Shrinkhala Khatiwada is a charming conversationalist, and she carries the ideals of leading a life of purpose; one that will make a difference in the world.
Miss Nepal World 2018, Shrinkhala Khatiwada is confident, poised and charming. A fierce undercurrent of intelligence and independence runs through our conversation with the young architect who is determined to explore every facet of her talents to ensure that she experiences the world fully and makes a difference.
She is the second Miss Nepal to win the Beauty with a Purpose Award and secure a place in the Top 12 of Miss World 2018. At a time where pageants are increasingly viewed as vapid, Shrinkhala proves that the ‘beauty with brains’ declaration is indeed authentic, and that the crown stands for much more than just a ticket to stardom.
In a candid conversation with Shrinkhala Khatiwada about her personal evolution, we learn more about what drives her and what are her interests. Excerpts:
What were you like as a child and did you always aspire to become Miss Nepal?
I was not always inspired to become a Miss Nepal. However I was always drawn towards the pageant and as a young girl I remember sitting in front of the TV and answering the final questions as I watched it live. But I never felt confident enough or capable to win a title. As I grew up I developed confidence and once I felt very ready that I might even have a shot at winning the title, that was the point I actually decided to go for it.
As a young girl, I was pretty social. I could gel with people easily and I feel like communication is my strongest aspect. I could communicate with people of any age. I was mature for my age, had a good understanding and I could listen to people. Apart from that I was very quiet. I wasn’t a troublemaker.
Why didn’t you choose acting and modelling as the next step after the pageant? There must have been plenty of opportunities.
I think that people should do things that they are interested in. And for some reason I never found an interest in acting or even in modelling. Modelling was something that I did as an important part of being Miss Nepal. I continue it right now as brand endorsements but it’s just limited to that. I feel like I could excel better in my field of choice which is architecture or even social work. I don’t find myself at ease in acting or modelling. That’s one of the major reasons I didn’t choose it. Time is precious and life is short so why waste time on things that you’re not comfortable doing, not confident about, or that you can’t excel at. Honestly, I didn’t receive a lot of acting offers. A few here and there but since I made my stance pretty clear about me not being interested in acting, I think I pushed them away after my first interview as Miss Nepal (laughs).
How do you select brand endorsements?
The first thing that I see is if it is ethical and right for me to promote it. You’d not see me promoting alcoholic beverages, cigarettes or things that have adversely been harming the environment and if there are better alternatives for the products I would not endorse it. I would not endorse companies that push certain beauty standards such as skin whitening. I have my own moral standards that I have created for myself. The brands need to fit outside of it and fit into my moral standards. Secondly, I try the product if possible. Different brands have different user experiences but I try to use it myself before committing to a brand.
What are some of the lies women are fed about beauty standards?
Beauty standards keep on changing just like fashion, there are trends about body features. Sometimes Aryan features are trending, sometimes Mongolian, sometimes thick and sometimes thin body is considered beautiful. It’s impossible to follow through with these beauty standards. We often fall into these lies and stress ourselves and lose confidence over it. Slowly but surely people have started embracing beauty as diversity and beauty in diversity. We have started to accept that beauty comes in all shapes, sizes, colours and age. We are definitely falling out of it but this is one of the biggest lies women are fed about beauty standards.
Your ‘Beauty with a Purpose’ video won hearts globally as it focused around the Chepang community in Kailash Rural Municipality. How connected are you with the people there?
I recognise people with their faces and names and they recognise me. Whenever I am there I feel like I am home and it’s my own place and the people that I meet and interact with feel like family there. The health post that I built with the support of Nepali people from around the globe is running under the municipality and is serving more than 5,000 people as we speak at the moment. We plan on expanding and adding a staff quarter. The landscaping was halted due to lack of funding and resources but we plan to revive it as soon as the lockdown is over.
What is the biggest misconception people have about you?
I am soft spoken, naturally I am that way. People might associate that with being weak but I feel like I am pretty strong mentally if not physically.
What moves you?
