“Financial independence is the best form of empowerment”: Debanjali Kamstra – News

Ms. UAE World explains why being multi-hyphenated and female aren’t mutually exclusive and how pageants endorse this

Debanjali Kamstra with her husband Christiaan Kamstra and her children Tiffany and Victoria Kamstra

Published: Thu Jan 27 2022 11:39 PM

The roots of the Mrs World title date back to 1984, when it became the first-ever beauty pageant for married women, sparking a revolutionary shift in perspective towards married women. This meant that a woman’s wedding day no longer meant the culmination of her individuality, dreams and aspirations, that a woman, even after marriage, could have aspirations and be ambitious.

Serving as the biggest marriage contest, after 38 years of existence, Ms. World International saw 35-year-old Debanjali Kamstra become the first-ever contestant to represent the UAE on the world stage, becoming Ms. UAE World. On January 15, the Dubai-based entrepreneur and mum-of-two ranked among the top three contestants for Mrs World 2022, becoming the second runner-up.

Although she didn’t end up wearing the crown, Kamstra replaced 57 other competitors to advance to the final three. “I already felt so happy and satisfied to have even reached this level. At the end of the day, everyone wants the crown. But it’s the judges’ decision. They have certain things they want to focus on during the course. of the year, so it’s all about who fits the role best,” says Kamstra. It was Shaylyn Ford, Mrs America, who ultimately won the competition, crowned by reigning Mrs World Ireland, Kate Schneider. .

“My company is my first baby”

Originally from Kolkata, India, Kamstra has resided in the United Arab Emirates for over 13 years now. “India gave birth to me, but the UAE adopted and nurtured me,” says the pageant holder who came to the UAE as an Emirates cabin crew more than 20 years ago. ten years. “The country has given a platform not only to me, but to several people, to fulfill their dreams.”

Two years after moving, Kamstra gave up his career in aviation hospitality to start his own interior design company, Veloche, which quickly became a key player in the industry. “I started my business in 2011, when I was unmarried and had no children. My business is my first baby. I was more concerned about Veloche when I decided to go get Mrs World. I’m really a businessman,” says Kamstra.

At 24, the entrepreneur would present himself as the manager of the company and not the founder. “Many of our clients work in the construction industry, which has traditionally been male-dominated. I thought that if I told them that I am the main responsible, they would doubt our ability to manage projects and would not take me seriously. Now, 11 years later, Kamstra is proud to be the CEO of her company.

“I had to change business cards several times (laughs). We started with four employees and now we have over a hundred team members. We also expanded into other areas and opened a branch in the UK,” says Kamstra, who is an architect by profession. “Now when I look back, I wonder if I could have started a business in India? I do not think so.

beauty in unity

Although he is not an Emirati, Kamstra has not been shy about representing the UAE internationally. But his initiative also drew some criticism on social networks. “If you check Facebook, you’ll see a lot of comments asking why am I representing the UAE when I’m not from here. But the question is, has anyone stopped others from applying? UAE consist of so many expatriates and so many diverse cultures.The nation is also growing with the commitment of all these nationalities coming together and making the UAE their home.It is also the essence of being “united,” she added.

“When I applied, there were no beauty pageants in the UAE. There is no central body that governs Ms UAE here. I was nominated by the organization Mrs World, which m ‘chosen Mrs UAE World as a pioneer,” says Kamstra. “Most countries are represented in Mrs World International, so why not the United Arab Emirates when it’s such a beautiful country with so many beautiful people.” As part of this venture, Kamstra plans to create a local organization that can groom and train interested women for the competitions, facilitating the mentorship she lacked.

Put a crown on it!

Coming from a conservative-minded, middle-class family, Kamstra never saw the spotlight or had the privileges she enjoys now, as a successful businesswoman and pageant-holder. “Coming from India, we watched people like Sushmita Sen, Lara Dutta, Priyanka Chopra, so there was always a voice that said, ‘You should do something like this too.’ But growing up, I never thought I would actively pursue it,” says the 35-year-old entrepreneur.

