Beauty across borders

By Nitin Gupta
Manavvi Voleti

Multi-lingual beauty queen Manavvi Voleti believes it is important for global Indian kids to learn their mother-tongue

Manavvi Voleti recently won the Title of Miss Teen Bharat USA 2019-2020. Nitin Gupta caught up with her in Atlanta.

What comes to your mind when you think of Australia?

When I think of Australia, gun control laws come to my mind. Just after one mass killing, the Australian government and people came together and formed a gun control legislation that included laws banning semi-automatic rifles and shotguns as well as a well-formed system of licensing and gun ownership control.

When I think of Australia some other things come to mind like free healthcare, reduced risk of terrorism, aboriginal people still being original landowners and treated with respect. I have loads of family in Australia and hope to visit the beautiful continent soon.

Who is your favourite beauty queen and why?

My favorite Indian beauty queen would be Sushmita Sen. She was the first Indian to win the Miss Universe pageant. She turned the spotlight on India and helped in changing the way the world viewed Indian women. After winning the crown she kept up her amazing work and used her leadership skills to uplift women in India and all over the world.

Would you consider yourself Indian, American or, both? Why?

I would consider myself an Indian American. I was born in India and my parents moved here when I was five years old. Having already started school in India and already knowing English, the transition from Indian Catholic schools to American public school was fairly easy.

There were of course some struggles such as being placed in kindergarten and not first grade because of my age and being placed in ESOL because they immediately assumed an Indian girl who just moved here could not possibly know English.

As the time went on, I missed India and my family so, my mom always kept me engaged with activities and made sure we participated in events that kept me closer to my culture. My parents always spoke to me in our native languages to ensure I wouldn’t forget them. I grew up loving my culture and embracing it and today I’m so proud my parents made sure to keep teaching me more and more about our traditions. I know Telugu, Tamil and Hindi and I am a proud Indian before anything else.

You speak Hindi, Tamil and, Telugu. Do you have any message you have for Indians Americans and other global Indian teens that are reluctant to learn or speak Indian languages?

Ever since I was young, I was curious about learning languages. I wanted to understand what my parents were talking about and not need subtitles. I slowly started paying closer attention to what my uncles, aunts and parents said and tried my best to understand and learn as much as I could. I’m half Tamilian and half Telegu so I naturally picked those two languages up very fast but I wanted to learn Hindi so I could understand what my parents were talking about and be able to watch Bollywood movies.

I started learning Hindi from friends and watched Hindi movies with subtitles to slowly understand. It took me a while, but I learned Hindi as well. I’m so glad my parents were supportive and helped me out in every way possible. I feel proud knowing that I can understand my mother tongue and speak it. Although I grew up in America, I never wanted to let go of my Indian roots. I would encourage all teens worldwide to learn their mother tongue and practice it. We shouldn’t lose our culture and roots because were far away from India.

Would you participate in mainstream American beauty contests?

I definitely want to give it a shot. Right now, I’m focusing on school and college as well as doing pageantry on the side. I enjoy having a platform to speak on issues I care about so I would definitely enjoy having a larger platform with more attention as well as media to promote other issues such as mental health, beauty standards, and so on.

The Writer is a Former Ministerial Adviser, and a Guest Columnist for The Indian Sun

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