I think what moves me is being true to myself. Doing the things that my heart wants to do and not falling into the pressure of opinions or what’s trending or judgments. I have grown very mature with the way I approach things in the past few years since I became Miss Nepal. I felt like I was spread out too thin but now I am more focused on the causes.
If you could offer your 20 year old self a piece of advice, what would it be?
I would ask her to take things lightly and live like a 20 year old and not take the burden of the world upon her shoulders. I would ask her to be more confident and be positive about her body image. To love herself and to accept that imperfections are natural. To accept that I am beautiful, abled and I can do things even if I’m imperfect because that’s the beauty of who we are, that our uniqueness, that makes us standout and do not fall prey to the unrealistic ideals of beauty. As a 20 year old, I remember I had suffered a lot with body positivity issues and I could not love myself as much as I should have.
How do you cope with fear of failure?
Failure is one of the biggest fears that I have in life. Over the years I have learnt to accept the failures by redefining them because there is no terminal of failure. One failure does not mean you’re going to fail forever. You have a long life ahead of you and failures are just stepping stones for success. If you redefine it this way, I think it’s very easy to learn from your failures and to excel at everything you do once you stand up stronger.
Coming from a political family, do you have any plans to step in politics?
Not right now but never say never (chuckles). Not right now and not anytime soon that’s for sure.
Have you been able to do justice to both your passions – architecture and becoming a role model?
I am still growing up and learning new things, architecture is something that I am still a beginner at. I am still confident about my skills as an architect but I haven’t had enough opportunities and haven’t given much time professionally to prove myself as a good architect. So, I haven’t done justice yet either as an architect or a role model. One of the major aspects of being a role model is being consistent and I have a long life ahead of me so that can only be decided then.
As an architect, do you feel frustrated seeing the haphazard urban designs? Do you believe architects should be socially responsible in their work?
I definitely have a lot of frustration which is one of the many reasons I chose urban design for my graduate degree. And not just architects but every profession needs to be socially responsible. No matter if you work for a corporate private firm or if you work with social activists, we all have social responsibility. Everyone is offering in his/her capacity and many are shaping the society. Architects are not just shaping the city but we are shaping lives and experiences and we are contributing to social justice, equality, environment and climate change. We should not take architecture lightly as just beauty or just things that we see. Our designs are shaping lives and it’s very important to feel that consciousness whenever we design something.
Tell us more about Gaatha and Vriksha Foundation
Gatha is a private architecture design and construction firm which I co-founded with some of my colleagues. We believe in socially conscious design which are timeless and a statement. We want to build Gatha as a firm that makes an identity of its own and inspires other architects to be more responsible towards their designs. The reason we named it Gaatha is because we feel like architecture design has so many stories to tell and it creates stories for the future generation. It is a sort of contribution that we want to make to add depth, meaning and stories to architecture.
Vrikshya Foundation is a non-profit that I am a part of. The team led by Milan Rai along with more than 50 volunteers, have been working towards building and creating more green public spaces in and around Kathmandu Valley. We are starting off with Lalitpur where four of our parks are under construction. We have already built one tiny pocket park in Lalitpur. And one large community skill park is budding up in Kathmandu. We see the future of Kathmandu needs to be shaped right now and Vrikshya Foundation is our way to contribute towards that.
When are you heading to Harvard? What are your plans during and after the course?
Hopefully the first week of August. My plan in Cambridge is just to focus on studies and learn new things, restart my life as a beginner, as an average student. I miss being average. I am not saying I’m above average in Nepal but in terms of being recognised or having privacy. I really miss living life as a normal girl that I was before Miss Nepal happened. I am really looking forward to having that life for at least two-three years when I’m there.
Plans for marriage…
Not any time soon, at least not for the coming two years while I am studying. I haven’t planned anything, let’s see how things unfold.
Photographer: Suzan Shrestha
Interview & Coordinated by: Ankita Jain
Stylist: Ariri by Abinash Shrestha
MUA: Suman Lama
Wardrobe: Inspire by Antee Gurung
Jewelry: Si by Sichu Khairgoli
Hospitality Partner: Kantipur Temple House