Local student named Miss India USA for 2017

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Charles H. Featherstone/Columbia Basin Herald Moses Lake High School graduate and University of Washington student Shree Saini, 21, was named Miss India USA in mid-December.

MOSES LAKE — Shree Saini finds competing in pageants “a big spiritual thing.”

“I ask myself — how do you want to be a positive role model?” said the 21-year-old University of Washington student.

But Saini has been on the stage, front and center and in the spotlight, for as long as she can remember.

“Since before she knew what a stage was,” said her mother, local business woman Ekta Saini.

A week before Christmas, it paid off when Saini was crowned Miss India USA at a pageant held in Fords, N.J. The competition, which is just one of many to crown “Miss Indias” among the worldwide Indian diaspora, makes Saini eligible to compete for the Miss India World competition in 2018.

And also imposes a fairly rigorous year-long travel and speaking schedule, with at least 100 appearances, Saini said, including charity events and other activities across the United States and abroad.

“I’m doing what I can do,” Saini said, noting that she has long been a passionate advocate for children and young people who are bullied in school. “Telling about my journey to help other students who might be going through tough times.”

The pageant, which began in 1974 as a fashion show, is for “girls of Indian origin, between the ages of 17 to 27, never married and living in the USA,” according to the Worldwide Pageants website, which sponsors the Miss India competitions worldwide.

“I have a platform bigger than a national title,” Saini said. “I represent two of the most diverse countries in the world, India and the United States.”

“I will be celebrating both countries,” she added.

In fact, Saini will be heading to Dallas, Texas, later this week for her first title-related event. And there’s even talk of putting her interest in acting and dancing to work in Bollywood, the center of India’s film industry.

Whatever opportunities present themselves, Saini still sees the purpose of her life as one of helping people realize their dreams and feel better about themselves.

“I want to lead a life of service, to give back on a daily basis, and help people reach their potential,” she said.

Charles H. Featherstone can be reached via email at countygvt@columbiabasinherald.com.

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