She's Chennai's entry for Miss India


YOU WOULD expect beauty queens to starve before the biggest day of their lives. But Chennai's entry for this year's Pond's Femina Miss India contest is on a self-confessed binge — chocolates and ice cream.

"I went to O2 two months ago and thought I'd just tone my body," says Shamshad. "They were all so charged up and excited that I was going for Miss India that they made me lose weight and now, people are telling me I'm thin. My jeans are falling off my hip. So, after all that training, I'm like `Man, I need energy,'" she laughs.

Since she was crowned Miss South India 2002, there has been no stopping Shamshad, who at 20, is a veteran of TV commercials including the Mirinda advertisement featuring Vivek, Harpic, Chennai Silks, Hero Honda Passion and hoardings around the city.

Unlike the Miss India stereotypes that come to mind, Shamshad is refreshingly unrehearsed, casual and reasonably confident on the eve of her Mumbai trip for the Miss India grind from March 2 to March 27. So how did she prepare for the question and answer rounds? "No proper training as such. Just went to a friend's place to come up with possible questions and answers." She rattles off a dozen questions usually put to contestants and comes up with answers, which have the keywords — confidence, optimism, and determination — sprinkled all over.

After passing out from the Muslim Women's Association school, near New College, Shamshad graduated in Commerce from the Madras University. "My Dad's a Central Government employee. He's a senior audit officer. So I thought I'll follow him. Besides, the whole of my generation of cousins studied Commerce. So even I did Commerce," is the candid explanation. Modelling happened "by chance" and Shamshad has had assignments two or three days a week in this city, which she says, has enough work to offer. How is her family reacting? "My Dad's not too excited but he's supportive." Designers Sidney SS, Chaitanya Rao, Richa, Rehane, Aruna Rau and Tina Vincent are pepping up her wardrobe.

Next stop, acting? "No, not acting. But I want to do modelling for two years. I want to do a Masters in Human Resources. But right now, I'm focussed on the contest," says Shamshad.

From Sudhish Kamath in Chennai.