The Story of Miss India 2020, Manasa Varanasi
What if all your dreams come true?
What if you considered yourself a “commoner”, and one day you are shot to fame, and the world realizes that you are a star?
This is the story of Manasa Varanasi, 23, crowned VLCC Femina Miss India 2020 this February.
Her cousin Advait Valluri is a friend and lives across the street from me. Advait and Manasa grew up together and talked regularly right until the night before her winning.
Everybody knows what happened to Aishwarya Rai and Priyanka Chopra in the years following their title as the most beautiful women in the world. But what happens in the days following the massive win? What did life look like before?
The big day
February 10, 2021.
Manasa’s family— her grandmother, mother, father, and sister were huddled at the TV watching her on her walk of fame.
Her mother was excited and terrified as she realized hers was no longer a “common” family.
She couldn’t tell whether she wants her daughter to be crowned the prettiest woman in the country or if she’d prefer a quiet life. Either way, it was too late to ask that question.
“I myself was as delighted as I was surprised!
We are a traditional and academic family, with almost everybody, including Manasa, being engineers, you see”, says Advait, himself a Project Manager at Audi in Germany, as he recollects the excitement in their family that night.
“The year leading up to her crowning moment, we saw her do modeling assignments. But the magnitude of her determination did not really sink-in with the family until she came home one day with the title of Miss Telangana.
Now she was Miss India! ”
How it all started
“It was initially difficult for our grandmother, who lives with us and has until then only known a traditional lifestyle. Often, there were strangers who rang up Manasa’s mother to tell her to watch what their daughter is doing”.
During her time in college as a student of Computer Science Engineering, Manasa was active in extra-curricular activities like dancing and fashion shows. She garnered attention as a pretty and talented young woman.
Unsurprisingly, she drew eye-balls. She was approached by local businesses to model for their enterprises.
“She was happy to support boutiques of independent women in Hyderabad through her assignments. That’s how it all started”.
Since then, the word spread and change came fast.
The news on the TV connected with the glamour world is not always in the best light. Manasa’s family was understandably apprehensive through her days as a hobby-model.
For somebody with no experience in show-biz, there is a valid fear of what is “on the other side”, especially with their little girl now involved.
They had to deal with this uncertainty and the hail of advice from strangers. There were often doubts about where the path should end, but Manasa, like always, won gracefully.
“She was never the one for stressful argumentation. She was always clear about her goals and has been politely assertive”, says Advait, clearly proud of his sister.
The family often had to assure Manasa’s parents that “it’s going to be okay”. Such assurances were important for the parents to come to terms with the new world their daughter has opened to them.
Paving her way, one step at a time
She knew she had the X-factor. She wanted to live it out.
The year was 2019.
With little experience in the field of glamour and modeling, Manasa had no formal training for the state-wide pageant of Miss Telangana. However, she was a trained singer and a Bharatanatyam dancer and was familiar with the field of performing arts.
She followed where her passion took her and participated for the first time in the Miss Telangana Pageant of 2019. Though she did not win the first time, she learned everything there was to learn.
For the Miss Telangana pageant of 2020, she trained herself in her presence, public-speaking, and demeanor. She won.
“I am proud of how much she has evolved since her appearance at Miss Telangana 2019. The calm and grace with which she received the winning announcement at the Miss India pageant, it’s just beautiful”,
says Sivani, who has seen her sister-in-law grow as India’s top beauty queen.
Gearing up for Miss India
The winners of all 31 state-level pageants of India went on to participate in an online pageant (thanks to the pandemic). The best 15 were invited to the final walk in Mumbai.
Throughout the process, Manasa was her own make-up artist, camera person, and coach.
“She even paid for everything by herself from her savings. Winning the Miss Telangana title was helpful. It put her on the radar for sponsors.
But the actual support came only after she was invited to Mumbai. She practically managed everything single-handedly until then.”
Her colleagues and bosses were supportive of her goals and respected the fact that she needed time to practice for the pageant. For that, says Advait, Manasa is immensely thankful.
Once the realization set-in about how big her endeavor is, and that she achieved what is many a girl’s dream, Manasa’s parents are now immensely proud of their girl.
What is Manasa doing now?
The winner of Miss India is to represent the country in the Miss World pageant in Puerto Rico later this year.
She wants nothing but to give India its best representation in the Miss World pageant. She quit her former role as a financial analyst to be able to prepare for it.
“She loves her job. But for very valid reasons, Manasa decided to focus on the Miss World pageant. It is about representing India now.
If she doesn’t, she says that it is unfair to anyone who could have won in her place. Going by how quickly and drastically she has grown, I am sure she will make it!” says Advait.
How has the family been taking it?
“Since the title, she hardly has the time to get in touch with the family. But thanks to the supportive organizers, she has a trustworthy, and friendly manager”.
Advait notes that every admonition and unsolicited advice from strangers has since become a word of encouragement and a pat on the back.
The 200-people strong extended family who received her at the Marriot in Hyderabad for home-coming made it clear that they want nothing but for her to win the Miss World title for India.
Support has been pouring in from friends all over the world. The family is overwhelmed.
“Her mother is now a tad more peaceful. Yet I’m sure she wouldn't mind if her daughter would continue to be academic instead!”. Advait says with a jestful grin.
“But now, she has her year full of assignments. She has in her own assertive style convinced her family that she can be in charge. I am sure she will do great!”.
Manasa has always been well-read and focused on the greater good of society.
She has been volunteering as a teacher for underprivileged children in Hyderabad’s Make a Difference organization and learned sign language to make society more inclusive for people with hearing and speaking disabilities. All this even before her entry into the world of pageantry.
She has always been a self-made woman, the independent woman we seek to see in today’s India.
The fact that she comes from the same home-town as I do, is something I am quietly proud of. My home-town needs more role-models like Manasa in all walks of life.
From myself, from everyone in Hyderabad, and as I am sure, from everyone in India, I wish Manasa the very best for her upcoming pageant for the Miss World title.
We are already proud of you, Manasa.
Note: In the article, Manasa was referred to as Advait’s sister, instead of cousin, because the Telugu (their mother-tongue) word for “cousin” is the same as a sister.