Meet Miss India

Nikkitasha Marwaha can do a traditional Indian dance while balancing on a brass plate with a pot of rice on her head. That's not, however, what really makes her unique.

A self-labeled "pageant girl," Marwaha was crowned Miss India Worldwide in Durban, South Africa, in February. Marwaha claims she was not the "skinniest, fairest or tallest" at any competition. "They look at a combination of intelligence, talent and beauty all together, and I think that's why I was lucky to win at all three stages," says Marwaha, who also won Miss India-DC and Miss India USA.

Miss India Worldwide, she explains, is the largest pageant of its kind for Indian girls who don't live in India. It's meant to encourage young women all over the world to engage and participate in Indian culture.

Marwaha, "a dancer at heart," has danced onstage since she was 10. Trained in ballet, tap, hip-hop and Indian classical, she choreographed a fusion dance for the talent portion of the Miss India Worldwide pageant. That's where the balancing on a plate came in.

A sophomore radio/television/film major, Marwaha dances with two fusion dance teams, the Northwestern Bhangra Dance Team and Mirch Masala. Marwaha hopes to someday work in Bollywood, the Indian version of Hollywood. Though she craves a permanent spot on stage, Marwaha says her family and friends keep her grounded.

"I try not to be pretentious about my pageantry," she says. "Humility is very important. I am proud of what I have done, but there's still so much I have to do."

— Elizabeth Weingarten (J10)