Don Bella: a beauty pageant that brought Indian and African communities closer


The April fashion show was unique in every way. It brought together various multicultural beauty industry stakeholders under one roof. And promoted Indian-African unity.

On Sunday, 8 April, the grand finale of the Don Bella Beauty and Fashion Show was held at the iconic St Kilda Town Hall in Melbourne. The show was organised by Mr Ranz Bose and Mrs Neha Soudagar (AIBC/Ambassador for Little India, Dandenong).

Don Bella, the beauty pageant with a difference, crowned both male and female champions—Mr Don and Ms Bella, ‘Don’ being Spanish for mister, and ‘Bella’, Italian for beautiful woman.

The beauty contest saw participation from different multicultural communities of Australia. There were contestants from India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Malaysia, Mauritius, Taiwan, South Sudan, China, and South Africa, and from various states of Australia as well.

NSW’s Kerry-Anne Peterson won the crown for “Bella” category. Crowd favorite and Victorian contestant of Malaysian Tamil background Mahi Iyengar was the 1st Runner Up; while another crowd favorite and Victorian beauty of African background Nyibol Gathoth was the 2nd Runner Up.

Victorian-Indian Akshay Taneja was the “Don” of the year. Talented Kiron Martin was the 1st Runner Up; while another crowd favourite and Victorian resident of African background—the handsome Charles Ayella was second runner up.

Victorian poets and AFL ambassador Miss Sonal Sharma walked away with the coveted “Miss Congeniality” title. Various other male and female participants also won the supporting titles such as Ms and Mr Photogenic etc. Sidra Jutt, the contestant of Pakistani origin, impressed the judges with her attitude and swag.

The judges for final rounds included former ministerial adviser Nitin Gupta, soccer and AFL player Nelly Yoa, Bohemian Rhapsody Club owner Natasha Marchev, Latino beauty Tatiana Castiblanco, and socialite Sophiya Rayat.

“This fashion show was unique as it brought the various multicultural beauty industry stakeholders under one roof,” said Mr Gupta. “This event has done a lot in terms of promoting Indian-African unity and harmony,” he added.

Geelong girl Cay Ward was the energetic MC for the evening, and kept the audience and contestants engaged throughout the evening. There were various dance and cultural performances as well during the contest.

Although they could not be present at the event, South Indian actress/producer Mrs Khushbu Sundar and INC National Spokesperson Dr Shama Mohammed sent their wishes and promised to join in for future events. Indian billionaire Naveen Jindal, and HH Prince Lakshyaraj Singh Mewar of Udaipur had also sent good wishes for the organisers, and all the contestants of the event.

“It was tough competition,” said Mr Gupta. “We need events like these that bring the two communities together, especially the youngsters. Perhaps VMC should seriously consider supporting the next edition of Don Bella,” he added.

The sponsors and supporters for this unique beauty contest included Sana Malik (Rodan and Fields), Bullz Sports, Julia Tran from Julia Bridal, AIII, AIFI; Richmond Tigers FC, Community legend Ms Selba Gondoza Luka, and others. The Indian Sun was one of the media partners for the show. Afri-Aus Care was the charity partner for the event.


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