October 2001

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Vol. I Number 4

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Wonder Woman - Neelam Verma
By Shailendra Prasad

Toronto - True to her name, she stands shining, elegant and gracefully embossed. Neelam (meaning in Hindi, a precious jewel of special significance) is a real jewel in the crown.

The 25-year-old new Miss India-Canada 2001, Neelam Verma has created a history of sorts as she is the first South Asian ever to represent Canada in the world.

At the 10th anniversary of Miss Canadian Universe Pageant on August 31,  Neelam won the  Miss Canadian Universe to represent Canada  at the highest echelon of beauty pageant: Miss Universe.

Neelam’s name has been etched forever into the glory of glamour with goodness. She outsmarted 29 contestants from all across Canada in front of a vibrant and enthused audience  at the Canadian National Exhibition, Toronto.

Projecting  herself  a woman of the 21st century, Neelam demonstrated intellect, exuded confidence, shared her world travels and beamed although the contest to ultimately march over there other contestants from Alberta, Ontario, Quebec and other provinces. And in her victory stride, the entire South Asian community sees a great win for the community.

Neelam will represent  Canada at the upcoming Miss Universe Pageant tentatively scheduled in May 2002 in Puerto Rico.

Twenty nine contestants from across Canada competed for this title in the following categories:  personal interviews, stage performance (evening wear and swimsuit) and global knowledge assessment (question & answer).

The top 10 contestants were chosen for the swimsuit and evening gown categories.  

Neelam wore the same evening gown that had helped her clinch the Miss India-Canada 2001 title in July this year and said it was this lucky charm that helped her win the Miss Canadian Universe 2002 title.  As she ramp-walked on stage, she looked focused and poised, winning the hearts of audience and judges alike with her grace and quick-wit.

The panel of judges comprised of people from all walks of life. From fashion designers to literati’s and social worker — they faced an arduous time selecting the top five winners.

Each of the five contestants were asked the single question, “What personal cause or group in the world would you promote if you were crowned tonight’s winner?”  Each finalist articulated their answer in their own unique way, which included answers such as, promoting human rights to caring for juvenile delinquents.  Neelam, however, felt that education was the one thing that was pivotal for growth, advancement and change. She said education needed to be promoted in a big way, especially in third world countries.  

With that answer, the crown was hers. Neelam, winner of the Miss Canadian Universe 2002 will now go on to represent Canada in the 2002 Miss Universe Pageant to be held in Puerto Rico in early May.

Gurdeep Dhaliwal of Calgary, Alberta and former contestant of the Miss India-Canada pageant, was declared first runner-up at the event.  Clair Hang Nguyen of Edmonton, Alberta was declared second runner-up.

Kush Agnihotri, president of Canada-India Beauty Quest Inc. and organizer of the Miss India-Canada pageant was also present at the event to cheer Neelam on.  When Neelam was crowned queen at the Miss Canadian Universe 2002 Pageant, Agnihotri said, “I am thrilled for Neelam, and I wish her all the best. She truly is a great ambassador for Canada and will proudly represent this country.”

The last time Canada won the coveted Miss Universe title was back in 1982, when Karen Baldwin brought home the crown.  (Photos and Story: Courtesy: INDIA JOURNAL)