Miss India 2018 Anukreethy Vyas, yes. Miss World 2017 Manushi Chillar, of course. But did you also know there is a third beauty pageant queen who has won two international titles this year?
Crowned Miss India (Deaf) 2018 in Jaipur, Deshna Jain went on to grab the Miss Asia (Deaf) title and was third runner-up in the Miss International (Deaf) contest held in Taipei, Taiwan, from July 8-July 16.
But her name fails to ring a bell. There are no TV channels queuing up for her byte and no interviews lined up to highlight the young woman’s achievement in winning an international crown for India.
Aware that she would have been the talk of town had it been the win of a “normal hearing” person, Deshna has the poise of a beauty pageant winner as she recalls the Miss Asia (Deaf) contest.
“I was very nervous, there were contestants participating from over 20 countries. I thought they were more beautiful, more well-dressed, and more talented than me. But luckily the judgment came in my favour and I was declared Miss Deaf Asia,” Deshna told PTI in an interview conducted with the help of an interpreter.
“I wish to take part in many such events in future and make my family and country proud,” she added.
It’s the first time since 2009 that an Indian has won any title in the much coveted Miss and Mister Deaf International pageants. At 20, she is also the youngest contestant to take part in the event.
Deshna’s family, from Tikamgarh in Madhya Pradesh, is now in the national capital to spread word about her title.
“I know my daughter is deaf. But I wonder what’s wrong with normal people in our society that they are so blind to her achievements,” said her mother, Divya Jain.
According to the family, not a single sponsor came forward to support her financially for the international pageant. All expenses were paid by the family, which runs a business and spent over Rs 5 lakh for the event in Taiwan.
“We ran from pillar to post for sponsorship, but there was no response from anyone. We also met Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Chouhan twice. Forget about full sponsorship, no one came forward to sponsor even her dresses,” said Deshna’s cousin, Kavya Jain.
Last year, Deshna was named runner-up at Miss Antriksh, a beauty pageant in Indore, where the contestants, unlike her, were not hearing-impaired.
According to the family, other “hearing” contestants got assignments and sponsorships after the event but Deshna, who came second, was ignored, the appreciation limited to lip-service only.
Kavya, a marketing professional, said she doesn’t know why people have not noticed her sister’s talent.
“If it is related to her being deaf and mute, then once and for all please end this brouhaha about making India an inclusive country,” she said.
Videos like “Dancing Uncle” and “Chai Pi Lo Aunty”— that are breaking the internet with their idiosyncratic content — are going viral and the people behind them are being invited on reality shows and offered brand endorsements, she said.
“People who are making a genuine effort to make India proud internationally are ignored by the media and the people alike,” Kavya added.
A news website has recently uploaded a video about Deshna where she can be seen talking about herself in a fun and quirky way.
Self-pity, said Deshna, is the last thing she would like to indulge in.
Studying in Indore’s Deaf Bilingual Academy, she wants to be a role-model for people of her community and is up for any challenge come what may.
“Stress is not good for skin and now since I have won the title it is important that I look presentable every time,” she said.
The beauty pageant queen wanted to become a dancer, a dream she said she still nurtures.
“It was my friends. They always said, ‘you are so beautiful and you should take part in the competition’. Then the word spread and my teachers called my parents who readily agreed,” Deshna said excitedly.
Her mother said she is proud of Deshna for what she has achieved without making any demands on them.
“She never troubled us with anything. In fact, she always told us ‘I don’t need expensive clothes or cosmetics, it is not about these things only… it is about how as a person you are, your good activities, your qualities’.
“But we knew that she needs to look pretty and presentable on stage. So most of the time we would go out and shop for her when she was in college, without her knowing about it,” Divya said.
Deshna has one sibling who is also deaf and mute and suffers from slow brain development.