pakistan hasn’t gotten the aid it should have gotten after the recent floods is because there’s a stigma attached that country’s solely associated with the Taliban,” Rupani says.
Ironically, the Miss Pakistan World Pageant has been widely criticized in Pakistan for going against traditional views of women. But Rupani sees the competition as a means to empower women rather than to flaunt surface appearances and beauty.
Her new responsibilities as Miss Pakistan World include attending more international pageants throughout the year. Rupani hopes to attend the Miss Globe competition this month in Albania. Meanwhile, she is spending this semester studying abroad in Jordan.
To her surprise, Rupani has found the pageant world to be an education in itself. Interacting with other contestants has taught the anthropology and religion major a great deal about different cultures and peoples.
“Every single one of these girls is just outstanding in every aspect of her life,” Rupani says.
Leslie Friday can be reached at email@example.com; follow her on Twitter at @lesliefriday.