By Ashley Kooblall
Both beauty and brains won out at the first ever Lotus Beauty Pageant as 24-year-old Saleena Ram took home the crown on Sunday, October 8th, 2023. Ariana Singh, 19, and Sindu Harripersaud, 25, secured the first and second runner up positions, respectively.
The historic event organized by talk-show host, Lakshmee Singh, and former Miss India Guyana, Padmini Rambalak, marked the debut of an elevated pageantry highlighting cultural pride and female empowerment.
“The lotus is one of the most beautiful flowers, but it can only blossom in a muddy environment. That’s what so many women go through, and Lotus is here to support these ladies through their stories and hopefully save them from others,” Singh said.
Hundreds of attendees, most notably, Sunil Sitaldin, Ambassador of Suriname, Lisa Narine, Miss Universe Guyana, Ben Parag, Indian Idol star, and Terry Gajraj and Savita Singh, Guyanese chutney artists, amongst others, assembled at Kiss Entertainment with cardboard cutouts and signs of unwavering support for their favorite contestant — all watching in awe as a panel of renowned judges evaluated the delegates on their introduction, evening wear, talent, Indian wear, and interview answers.
Panelists included Nadia Neubert, Seema Saroop, Nigel Rampersaud, Lourdeth Ferguson, and Poonam Singh – all of whom had the difficult task of rating the contestants fairly.
“All of the ladies were worthy of the crown but only one embodied grace, poise, beauty, brains and humbleness,” Judge Rampersaud noted.
Throughout the competition, Saleena’s confidence grew in performance and presence though she had no idea she ranked as top candidate for the Miss Lotus title.
The tense final moments heightened as the seven contestants — Karina Dookie, Hrishtika Thakoer, Sindu Harripersaud, Mohini Shibsahai, Ariana Singh, Saleena Ram and Ashmanie Sukhoo – approached the interview portion, each selecting a judge for their respective question.
The decisive final question was a turning point for Saleena as she responded to: “What advice would you give to young people who want to follow their dreams?”
Without hesitation, Saleena drew upon her experience as a music teacher to the youth, before touching the hearts of many with her reply. “The advice I would give to young people who want to follow their dreams is to believe in yourself,” quoting Malcom X, because “if you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything!”
The crowd roared with applause as auditor, Samantha Embleton ran off to tally up the score. Moments later, Saleena made history as the first Miss Lotus 2023.
Suzan Lal, hidden amongst the audience, cheered for her cousin, [Saleena], thrilled by the excitement but also admitted to praying for her win.
“I can’t begin to describe the happiness that radiated throughout my body seeing her on stage being crowned. It was an experience of a lifetime!”
However, the most endearing moment of the night was not only seeing Saleena crowned but observing her descent from the stage to humbly seek blessings at the feet of her grandmother – her real-life queen.
“To me, my grandmother represents what a true lotus is,” she beamed proudly. “Seeing her face after I won was a prize on its own!”