Miss Pakistan USA on a mission to change image of Pakistani women

Miss Pakistan USA on a mission to change image of Pakistani women

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KARACHI: It takes more than just tiaras, gowns and stilettos to win hearts and Sarish Khan tells us exactly how she does it.

The 26-year-old American beauty of Pakistani origin is the current title holder of Miss Pakistan USA. A student at George Mason Law School in DC, she not only represents the refined class of Pakistani beauties, but also their intellect on a global platform.

But it comes as a surprise to know that this mélange of beauty and brains was a complete stranger to the word ‘pageant’ some time back.

Speaking to The Express Tribune, Sarish revealed what inspired her to compete for the title. “I hadn’t watched a pageant in my life until I heard all the chatter about Nina Davuluri, the first Miss America of Indian descent to win the title,” she said.

That led her to think, “if a pre-med student can put India on a global platform then what’s stopping a Pakistani law student from following suit?”

The desire to place her community’s women in a positive light, transcending the domains of law, entertainment and philanthropy, led her to look for possible options. That’s when she was first introduced to the title of Miss Pakistan USA.

PHOTO: PUBLICITY

Sarish had been an active member of the South Asian community in DC and was aware of the fact that winning the coveted title would bring her more responsibilities. “The moment they announced my name, I knew my world was about to change as my responsibilities would escalate tremendously,” she said.

And that made her stand even taller. “I am not just a beauty queen without a purpose,” said Sarish while sharing, “I aim to bring to light the diversity and adversity in the Pakistani community — particularly for women — in America and across the globe.”

She currently serves as a Women Empowerment Ambassador for a non-profit organisation, Comprehensive Disaster Response Services. Previously, she worked for USAID on an Education Crisis project in Karachi for almost a year that involved some eye-opening experiences in critical areas of Lyari and Korangi.

Sarish’s family and friends were supportive of her decision to participate in the pageant. Although she was met with a few reservations, she managed to convince them through her aims. “I was able to overcome their doubts by representing myself positively during the pageant,” she said.

Winning the title as a Muslim and a Pakistani in an American society hasn’t limited her abilities as she has received an overwhelming response from people. “I’ve always known that I’m different. I’m Pakistani, I’m American, I’m Muslim, and I’m a woman. With each title, comes its own responsibility,” she said.

“My diversity is the strength to promote equality through each title I hold,” she added.

One wouldn’t doubt Sarish’s talent as she belongs to the family of legendary actors Sabiha Khanum and Santosh Kumar, her maternal grandparents. The pageant winner aspires to follow in their footsteps.

“I didn’t grow up dreaming to be an actor because my mother wanted education to be my primary focus,” said Sarish.

“Now, that I am about to finish law school, I have started taking acting classes here [US] and plan to break into the Pakistani entertainment industry once I gain some experience,” she added.

But that does not mean she will give up on her law career. She believes that even as an actor one “has to deal with entertainment contracts and copyright issues.” She has plans to practice as a litigation attorney.

Besides her services in the American community, Sarish hopes “to be an agent of change for gender equality in Pakistan.”

She believes that the role of a man, rather than a woman, needs to change in our society. “We live in a world where women aren’t just homemakers, but also breadwinners. It is about time their male counterparts share responsibilities at home as well,” said Sarish.