Pursuing the Spotlight
and Turning it into a Platform
Undercover (partial) Introvert,
Former Pageant Queen
Ayesha holds ten beauty pageant titles ranging from Miss Pakistan World 2009 where she won the crown as well as the Miss Congeniality title, to Miss Earth Pakistan 2009, and Miss Tourism Queen Pakistan 2009, to Mrs. District of Columbia USA Earth 2016. She has competed in three of the world’s five largest pageants. While competing internationally, she won the only continental title for Pakistan to date, Beauty of Asia 2010. As a model, Ayesha had the opportunity to walk on some of the most well-known ramps around the world including Mercedes Benz New York Fashion Week and China's Qingdao International Fashion Week. She received global recognition for breaking barriers and promoting the empowerment of South Asian women.
But all of this was completely out of Ayesha's comfort zone.
Once upon a time, during what feels like another lifetime, Ayesha embarked upon the unthinkable. She did something that would challenge everything within which she had found comfort up until that point (hello, secret former introvert here!) and joined a beauty pageant competition. The abrupt 180-degree turn was sparked by her desire to prove a point.
Her entire life, she had been told she did not "look" nor "act" to be of Pakistani descent. She had grown up surrounded by people who did not know how tenacious, outspoken and passionate Pakistani women actually are, she thought. Ayesha realized that this was also due to the fact that many of those people also didn't personally know other Americans who looked different than what they were used to seeing. (At the time, there were relatively very few American-born Pakistanis in the United States.) Though looking back, Ayesha hoped that through her interactions with them, hopefully their experiences had been broadened.
Many years later, Ayesha read about an international beauty pageant that aimed to dispel those very misconceptions. Ayesha prepared, competed and ultimately won the competition. Though she had planned the experience to be a one-off, it ended up propelling her down a road of international beauty pageants in which she would act as an ambassador, showcasing what she believed to be an accurate depiction of the modern Pakistani woman.
She was also drawn to the opportunity to spotlight causes she wanted to bring attention to. In a nutshell, she worked to bring attention to her personal goal of practicing and emphasizing kindness and compassion which she felt can root out many issues plaguing society today.
Ayesha also used the opportunity as a way to utilize her passion for changing people's perceptions -- including her own -- through individual interaction. In other words, she was witnessing, living and harnessing the power of storytelling.
She also wanted to overcome her fear of public speaking and being in the spotlight. Sign up to spend four weeks in an unfamiliar country surrounded by strangers (who would soon become your sisters), get flown around to a new city every three days, plopped onto a stage in an arena full of anywhere from hundreds to 16,000 people and have to speak off the cuff to showcase the best of yourself and the country you represent, and you've got yourself an international pageant experience. You've also got yourself the most effective way to overcome stage fright.
It did not come without its tribulations, though. She received death threats by people who believed that she was not representing the religious beliefs of many people of Pakistan. She was ostracized from Pakistani communities who disagreed with her stances on many issues. However, on the flip side, there was no shortage of good. There was also immense support, appreciation, encouragement, recognition, deeper relationships, and profound revelation.
Though she has hung up her tiara in the competition sense, Ayesha credits beauty pageants with having played an important role in her finding her career path, and having provided her with a platform to bring awareness to causes important to her.
Her current aims involve utilizing the community relationships and skill set she has spent years building, including her communications and media backgrounds, and translate them into making a considerable positive impact — namely, to work behind the scenes on a grassroots level to bring about the change she hopes to see in the community.
She has continued to stay involved in pageants as a judge, coach and mentor in order to help other women take advantage of the same benefits of pageants she says helped her. She has worked as both a contracted professional and a volunteer with individuals and reputed pageant organizations including Miss District of Columbia, Miss America, Miss India USA, Miss World America, and Miss Earth United States.