When Meenu Gupta was young, she struggled with low self-esteem. She grew up with limited financial means in India, and was discriminated against for having relatively darker skin.
Now, nearly 20 years after she discovered fashion and makeup as a college student, she was crowned Mrs. Asia USA during a pageant held on Nov. 20 in Redondo Beach, California.
“It took me 20 years to start believing that I am beautiful, and I do not want others to wait that long”, said Gupta, 39, who believes that confidence is mightier than makeup. She intends to raise awareness and inspire young girls to believe in themselves from an early age.
Gupta grew up in Kichha, a small town in northern India. Her family had limited financial resources. Although she never considered herself beautiful, Gupta had always dreamt of changing the definition of beauty on her own terms.
Her academics became her outlet, and Gupta went on to earn a masters degree in human development with full scholarship in 2006.
With her tutoring earnings during her time in university, she was able to afford fashionable clothing and makeup for the first time. She started to receive many compliments from her friends and others around her.
This transformation was the start of her 20-year journey to find beauty within. Her confidence continued to grow when she came to the U.S. in 2007, received her MBA from Seattle University, and worked at companies such as Expedia, Amazon, T-Mobile, and now Microsoft.
Motivated by her friend Meenal Derock, a professional lifestyle and pageant coach, Gupta took the leap and applied for the Mrs. Asia USA Pageant. This event is organized by Virgelia Productions Inc., which has been running pageants for 33 years. In particular, the Mrs. Asia USA Pageant seeks participants who are married, and this year, it garnered global participants with ages ranging from 25 to 55.
As part of the application process, Gupta was asked about her professional career, her mission in life and her service to the community. Her first round interview included a question on how she was going to use the platform to do good for others.
The evening gown and national costume rounds were mandatory, while the swimsuit round was optional.
To prepare for the event, Gupta reached out to her global network of friends to get help for her costumes, henna, makeup and photo shoot.
“My confidence on the stage especially when we go down the stairs in outfits, my walk with poise, best national costume in Asia category and the way I introduced myself and my country contributed to my win,” Gupta said.
She also won the Delegate of the Year Award, which is given to the participant with the best attitude of the bunch.
“My behavior, interactions, gratitude, supportive attitude and most importantly my hard working nature throughout my journey — we didn’t know this but during the pageant journey some of the judges observe us,” Gupta said.
She hopes her win will inspire others to believe that true beauty comes from within, especially after it took her so long for her to find her own beauty.
Gupta is currently a diversity and inclusion activist along with being a career mentor for women in technology. As a hobby, she is trained in Indian classical dance and uses her dancing and singing skills to volunteer and raise money for various causes in India and Nepal. Those causes include Maiti Nepal, an organization that combats human trafficking and violence against women and children, and the Seattle Chapter of Asha, which is dedicated to bringing socioeconomic change to India primarily through children’s education.
She is now spending quality time with her family in Sammamish while celebrating her win with the community. She thanks her husband, Bishal, her two children and her community of friends and sponsors.
“It takes a village to win something this big,” Gupta said. “To create something super innovative, collaborate and give others the goodness you have, so it comes to their advantage as well.”