HALL OF FAME: NISHA AALIYA
Nisha Aaliya: Semi-Finalist, Miss England 2016
With naturally flawless features and a dancer’s physique, Nisha took her chances in the world of beauty pageants. Since then she’s modelled for major campaigns, elevated her career as a dancer and is now gearing up to work full-time in the world of acting. Here she shares her inspiring tale of how she went from IT Worker, to being a Semi-Finalist in Miss England.
What inspired you to enter a beauty pageant?
I grew up watching Miss World, I loved the glamour and prestige, it looked so fun but I never thought you could be one of those people who are actually selected for it, that just seemed like a dream. Then one day on my social media feed I saw an opportunity pop up to enter Miss London. Initially I thought ok this sounds fun but it wasn’t until I thought about it more that I decided I would do it. I recognised that it was a platform to raise the profile of Asian women in London so I applied but was initially turned down as I was above the age limit.
How did you overcome that hurdle?
I completely understood why I couldn’t enter but I was still pleased I had tried. I carried on with perfecting my dancing which involved training in all kinds of styles at Pineapple Dance Studio. Then a year later the organisers of Miss London called me up and said they loved my look and explained they had extended the age for entrants and they really wanted me to apply.
I was thrilled – I was in my mid-20s and this showed me it’s not too late to follow your dreams, even though it sometimes feels like younger girls get all the opportunities. So I went for it and was awarded the title of Miss Hippodrome. That gave me an automatic entry into Miss England as a Semi-Finalist, in the same way that winning Miss Asian Face of Miss England can fast-track you to the Miss England finals, which was a dream come true.
How did you prepare for Miss England?
There is a lot of preparation involved but it was all really fun. First of all I needed to find a sponsor which I found easily through contacts I made at Miss London and that was a hair extension company called Hair and Now who I also modelled for. But the aspect I wasn’t expecting was the physical demands and not just with practicing my walk!
For one of the rounds we were asked to wear an outfit that was either vintage, or to make our own from recycled materials. This was a chance to get creative so I designed a dress which was made from plastic bags and CDs, it certainly got me noticed.
Then for the evening gown round I wore a white dress with a long trail that looked almost like a wedding dress. I chose it because white goes so well with Asian skin tones and I wanted to show how versatile we can be which is important in the world of modelling. My own background is unique. I was born in Holland so identify with being Dutch but my ethnic origin is Indian and Burmese, so for me, I wanted to represent just how special it is to be Asian and to show we are able to wear anything and look amazing!
What was it like behind-the-scenes at Miss England?
So much fun! All the girls has so much soul and energy. Backstage everyone was relaxed. We were playing music and posed for selfies with each other, nothing like how you may expect a bunch of beauty queens to behave. I made so many friends who I’m still in touch with.
What are your memories from the day?
Gosh I remember it being incredibly glamorous – I’ve never seen so many beautiful dresses in my life. I remember the huge stage and all the lights and just how stunning every girl looked. It was such a special event and I feel so honoured to have been part of it, so overall it’s a memory that will stay with me forever.
How did being involved in Miss England change your life?
It opened up doors that I didn’t expect. I was contacted by photographers asking me to model which led to being involved in some amazing collaborations. I’ve starred in a Microsoft Window 10 commercial, have featured in a Tamil movie and most exciting of all, walked the ramp for a Designer at London Fashion Week.
Have you made any changes to your life since you began modelling?
I’ve always been fit and healthy but it’s a priority now to stay that way. Dancing is an excellent way to keep fit, it’s so much fun but I also go to the gym as it’s a great way to build stamina. I usually eat salads at lunchtime and a lot of protein. My beauty regime is one of my biggest expenses but that’s my investment in myself. I’d rather have amazing skin that doesn’t need much make-up rather than spending money on cosmetics so I invest in quality skincare products.
Why is The Asian Face of Miss England such an important contest?
When I was a Semi-Finalist for Miss England there was just a handful of Asian girls taking part. I stand for women’s independence and encouraging women to succeed in living the life they want so I’m really pleased with the way this contest shows that we too can stand for England and become ambassadors of this country with a strong presence and a strong voice.
What are the most important characteristics you need to enter a pageant?
From my own experience I’d say self-assurance is key. You must have the confidence to believe in yourself – it’s not easy but once you’ve realised that you will feel so much more focused on your goals. Being involved will also boost your confidence immensely and that’s once of the reasons I encourage you to enter.
Another aspect to be aware of is that you must genuinely be compassionate. The charity element of pageants is hugely important. All entrants and winners are involved in everything from raising money to visiting sick children so you have to be a people person and care about others.
What’s next for you, a year on from being a Semi-Finalist for Miss England?
I’ve been working part-time in my IT job and part-time as a professional dancer but now I’m about to go full-time with the dancing and acting, which for me is living the dream. As a role model in the creative field, I want to inspire the confidence and self-assurance in encouraging girls to explore their talents allowing them to flourish in the creative industry.
I’m a huge fan of Priyanka Chopra and I admire the way she transformed her life from being crowned Millenium Miss World to becoming an internationally successful actress so I’d love to follow in her footsteps. I’ve just been cast as the Lead Actress in a Bollywood Musical Theatre show which is touring the UK so 2017 is set to be the most exciting year of my life so far.