Shree Saini, a resident of Washington state, was crowned Miss India USA 2017.The 21-year-old, who is a student at the University of Washington, said she wants to lead a life dedicated to service. Shree, who had a pacemaker implanted at the age of 12 and was told that she would never be able dance, is an inspiration for all.
A victim of bullying in high school, she has been campaigning against the oppressive behaviour. "I believe in working together to create a hole that is greater than the sum of its parts," Shree said, whose parents migrated to the US from Punjab.
She said she wants to eliminate human trafficking and work towards promoting the importance of emotional well-being in the society. Prachi Singh, a 22-year-old medical student from Connecticut was declared the first runner-up, while North Carolina's Fareena became the second runner-up at Miss India USA 2017 pageant.
At the beauty pageant, cancer surgeon Kavita Malhotra Pattani from Florida was declared Mrs India USA 2017. Prerna was the first runner-up while Ishwarya was declared the second runner-up for this title. Swapna Mannam, 17, from New Jersey was crowned with Miss Teen India USA 2017.
While Simran was the first runner-up, Kritika bagged the sash as the second runner-up. More than 50 contestants from over two dozen states participated in the three different pageants - Miss India USA, Miss Teen India USA and Mrs India USA.
Started by New York-based eminent Indian AmericansDharmatma Saran and Neelam Saran, under the banner of India Festival Committee around 36 years ago, Miss India USA is the longest running Indian pageant outside India. Winners of the pageants here have gone on to act in various Bollywood movies.
"It has evolved over the years. Earlier, the participants of pageants presented their talent around Bollywood dance and songs and classical dances. But now pageant participants come out with their own innovations.
"In addition to Bollywood dance and songs on stage, they give speeches, do motivational speaking, mono acting, sing popular American songs, hip-hop, fusion music and even do real time painting," Dharmatma Saran told PTI.
The Indian Diaspora in the United States is comprised of over 3.5 million individuals. Attending the pageant for the first time as a judge, emerging Indian actor from Costa Rica, Prabhakar Saran said the diversity and richness of talent of these young Indian Americans makes the Diaspora proud.
It is "amazing to see" how young Indian Americans have not only preserved but also helped the rich Indian culture thrive, he said.
(With PTI Inputs)