On June 9, Bindhu Pamarthi (L ’15) was crowned Miss District of Columbia, having competed in beauty pageants since she was 12. Vox was fortunate enough to have her answer some questions on her pageant experience through the years, though we didn’t touch on what gender income disparity says about society. Go here to watch K Street Magazine’s interview with Pamarthi, who will go on to compete in the Miss America pageant come September.
Vox: What was the most important part of winning Miss D.C. for you?
Pamarthi: I started competing in pageants in the South when I was 12 years old. As the child of Indian immigrants, I was initially something of a misfit in that world. I lacked what seemed like the requisite southern accent, and my wardrobe was simplistic and under-bedazzled. I remember getting a pretty cold welcome from the other contestants and their “pageant-moms.” I was too naïve, then, and lacked the self-awareness to understand that my ethnicity made me different. My beautiful, Indian mother was not so oblivious, yet she never said a word about it to me. She ignored the unwelcoming stares and the snickering mothers. She focused on me because she knew that in my “Little Miss Sunshine-esque” way, I was so happy to be in a pageant. Then, I won.
Insensitive questioning, offensive gestures, and unfriendly stares are just things that I have grown up seeing my parents faced with. That my beloved mother could silently think, “At least my daughter can beat you and your kids in a pageant” was quiet redemption. For the most part, that was also true. In my eleven years in pageantry, I won three state titles that took me to national finals in Anaheim, California and Nashville, Tennessee. All three times, I outcompeted hundreds to thousands to take my spot in the top three. Track record aside, this victory is sweetest because my mother can finally know that even as closed-minded people will rudely claim that we are not American, her daughter just might be Miss America. Either way, as the representative of the nation’s capital at the iconic competition in Atlantic City, I was able to make my mom proud. That means everything to me.
Vox: What’s the experience of being both a Georgetown Law student and a pageant competitor been like for you? How do you navigate those two worlds?