Dia Mirza never believed in competition

Dia Mirza: I have never believed in competition. by .
Dia Mirza: I have never believed in competition.
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Dia Mirza: I have never believed in competition. by .
Dia Mirza: I have never believed in competition.

“It feels almost surreal to look back 20 years. I was so young when it all happened,” she reminisced on an experience that made the young Hyderabad girl a household name.

“The year 2000 marked a new millennium, bringing with it a sense of hope, promise and excitement”, she added.

Interestingly, Dia was never one who dreamt of winning a beauty pageant.

Dia Mirza: I have never believed in competition. by .
Dia Mirza: I have never believed in competition.

“I happened to be spotted by a modelling agent who offered me a part-time job at 16. Everything happened very quickly after that — advertising campaigns, fashion shows, editorial shoots. One thing led to another and I was selected from Hyderabad for the Miss India pageant,” she recalled.

“I remember my mother being really surprised that I wanted to take part!”

Dia, who had never left Hyderabad before in her life, vividly remembers adapting to life in Mumbai.

“It was a journey that brought love and encouragement, but was still very daunting to be go through alone. As an individual, I have never believed in competition, so for me it was about putting my best foot forward, enjoying myself and learning as much as I could,” she said.

Dia was the second runner-up at Miss India 2000 and later won Miss Asia Pacific.

She still remembers the feeling and chaos of that winning moment.

Dia Mirza: I have never believed in competition. by .
Dia Mirza: I have never believed in competition.

“We were announced the winners, crowned, wore our sashes, took that final walk, and had thousands of lights and cameras flashing in front of us – through all of that, I remember thinking ‘where are my parents? I want to meet them’! In that moment I truly realised how happiness can be truly cherished when you have your family to share it with.”

But as a winner just crowned, she found herself whisked away for the Femina cover photo-shoot with actor Shah Rukh Khan. “That was a whole experience in itself, as the camera caught me looking at him in complete awe and love!” she added.

Another iconic moment Dia remembers fondly was when she got a chance to share the stage for a big group picture with all the previous international title winners from India — Aishwarya Rai, Sushmita Sen, Diana Hayden and Yukta Mookhey — along with the year’s two other winners, Lara Dutta and Priyanka Chopra.

On the one thing that has stayed with her through since then, she shared: “Be yourself. Staying authentic and speaking my truth was what set me apart then and continues to define me even now.”