Indian American Vaidehi Dongre was crowned Miss India USA for 2021 following a weekend long competition culminating July 18.
The 25-year-old from Troy, Michigan, beat out Arshi Lalani of Georgia, who was named the first runner-up. Mira Kasari, of North Carolina, was the second runner-up in the beauty pageant.
Dongre is a graduate from the University of Michigan and currently works as a business development manager.
“I want to leave a positive lasting impact on my community and focus on women’s financial independence and literacy,” said Dongre, who also won the Miss Talented award for her flawless performance of a Kathak dance. Dongre is pursuing M.A. in Kathak at Bharti Vidyapeeth, Pune.
In an Instagram post shared after her win, Dongre said she “strived to be a role model for young girls” while celebrating her rich South Asian heritage.
She also shared a note of thanks for her directors, her teachers, the other participants of the pageant and, finally, her parents.
“Aai and Baba– the values you inculcated in me and Vineet at such a young age have given me strength in times of hardship and light in times of darkness,” wrote Dongre.
Sixty-one contestants from 30 states participated in three different pageants – Miss India USA, Mrs. India USA, and Miss Teen India USA.
Schoolteacher Swathy Vimalkumar from Connecticut was declared Mrs. India USA 2021. Sonal Dua from North Carolina was named the first runner-up while Sunitha Shambulingappa from Virginia was declared the second runner-up for this title.
Navya Paingol, 17, from Michigan was crowned Miss Teen India USA 2021. Aashna Shah from Florida was the first runner-up while Asees Kaur from Virginia was named the second runner-up for this title.
Winners of all three categories received complimentary tickets to Mumbai to take part in the Miss India Worldwide pageant – also organized by this organization – in October this year.
The pageant was started by New York-based Indian Americans Dharmatma and Neelam Saran, under the banner of Worldwide Pageants, about 40 years ago.
Miss India USA is the longest running Indian pageant outside of India.
This year, the pageant was presented by Yash Pandya, a young corporate professional, and supported by TV Asia and Royal Albert’s Palace. It was a full house with over 500 people in attendance.
Chairman Dharmatma Saran presented an appreciation plaque to Indian actress/model/TV host Diana Hayden for her contributions to pageantry, entertainment, and philanthropy.
“In addition to Bollywood dance and songs on stage, they (contestants) give speeches, do motivational speaking, mono acting, sing popular American songs, hip-hop, paintings,” said Dharmatma Saran. “We are very proud of the fact that we have been able to imbibe Indian values, traditions, cultures and performing arts among Indian origin youth across the world with our motto, ‘bringing India closer.’”
Besides Hayden, who served as the chief judge, other judges for the pageant included Pandya; Satya Shaw, financial advisor; Shree Saini, Miss India Worldwide 2018; Hanisha Alwani, national director of Miss India Sint Maarten; Reshma Dordi, owner of Reshma Beauty; and Hashim Alli, national director of Miss India Guyana.
Mrs. India Worldwide 2019 Tarana Kaur and Mrs. India USA 2020 Shruthi Bekal emceed the final event while Kim Kumari, Miss India USA 2019, and Esha Kode, Miss Teen India Worldwide, were emcees for the preliminaries.
Nishi Bahl was the choreographer who was assisted by Shilpa Jhurani.