So what led to Kamstra’s pursuit of the crown? “After my second pregnancy, I had gained a lot of weight. I lost 30 kilos in two years. Many people still came to me and acknowledged that I had continued to work on myself even after the pregnancy. This wasn’t that I had to lose weight. Beauty isn’t defined by body shape, but each individual can have their own preferences,” she says.

“When I was single, I was almost in the same shape as now. It was my own initiative to get fitter again. I started exercising for the first time after the birth of my second as a child and I started liking it. Every time I met other women, mothers too, they wondered how I got there, having children and running my own business,” Kamstra says. is then that I thought to myself, why wouldn’t I do something that would give a crown to my accomplishments?”

Are contests obsolete?

While beauty pageants are widely celebrated, there have also been arguments in recent years that view the idea of ​​women coming together to compete for a crown – judged, by and large, for their looks – as regressive and redundant. But does the same argument apply to marriage contests? Or could it be a way for married women to take back their diminished agency?

“You can be a wife, a mother, a daughter, a businesswoman and enter a beauty pageant. There’s no excuse for saying, “I’m busy, I can’t work on myself” or “Now that I’m married, my life is over,” says Kamstra. “I can only speak about Mrs World as I haven’t participated in any other pageant. There is no monetary gain in this pageant. So what motivates a woman to go that far to participate? “It’s quite an expensive process. Is it just to be in the limelight? That you can even pay for and it will be much cheaper for you. It’s a very intense physical and mental exercise,” he adds. -she.

There can be many reasons to enter a contest, according to Kamstra. “First, you challenge yourself to see if you have what it takes. Second, you’re not just here as yourself, you’re representing the whole country. When they asked me why I wanted to be Mrs. World I said at the age of 35 I was successful in my business my husband and kids love me but I felt like I didn’t given back to society. Becoming Mrs World would give me the platform to do that,” she mentions. As part of its advocacy, Kamstra also aims to advance the determined people in the country and make the world a more inclusive place.

But do strong, financially independent women still need a show to make a meaningful contribution to society? “Whenever you want to do something in life, you always need a push. You want to prove something to yourself and others around you. When you enter a competition, you can prove certain things and streamline opportunities for yourself. It gives you a platform to make your voice louder,” Kamstra replies.

“We manage to show people that yes, we are beautiful, yes, we are smart, we have confidence in ourselves and we always want to contribute to society. It’s not just those who work for non-profit organizations. We are all responsible,” she said.

Can women have it all?

Kamstra thinks women need to come forward and tell society, “This is what we want to do.” When asked if she’s been judged for her choices as a wife and mother, she adds, “People will judge you, but it’s up to you what to take and what to throw away.” The problem is when we judge ourselves. You don’t have to worry about what people think of you unless they are your source of income or your financial service provider. For women, financial independence is the best form of empowerment.

While motherhood can be quite an all-consuming feat, Kamstra believes it’s important to maintain a healthy balance and prioritize self-care. “As long as you give your kids quality time, it’s more important than the amount of time. Spending all day with your children and not being able to achieve your dreams is sacrificing a large part of your life. To be a better person, you have to be happy inside,” says Kamstra, adding that her husband’s support has been instrumental.

Family-wise, Kamstra admits she was blessed to have a family that truly understands her dreams and aspirations. The Indian entrepreneur is married to Christiaan Kamstra, a South African, who is also part of his interiors business. “My husband has always believed in me. He knew I would come back with some glory,” she adds. “My family lives with me in Dubai and helps me take care of my children. So all of this is factored into the decisions that I am able to make,” says Kamstra.

But should a woman have it all? “We don’t have to do everything, but the question is: can you do it? The answer is yes. If you want to do it, then you can. No one should tell you, ‘You have done so much, so that’s enough.’ There is not enough,” says Kamstra. The deeper and more complicated challenge, perhaps, then remains to know what one wants. Many women may not have the answer and many may not be empowered enough to figure it out. And those who know — risk getting lost in translation.

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