Miss Nepal 2002 Malvika Subba's private hurdle was learning to strut in high heels. She pursued that with the single-minded determination that she applies to her life. "You have to really believe in what you're doing because if you're unsure then your objective isn't clear. Make a plan for what you want and how you're going to get there. Then go for it."
This 21-year-old set her sights on the Miss Nepal crown when the pageant began in 1994 but waited till she graduated before sending in an application. For a closet feminist ("I know what my rights are and what I want, but I don't go on and on about it."), Malvika thinks beauty pageants "are a positive way to showcase what you are" and nothing annoys her more than airhead stereotypes of beauty queens. She plans to get a degree in mass communication with a little TV presenting on the side, just till she learns enough to work behind the camera.
She dislikes judgmental people, but in the two weeks since being crowned has learned that as a public figure she will be judged. "People expect to see someone petite, graceful and fashionable and if you want to live up to that, you have to try to be perfect. But at the end of the day I'm just normal Malvika," she says. Her family and friends don't treat her any differently. With a small moue she says her mother still monitors her pocket money, doesn't allow too many late nights, too much TV or long phone conversations.
Malvika confesses she wasn't used to the attention. "I'm not enjoying all of it because now, as a public figure, I think before doing things. But I'm taking it in my stride," she says confidently. The highlights of her public appearances have been her fans, young aspiring beauty queens, who ask for autographs and tips. Her advice? "Finish your education because that's really important. Absorb what's happening, read and groom yourself."
Malvika thinks Nepali pageants have a long way to go compared to India where they have become lucrative money-spinners, especially after the success of several Indians at the Miss Universe and Miss World contests. Given the chance, she would like to compete for Miss World and represent Nepal as an "Ambassador of Peace".
"We have to show we want peace and are determined to reclaim what we had before-a peaceful nation where we did not have to live in fear."