Debanjali Kamstra, the first Mrs UAE World, has begun her journey to the US in time for the Mrs World 2022 pageant to commence.
Kamstra, who is from India, but has lived in Dubai for the past 13 years, was invited by the US organisers of the global pageant in September to be the UAE representative. She will be among 72 contestants competing for the crown, which the organisation says “celebrates the uniqueness of married women”.
Kamstra arrived with her husband in New York City on Tuesday, to begin a week-long holiday in the Big Apple, followed by a few days in Las Vegas, where the globally renowned competition begins on January 9, culminating in a finale on January 15.
“I have three businesses in the UAE, two beautiful children, so I’m a busy and mentally stressed person. I felt I needed a little bit of a break before the pageant,” Kamstra tells The National from New York. “I want to be 100 per cent focused on the pageant.”
Kamstra and her husband plan to do a bit of sightseeing over the next 10 days, as well as promoting her adopted country to the people she meets. “The more I talk, the more people will be aware of the participation of UAE.”
Once she arrives at Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino, where the pageant is taking place, the schedule is full on, she says.
“There will be a number of orientations, over 70 participants are coming. On the second day Mrs World will take us on a city tour, then we’ll have rehearsals, breakfast orientations, there will be three dinners.”
She says during this process she hopes to “build a sisterhood” with the rest of the participants, and has even had gifts for each and every one of them shipped to the venue ahead of time. “It’s a little Burj Al Arab ornament with a beach around it, just a small memento.”
She also plans to give a gift to the founder of the venue on behalf of the UAE, but all she’ll say right now is that it’s “falcon related”, as she's chosen the falcon as a theme to represent her country in the pageant. Her national costume, which has been created by Filipino designer Cary Santiago, is also "falcon inspired".
“I’m so excited,” she says. “I’m very nervous as well. I don’t have any guidance. No one had done this before me.
“I’m very proud to represent the UAE. Not a single time do I feel like an expat. I believe patriotism doesn’t come from anywhere except from within. This country has helped me grow from a small child to a mature woman, so it’s time for me to give back to the country.
“That’s the only thing I have in my heart.”
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 Christiaan Kamstra in 2012, and the couple live in Dubai with their two daughters, Victoria, 6, and Tiffany, 5, both of whom are spending this time at home with Kamstra's parents.
Kamstra told The National in an earlier interview that the fact she's not a UAE citizen is not an issue for the organisers.
Since the public voting for Mrs World 2022 opened, she’s received a lot of support. “I’m now number three in Mrs World as per the voting.”
The top 15 will move on within the competition.
"Sending me to the top 15 will be such a great message to the world about the UAE's inclusivity and diversity," she told The National previously. "We've recently celebrated 50 years as a nation and have achieved such great things, and this will remind everyone about the country's open-mindedness and welcoming nature.”
As part of her campaign for the pageant, Kamstra has chosen various lines of advocacy work to get involved with, including those for children with autism, people of determination and encouraging female leadership.
To reflect her affinity to the UAE, she’s also chosen to focus on the colours red and gold in her outfits. “I believe the UAE is known for its luxury and richness, and it’s known for its gold. Red is in the flag and it resembles its power, as I’m also a woman of power.
“I will do my level best to represent the country in a beautiful way.”