A FIJIAN woman has scooped one of the most prestigious pageant awards in Australia — Mrs India Universe 2014.
Ashleen Chand is a 25-year-old mother-of-three who spent most of her life in Fiji in Nadawa.
Mrs Chand, who now lives in Melbourne, won the competition last week and will soon be travelling to Malaysia to take part in Mrs World Universe — one of the planet's biggest pageant competitions.
"Being married, I lost all the momentum to do something different in my life, but this year I chose a different path to make my life more challenging and be able to do something different and this was an excellent platform to discover myself," Mrs Chand told this newspaper yesterday.
"I was born in Fiji and I stayed in Nadawa and attended high school at DAV College in Nabua. I lived in Fiji for 15 years and then travelled to Australia back in 2005."
The 25-year-old said the competition was one of the most challenging experiences of her life.
"There was so much to learn. I had to go through many rounds to prove myself, we had talent round, resort-wear round, public speaking round and cat walking round.
"During this journey, the challenges made me gain confidence at every level, allowed me to cope with different situations and helped me make friends with wonderful girls."
Mrs Chand hopes to ultimately return to Fiji to open a boutique which specialises in Indian attire as well as host fashion shows.