TRIALS and triumph: UAE International shares her pageant journey
Charul Jaitly’s cap of life holds many feathers. She is a woman, an entrepreneur, a wife and now, the latest addition, Mrs UAE International 2021. The Indian and resident of Dubai won the pageant in December of 2021, a sweet moment of victory for her that was made sweeter by the journey that got her there.
Her story, which she shared over a phone call with a twinkle and a tremor in her voice that spoke volumes about the place it holds in her heart, woke me up today morning. It made me sit up and take notice. I listened as she took me back in time to June of last year, a dark part in her life that was shadowed by a health scare her doctors didn’t fully understand.
“I was struggling with gynaecological issues as a woman,” said Jaitly, adding that she received a tentative diagnosis of her situation by doctors here in Dubai in August.
“They were not sure and some invasive procedures had to be done to be sure.”
So, she went back home, to Mumbai, where amid doctor’s visits and grappling with making sense of what was going on, she was contacted by the pageant team – Being Muskaan – an events committee that also organises workshops for grooming, fitness, mental health and stage fear, all important aspects of a beauty pageant and being a woman in general.
Jaitly is quite active on social media and even has a YouTube channel. The content creator and motivational speaker has a presence in the social and entrepreneurial sphere of UAE, with a few awards to her name too.
That’s how the team scouted her. They told her they wanted her to be a part of the pageant.
“It was very ironic,” recalled Jaitly. “I was running to save my life and there they were asking me to compete in a beauty pageant.”
Despite being caught up in a personal emergency, she didn’t outrightly refuse.
“I was lying in the hospital bed with drips and things poking through my body and I received a call from the pageant team. I remember smiling to my husband and saying that I can’t even stand straight, let alone walk around. But, I don’t know why, for some reason, I just didn’t say no. I just went with my intuition,” said Jaitly, describing the post-8-hour-surgery period as a frightening and very difficult time for her and her family.
By God’s grace, the surgery was successful and two months later she got the green light from her doctor.
“The reports were superb and the doctor was thrilled,” said Jaitly, a natural reaction to her quick and rare recovery. “He told me my recovery was so good, if I wanted to go play gymnastics now, he would let me.”
She made the pageant registration by just a day. She was in it but she was also nervous.
“There were many reasons for me to feel intimidated or feel like a black sheep because the finalists had been prepping for this for three to four months,” pointed out Jaitly. “They had photoshoots, they had dress rehearsals, they had trials, they were prepping for the talent round and I was like that wild card entry.”
The odds were stacked against her, but she rose to the top. Slowly but surely, she made her way through the semi-final held on December 10, in which the contestants had to sport Indo-western couture, featuring three designer collections, a talent round where she narrated a self-composed poem pieced together by the memories of her struggle. It received a standing ovation.
On December 11, she was crowned.
“I just decided to grab the bull by the horns,” said Jaitly. “I wanted to do it for me.”
“If you want to see the rainbow then you have to put up with the rain,” remarked Jaitly, explaining what’s become her mantra of sorts over these past few months. “Keep your eye focussed on the end goal. There is beauty in simplicity and if we just open our arms, embrace life and go with the flow, life will be beautiful.”
Every bit a champion of girl power, Jaitly also wants her fellow women to know that it’s okay to prioritise yourself.
“You can only care for others if you care for yourself.”
By telling her story to the world, Jaitly hopes to inspire the people out there who are fighting their own demons, making waves with their head placed firmly on their shoulders even as life tries to knock them down.
“If anyone should get a little inspiration from this, the pain that I’ve gone through would be worth it.”