Chennai-born Sangeetha Singh’s chic is striking, and her beauty is classically ‘exotic’. She admits the epithet ‘exotic beauty’ is how, most often, people from the fashion and glamour world describe her now.
It wasn’t the same reaction she was met with in India when she set out to try her luck at modelling after being in the IT industry for a while. “I was 28 and my son was two years old. I suddenly decided that I wanted to do something different,” she says. “But people blatantly told me ‘you don’t belong to the industry, you don’t have the looks’.”
One incident that comes to her mind is of her driving at 5 am from Pune to Mumbai to audition for a brand. On reaching the place of the appointment, the woman at the office asked her co-worker with impunity in front of her, “Is she of any use?” After literally checking her out, they told her she didn’t fit the bill.
However disappointing, Singh did not let that particular incident or that opinion matter. “You know what, I could have given up and said this is not for me. But I believed in myself and persisted. You can have faith but if you don’t take steps towards realising your goals, you are not going to go anywhere, so I kept at it. There were other disappointments along the way, but I don’t see them as hindrances, rather they were a learning experience.”
Having seen that edge, she knew it wasn’t going to be an easy journey. But Singh succeeded in a getting a toehold in the industry, moving cities—Chennai, Pune, Mumbai and Delhi—and would even go on to secure a place among the top 15 in the Mrs Gladrags contest in 2009.
While in Delhi, Singh met her husband Rishabh Singh and they moved to Australia in 2010. It was here that she discovered how organised the fashion and media industry is compared to India. “If you know what you want, you can tread different paths. People generally go the runway route or the pageant route, both have different asks but I have been able to switch across both because I find it interesting.”
Since 2015, Singh has been chasing pageant titles. She won Mrs Planet Australia that same year and represented Australia in Bulgaria where she won the first runner-up title. She also took bagged the Mrs Personality title there.
In 2017, Singh won the Mrs Australia Continent title and went to Las Vegas to represent the country. Though she did not win, she was overall Mrs Photogenic in that contest. The following year, she took part in the Mrs Earth Pageant representing Mrs Earth Australia in Las Vegas again and was the first runner-up.
Currently, Singh is holding the title of Mrs Universe Oceania 2020 and will be representing Australia only next year because the contests have been cancelled this year due to COVID-19.
Apart from the beauty contests, Singh is also a runway model for international shows. She walked the famous Paris City Fashion Week ramp at the Eiffel Tower last year, an experience she finds gratifying. She has also walked the ramp for World Fashion Festival Awards (Dubai) in 2018 and is a regular at the Melbourne Spring Fashion Week and other domestic shows. “I keep getting call for fashion shows in Milan, London, etc., but because I have a full-time career in IT, there’s only so much leave you can take in a year,” she says.
At 40, Singh has learnt her craft and as she puts it succinctly, she is doing it for just the passion and not the money, but brightens when she talks about having been on the covers of publications such as Shuba (Europe), Picton (Europe), Faddy (Italy), PUMP (Europe), Malvie (French), Nineteenth Amendment (New York) and Marquis Fashion Magazine (Australia).
“A lot of people have asked me why I don’t take this up full time. At the end of the day, beauty is short lived. I don’t want to make this a business where I am trying to make money out of it because once you start earning money, the charm of it is lost. So, I just pursue this as a hobby. This way I have been to more places than I would have,” she says with a laugh, adding, “You need to have a creative outlet at the end of the day and this is my creative outlet.”
Singh came of age in a culture that viewed the likes of Sushmita Sen and Aishwarya Rai as epitomes of beauty. But being in Australia, she got the opportunity to explore her full potential and choose what suits her as the “industry is so organised and embracing of cultures”.
“There is respect for individuals, and there is respect for creativity in Australia. That definitely has helped me stay focussed and aligned, but I think the bigger umbrella statement to the whole thing is, this country is embracing of all cultures. That has been the biggest advantage.
“We have seen so much racism against our own people in India, whereas here they see value in you as an individual. There is going to be politics here and there, but, the fact remains, multiculturalism has been the biggest boon for us in this country.”
Singh’s career is shaped by her idea of what beauty is. “The reason I am in a beauty pageant is because I know I have to keep myself fit. It is not so much being thin but being healthy and staying toned. I don’t do any dieting nor am I into fad diets. It’s more of a lifestyle thing for me, I eat everything in moderation. I have been going to the gym twice a week for 15 years now where I largely focus on functional body training.”
For Singh, it is important that what she does express the specificity of aesthetics and creativity. “Last year, when I walked the ramp for Melbourne Fashion Week, I wore a see-through dress and I was out there, I felt redemption at that point. I thought this is as high as it can go.”
Besides having the perfect body to hang a brand, she has also appeared in TV shows Neighbours (2017), House Husband (2016, 2017) and a short film The Scar (2014).
In a moment of exasperation, she does admit that there is a difference in the way Indians and non-Indians see her. “You have your own family members who don’t approve of what you are doing, but again does it matter? It doesn’t. As long as I am doing something that keeps me happy, it is completely worth it. That’s the way I see it.”
Singh does one pageant and two international runways in a year, not to mention the local runways that keep her busy. Also being tied to charities and community work such as Teal Wings of Hope, Ovarian Cancer Awareness, FoodBank, Cancer Council of Australia, HeartKids Foundation and Make-a-wish Australia, she is drawn to the commitment to work for good.
Often compared to Naomi Campbell, Singh says it is a big compliment and is grateful to the people who have given her the opportunity to take that first step.
“I have been lucky many times over,” she surmises.
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Chennai-born Sangeetha Singh’s chic is striking, and her beauty is classically ‘exotic’. She admits the epithet ‘exotic beauty’ is how, most often, people from the fashion and glamour world describe her now. #TheIndianSun @indira_laisram https://t.co/Hc7PAMt69y
— The Indian Sun (@The_Indian_Sun) November 2, 2020