Debanjali Kamstra hopes to bring Mrs World to the UAE: 'It was a life-changing experience'

The first-time beauty queen came in second runner-up in the world-renowned pageant

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It all came down to the final three.

Debanjali Kamstra, Jaclyn Stapp and Shaylyn Ford stood on stage in front of dozens of people, thousands more online, as they waited for the judge’s final decision.

Who would be the new Mrs World 2022?

By that point, Kamstra had stopped praying. She knew she had done her best.

It was Ford, whose title was Mrs American, who took the crown, with Stapp as Mrs Jordan World coming in second and Kamstra, the first Mrs UAE World, as second runner-up.

From left: Mrs UAE World Debanjali Kamstra, Mrs World Shaylyn Ford and Mrs Jordan World Jaclyn Stapp. Photos: Mahmoud Marei, Instagram

“It was a very tough competition,” Kamstra tells the The National. “I was not disappointed. For a first-time contestant and a country to be in the pageant for the first time, for them to put me third … I was really happy. I’m still very happy. I’m feeling proud of myself and the UAE.

“I did my best, I promise,” she says, with a laugh.

Kamstra is an Indian architect who runs three businesses in Dubai. She has lived in the UAE for 14 years and formerly worked for Emirates as cabin crew.

“I’m a typical business lady, never done a pageant before, a mother of two children."

The Mrs World pageant, which “celebrates the uniqueness of married women”, began on January 9 in the Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino in the US, culminating in a glitzy final on January 15. In those six days, the beauty queens rehearsed, trained and socialised with each other.

At the final, Kamstra dazzled judges through each round, but particularly in the national costume segment, during which she wowed onlookers in an eye-popping golden, falcon-inspired outfit, designed by Filipino talent Cary Santiago, which won Most Exotic Costume.

Kamstra says there were people who were surprised to hear her name called when the judges announced the top 15, then six and finally three, whereas others had told her they expected her to come out on top.

“I was building up a lot of expectation while people were telling me this,” Kamstra admits. “But once I reached the top three, I was already quite satisfied. When I reached there, I was not praying any more.”

Quote
They are not only looking at your face, they are looking at everything - your behaviour, your etiquette... what you want to do for the world
Debanjali Kamstra, Mrs UAE World

Her next move is to spend a couple of days in Los Angeles, before flying back to Dubai on January 21. Beyond that, she hasn’t decided. “I’m physically and mentally very tired of the whole journey,” she says.

But that doesn’t mean she’s not already considering entering the pageant again next year. “I already know how it works here, I’m kind of trained. Nearer the time, I will be more ready.”

She’s exploring that option and even the possibility of becoming a director for the UAE, where she could encourage and train other women to follow in her footsteps.

“As a businesswoman, that’s my plan. I want to come back to get in touch with government organisations to get approval to do a Mrs UAE World inside the UAE first. I didn’t have a coronation night in the UAE, I was not crowned. That is one of the factors that may have pulled me back.

“The girls I was competing with, they were very well supported. They have been through the pageantry already.”

If she had one piece of advice to impart on any budding beauty queens, it would be this: “Do not try to pretend to be someone else. Be what you are and trust in your own inner values. They are not only looking at your face, they are looking at everything – your behaviour, your etiquette, your interest in trying to become Mrs World, what you want to do for the world.

“Be confident, practice … Be nice to people, be humble, be grateful.”

Kamstra says it’s also important that any contenders are financially stable, as it can be expensive organising everything from gowns to travel out of your own pocket, which has been the case for the first Mrs UAE World, as sponsors are not easy to come by in countries where pageantry is not commonplace.

She doesn’t regret a single minute, though. “It was a life-changing experience,” she says. “I started a new history for the UAE. It was my honour to make the UAE proud.”

Updated: February 01, 2022, 8:54 AM
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