Giving back to Society

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By 2017-10-15

By Shanith Fernando

Over the last two decades, I have seen many fashion models, be they Miss, Mrs. or Mr. Sri Lankas. Some manage to linger, while many appear and disappear into thin air quicker than they wear their tiara or the sash. Only a handful remains to make an impact in society or their respective career fields. I have always pondered as to why today, Sri Lanka has lost its glamour, elegance and the true meaning of fashion modelling and pageantry. As an ex Mr Sri Lanka, when I look back at my short-lived, less than an year reign, I reflect upon my personal motto of being 'self-giving and magnanimous' and find another Miss Sri Lanka for Miss Universe in 2005, Mrs. Rozanne Diasz. After thirteen long years of her reign, she is still continuing her legacy of a true Miss Sri Lanka by focusing on giving back to society. What a pleasure to sit down with her amidst our busy schedules to have that little chit chat about her new venture.

Rozanne, what is this event - Purple Fashionista and how did it materialize?

A: Shanith, it all came about with my two school mates Lankika and Sonali. The three of us always wanted to do something more for society. It's been 20 years since we left school and we decided to get together to do something far more meaningful than to distribute dry rations or clothes to those affected by floods in Matara. With our determination to do something permanent and long lasting, the three of us ventured to Matara. It was there we decided to build a house for one of the families affected by the floods.

We met the Grama Sevaka of the Dematahettigoda 340 C Grama Seva Vasama and with their kind assistance we were able to locate a family that needed our help. This family has two kids aged 7 and 3 years. They live in dire poverty today as they have lost all their possessions.

"My heart sank when I saw their situation," shares Rozanne. "Today they live in a shack without any basic means of survival. This is the harsh reality of our fellow brothers and sisters today in our country."

It is that initiative that gave me a chance to think as to how I could use my expertise and network in the fashion industry to bring about a fund raiser for this gigantic project. Hence, Purple Fashionista came into being.

What do you promise to give your audience on 29 October at Kingsbury Hotel from Purple Fashionista?

A: The veteran fashion guru Michael Wijesuriya will take centre stage as the main designer. He will also style a Sarita Saree Segment while Nadeeka Perera, our well known Miss Sri Lanka and a fashion designer and a concept developer, will show case her brand new collection. The men's segment will be covered by Jump retail store. There will also be a surprise. To give you a little hint, senior beauticians including veterans like Ramzi are promising spectators a laughter filled skit. A photo booth to look glamorous and funky, a variety of stalls and lots of games are on the agenda. I promise you a day filled with fun and fashion. I could say that it will be a morning full of fun and fashion on 29 October 2017 9.00 am to 1.00 pm; a day not to be missed.

Rozanne, even before the initiative of Purple Fashionista, I see on social media that you have already commenced construction. Share with our readers, a bit about the arduous preparations?

A: Yes, you are correct. Construction has already begun with the generosity of many who are willing to lend a helping hand. We have already circulated some raffle tickets. We aim to continue this service to many more families and this is our stepping stone.

Living in a very commercialized society, where almost every decision of individuals is influenced by monetary gains, I hear many have come forward to give you their assistance free of charge. What do you have to say about this?

A: Yes, Shanith, many of my friends Like Michael, Nadeeka, Prashan and even the models have come forward to work free of charge to support my worthy cause. I am really indebted to them for their generosity, care and kindness.

Why choose a coffee morning and not a gala dinner for this event?

A: It is because coffee mornings are fading away and back in the day, we had more coffee morning shows than any other fashions show. As models, we earned from coffee mornings monthly. Since this trend of coffee mornings is fading away, I thought it would be a good opportunity to revive that old successful concept and bring back into business, while embarking on our own personal journey of raising funds to build a home for this helpless family.

Rozanne, while we wrap up this chit chat, what is your advice to today's aspiring models and beauty pageant contestants?

A: I think for the past 20 years, I have done enough for the fashion and pageantry industry of my country. As an ex Miss Sri Lanka, I opened many avenues to aspiring models and fashion lovers to reap the benefits of this industry. I ran my modelling school for 8 long years as a non-profit organization and ensured the success of many of my students. Many studied free of charge and I am happy when I see them go places. Beyond my contribution to the fashion industry of Sri Lanka, my ultimate goal was always to do much more to society.

When I took part in the pageant in Thailand in 2005, about 40 Sri Lankans came to support me. I will never forget that moment in my life. My strength, support and encouragement were our local spectators. During my phase as a Miss Sri Lanka there were a maximum of two to three beauty pageants held in Sri Lanka. Therefore, the prestige, glamour and elegance were more and the attention we got was undivided during the entire reign.

To the youngsters, I can say that the preparation process is arduous. I was a model 9 years before I entered the pageant industry. I was a serious model and I had a beautiful physique, and was a national basketball player. My mom was 'Secretary of the Year' (a reputed pageant those days). I believe I had it in me even though I did not come from a fashion background. Dedication, Motivation and most importantly, humility are the keys to my success.

Pageant preparation was strenuous. I had to ensure I had a toned body along with personality development, public speaking classes, fine dining courses to grooming and styling and social and business etiquette. I even learnt more than ten ways of smiling. Impromptu skills and thinking on your feet and question and answer rounds were all crucial. General knowledge on current affairs and world happenings, history of Sri Lanka - it was tough.

Humility, respecting seniors, dedication and my strengths and abilities all came down to my determination. A Miss Sri Lanka should be the most humble and down-to-earth person. Just because you have a tiara, it does not mean you will ever be the queen of England. You are judged from the day you are picked up at the airport, right to the finale. If you are not a good ambassador for children, unable to sit with kids, relate to them, meet presidents, hand shake with them and exchange ideas and opinions, your ability to wear a tiara and represent your country is lost.

Today sad as it is, I still I don't see these qualities in many beauty pageant winners.
My advice to those national directors who put up grand shows to choose the representative to send abroad is;

1. Choose quality over quantity
2. Remember one crown is enough to serve the nation, not multiple.
While I wrap up my chat with this epitome of success in the fashion and
beauty industry, I cannot thank her enough, for her words of wisdom.
As an ex Mr Sri Lanka who, with the blessing of God, represented this
nation on an international platform and trained contestants of
Mr. India 2017 and Miss. India for Miss. Cosmopolitan 2017, I stand
by Rosanne's very words of quality. It is disappointing to see unsuitable
candidates chosen due to influence or bribes. This has marred the local pageant industry as opposed to standards, talent, charisma, education, honesty and 120% dedication.

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