When they placed the Miss Universe Nepal crown atop her head, Sujita wanted to cry, but she held back. Instead, she took a deep breath and beamed at the audience. From a shy and introvert girl to a woman living her life fully, Sujita Basnet, Miss Universe Nepal 2021, had been preparing for this moment her whole life.
“I always wanted to represent Nepal in an international pageant,” she smiles. Talking about Israel, the country where the finale of Miss Universe is being hosted, Sujita shares her plans. “My main agenda will be to soak up the culture of Israel and of other contestants, as well as exchange my culture. Also the best giving will be to take in different perspectives and opinions and give away our experiences and knowledge,” she mulls.
Born and brought up in the United States, Sujita during her childhood struggled with a mixed culture identity; she recognised later that it has become her greatest strength.
Also in every conversation, Sujita’s family of women tends to take centrestage. In a world that seems to be made for pairs, it takes courage to go it alone and do what is considered the job of a couple: raise a family.
Coming from a family of single women, Sujita shares how single parents navigate many hurdles and learning curves to bring up their children. “When I look back now, it was so beautiful to grow up in an ‘all women’ family: I, my sister, my mother and my grandmother. Three generations of women living life on their own terms. I have seen my mother doing multiple jobs to help the house run,” she says. “I never really had my father by my side and I never craved for it,” she shares.
“A vast majority of single parents in the country — most of them women — go solo due to forced circumstances. People assume that single mothers are bad decision makers, poor caregivers, and even doubt their character,” says Sujita, explaining how this leaves them emotionally distressed.
Coming from a household where financial insecurity existed, it shaped her values of economic independence and the notion of saving and investing.
Sujita recalls her mother’s struggle, working seven days a week. “It was disheartening but taught me a lot. Ever since I also emphasise on being financially stable,” she states. In the past three years Sujita shares that she has been able to pay off all her student loans and invest in a home and gain financial stability. “For me financial security is so important, I never splurge on things that are unnecessary. I think I have a very minimal life,” says Sujita.
Talking about her initial days in pageantry, Sujita says she started in 2011 with ‘Miss Nepal US’ the first pageant held outside Nepal. While in the US, she applied for several pageants such as Miss World America, Miss Eco and others. “In the States participating in pageants is very expensive and I couldn’t afford it,” affirms Sujita. After nine years though, she finally found her calling in Miss Universe Nepal as it was open to NRNs as well.
“I was beyond excited and thrilled when MUN opened the doors for NRNs. It was like a blessing in disguise and felt like a lifetime opportunity,” she smiles.
Living in the United States, Sujita identifies as a Nepali American. “My story used to always be of my two lives and unique identity between different cultures. However, I craved to represent Nepal internationally and this feeling was deeply carved inside me,” Sujita shares.
Living as a migrant, Sujita initially struggled to adapt to the polar opposite cultures of America and Nepal. “There was a period of time when I struggled with social anxiety. I hated interacting with people and even in school. I doubted whether they would like me or not. I had this bubble of insecurities of my appearance and cultural identity,” she shares.
Growing up, she had a hard time figuring out who she was and navigating her cultural identity. She explains, “There were clashing opinions, clashing values because US children are free to make their own decisions and encouraged to explore different things like sexuality, education and so on. Whereas in our Nepali culture there are some things which are looked down upon.”
But Sujita was determined to overcome any obstacle. After entering college, she discovered people from all corners of the world. She explored the diverse races, cultures and traditions, and came to realise that her dual identity makes her unique and more relatable to others. And that became a turning point for her to not only fully accept herself but to also enjoy this diversity.
Sujita grew up wanting to enter the medical field. In high school, she discovered her interest in technology and that is what she pursued. Getting into a male dominated field has been a roller coaster ride, but yet again she is ready to prove her worth and let her work speak for herself.
So, what is the best thing about Sujita? “I live in the moment. Also I think I am very adaptive to different settings. I really appreciate things as they are. I believe such an outlook has made me grounded all of these years,” she says.
On winning Miss Universe Nepal 2021, Sujita feels the responsibility and wants to contribute to rural communities. “I am eager to know about diverse communities we have and experience and understand what life is like outside the valley. I am foreign to the raw Nepal, its different curves, shapes and sizes. Hence, I want to travel to remote areas. I want to live and learn the people’s way of life,” she adds.
Besides work, Sujita loves to travel and hike. “When I was younger, we did not get to travel much or enjoy life due to financial constraints. One of the first things I did after starting to save was to put together a travel fund. Every month or so, I pull on a weekend trip or short hike, or also travel outside the country,” she says.
In the near future, Sujita is planning for her master’s degree and starting an all-women technology consulting firm.
What’s incredible about Sujita is her sheer tenacity. This is the second time that she participated in the Miss Universe Nepal pageant. It was a close call last year when she was announced the first runnerup. Most people would think twice knowing how emotionally and physically demanding it can be, but Sujita came back on stage knowing fully well that her winning was not cut in stone.
As she flies to Israel representing Nepal on a global stage, WOW wishes her all the very best and we know that she will shine.
3 things that you want to do in life
• Making sure that my family is happy and content
• Establish a leadership platform for young girls across the nation
One thing no woman should tolerate
Being told not to speak up
Mantra for success
Do not follow trends, be who you are, and let yourself shine
On the Cover: Sujita Basnet
Photographer: Suzan Shrestha
Style Director & Wardrobe: Tenzin Tseten Bhutia
Interview & Coordinated by: Ankita Jain
Jewellery: Shree Balaji Diamonds
HMUA: Sanu Gurung
Hospitality Partner: The Hyatt Place Kathmandu