It’s a good time to be a beauty queen in the UAE. Following the historic announcement earlier this month that the UAE will be sending its first contestant to the Miss Universe pageant, a Dubai entrepreneur and mother-of-two will soon make history as the first to represent the Emirates at another global competition: the Mrs World contest.
Debanjali Kamstra, 35, an Indian businesswoman who’s called the UAE home for the past 13 years, will be among 72 contestants who compete for the crown, which the organisation says “celebrates the uniqueness of married women”.
To be held in Las Vegas in January, Kamstra says she was taken aback by the enthusiastic response she received from the organisers in September.
Scroll through the gallery above for more images of Mrs UAE World Debanjali Kamstra.
“It was a friend who encouraged me to apply,” she tells The National. "I immediately got a call back from Mrs World saying they were surprised because no one from the UAE had ever applied before. We then did a couple of rounds of interviews before I was told I'd been selected as Mrs UAE World.
“They understand the UAE and that so many expatriates call it home. So, me not being a citizen was not an issue for them,” she says. “Also, our UAE leaders have made it very clear that everyone living here should consider this as their country and their home. So that encouraged me.”
A former cabin crew with Emirates airline, Kamstra is also an architect and opened her first interior design business, Veloche, in Dubai a decade ago. She has since started two more companies, one selling home interiors and the other dealing in healthy snacks and drinks.
She married her husband, Christiaan, in 2012 and the couple live in Dubai with their two daughters, Victoria, 6, and Tiffany, 5.
While the world of modelling and beauty pageants are new to her, Kamstra says she's confident she’ll make a great representative for the UAE.
“I am a self-made woman. I run three companies, have two beautiful children, a great husband and I am proud to be living in this country,” she says.
“I am still struggling to get my catwalk right though," she adds, laughing.
Because there has never been a Mrs UAE World before, Kamstra says her preparations for the contest have been entirely self-funded.
“We are in talks with fashion designers who can help me with the dresses. I have also started coaching myself in the history of the UAE and also everything from make-up to posture, diction and general knowledge.
“I am also doing a lot of social work, because that’s an important element of the pageant. My focus will be working with people of determination, which is also something our leaders take very seriously."
Kamstra says she is still looking for assistance from people experienced in beauty pageants to guide her for the Mrs World pageant.
“Other countries have a body or organisation that selects representatives and groom them for such competitions. We don’t have any here in the UAE so it will be nice to get some help,” she says.
When it was announced earlier this month, Miss Universe UAE, which will send a representative to the global pageant, received thousands of applications in the first hour, crashing the organiser’s website.
On Friday, 300 aspiring beauty queens including Emiratis attended the first audition in Dubai for a chance to make pageant history.
The Mrs World contest has been held since 1984. Cancelled this year owing to the pandemic, the pageant made global news in April when title holder Caroline Jurie resigned amid controversy surrounding a crown-snatching incident at a Sri Lankan beauty contest. Kate Schneider from Ireland, the first runner-up, was named the new Mrs World 2020.
Kamstra says she would like to be a part of setting up an organisation that would send participants from the UAE to the Mrs World competition.
“I would love to take that opportunity to help other contestants in the future. I am already an entrepreneur. I have the leadership and mentoring skills and I would love to do it,” she says. “Maybe after I bring the [Mrs World] crown home.”
For now, her sights are firmly set on being the “perfect representative of the UAE” in Las Vegas come January.
“It’s like going to the Olympics and representing an entire country. So my shoulders are quite heavy right now. It’s a lot of pressure,” she says.
“I want the UAE to shine. It’s a lot of responsibility but I am quite confident I can do it. This is a competition not of an individual, but a nation. So I need support from my country to stand beside me, to cheer for me and for the UAE."