Hailing from an ortho-dox Muslim family in Attingal, Thiruvananthapuram, it was but natural for Ansi Kabeer to be a no-nonsense front-bencher in school, too studious and bashful for any extra-curricular activities. As the only child to her parents – dad was a non-resident Keralite and mom a homemaker – love and care were there in abundance but ‘discipline’ figured high up on the parenting list. Ansi did not disappoint but delighted her parents by securing admission to an engineering college in Kazhakoottam, not far from her home.
Then it happened. Perhaps it was her height that made her seniors select her as the showstopper for an inter-collegiate fashion show that they organised at the college. She was adjudged the ‘best model’. “There was no special prize or gift voucher but I felt exhilarated,” says Ansi. The show and the recognition left a deep impression on her. She realised, for the first time, that she was cut out for far more than a mere academic or professional career.
The journey of self-discovery and self-actualisation that began in college culminated in Ansi lifting the coveted Manappuram Miss South India 2021 title on August 27 at a colourful though compact beauty pageant held at the Le Meridien hotel in Coimbatore that saw her triumphing over 13 other pretty and talented lasses selected from the five southern states. “I am overwhelmed and happy,” she reacts to her selection but adds that the process was rather effortless than stressful for her. “Perhaps because I have participated in several other pageants before, I was confident and positive about the outcome,” she lets on but goes on to add that competition was intense. “During the day of grooming, I felt that everyone was equally deserving. But perhaps experience gave me an edge,” she says.
Besides her ambition to make a mark, it was her mom’s constant support and encouragement that catapulted her forward, despite the misgivings of relatives and acquaintances that she should instead be thinking of getting married and ‘settling down’. “I am the only girl who is yet to get married in our family and girls younger than me have become mothers. It is as though marriage and bringing up kids are the only purposeful things in life. I am against this mindset and wonder why none of them have raised their voice against it. The reason why I decided to take part in the pageants is to influence other girls and help them believe in themselves,” she says.
It was after she had been selected to join Infosys as a systems engineer and was waiting for her appointment letter that her mom spotted an ad in the Grihalakshmi magazine’s Face of Kerala contest and asked her to give it a shot. “I enrolled for this competition and took part in the auditions but did not make it to the final line-up. This contest made me realise how ungroomed I was. When every other girl carried a makeup kit, all I had was an eye-liner. I did not even know how to give a good ‘introduction’. I wanted to improve and prove a point to myself,” she says.
She then chanced across the Miss Malabar pageant, took part in it and finished as first runner-up. Then came the Lulu beauty fest where again she was adjudged first runner-up. Meanwhile, the Infosys call letter came and she took up her job at Mysore from where she was later transferred to Thiruvananthapuram. But then, hardly happy with her partial success at the first two pageants, she was determined to become the eventual winner when she signed up for Miss Kerala and fulfilled that dream in 2019, thanks to a new confidence and devil-may-care attitude.
What is it that makes a girl stand out at such pageants? Ansi explains: “I think there is a misconception about beauty pageants among many. I think the word ‘beauty’ should be deleted because every girl is beautiful in her own way. It is not possible to judge people based on their beauty and award them the crown. I think it is personality that matters. It is all about what you are and who you are.”
If this is true, then why is height considered a pre-requisite for contestants?
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