Apeaksha Raina, Mrs. Colorado (USA) shares her success story

Jammu is a land of many fables and legends. It has produced many saints and warriors. There is no dearth of talent. People of Jammu are excelling in every field out there. There is a lot more recognition of Jammu as a City now as there was before. This has solely been brought about by the exposure young talent is getting not only on a national level but even of international forums.

Recently a young girl from our very own state was crowned Mrs. Colorado (USA) and represented the state at an international level. We had a heart to heart connection with Apeaksha Raina and during the course of the interview, we understood the reason for her success at such a prestigious competition. Her enigma, the confidence and the utter grace that she eludes are commendable and so inspiring. Read on to know more about Apeaksha, her growing up years, her family and aspirations.

1. What influenced your decision of entering the beauty pageant?

Love of a little girl towards her father, pain of losing her father at a very young age, not able to spend her childhood happily as other kids of her age, her mother's struggle, hardships and her belief that God tests his best people, her little sisters' questions - what happen to our dad and when he will come back?

My childhood was the rough phase of my life and it is any child's nightmare to lose their father. It's been 19 long years but I still struggle not to think about him, not to miss him, not to complaint why I have to go through all this. He has left a void in my life that no one can fill...But my mother's positive attitude and willpower kept me going and I believe God always has a plan and we should not waste our life in regretting about our past instead we should live in present. My goal in life is to change and impact someone's present and future.

I wanted to give back and raise awareness about the amazing gift of organ and tissue donation. I didn't want anyone else to go through the pain of losing their loved ones. I believe I can't change my past but I can definitely try to change someone's present and future by raising awareness about the amazing gift of organ and tissue donation.

The question was how?

God always has a plan for us, all we have to trust him, be patient and wait for the right time. I was destined to promote organ and tissue donation so everything kept falling in place.
One fine day I was sitting with my husband and I read about Mrs international pageant and I thought I should apply. My husband also encouraged me to apply and I thought this is the best opportunity to reach people and raise awareness about organ and tissue donation. I listened to my heart, applied and got selected as Mrs. Colorado International 2018. International pageant system is a platform-based system and that inspired me to be a part of this system. I liked the concept that it is not only about glitz and glamor. It is about responsibilities and duties too. Being a part of the international pageant family gave me a bigger platform to raise awareness about organ and tissue donation which is my only goal in life now.


2. This being a global level competition, there must have been a lot to learn. Tell us about your best memories?

There is always a work in progress for me. I am never "finished ". I believe I always have the chance to improve myself and become someone better than who I am already. There are so many things I learned not only about myself but also about communication skills, leadership, interviews, and poise. I never saw pageantry as a competition, I always looked at it as a learning experience and a doorway to give back. I learned so much during the competition that it is beyond mind-blowing. You get to see a lot more of the world than you would normally when you compete in international pageants. It was one of the best experiences of my life. I have so many beautiful memories with my sister queens that it is hard for me to talk about a few. Makeup calls, late night conversations, dining table chit chat, rehearsals... I was fortunate to meet so many beautiful and talented ladies from different parts of the world. Everyone was so friendly and always ready to offer to helping hand to each other. There was so much love and positive energy. I got so many new friends for a lifetime. I cherish each and every moment from the pageant week and now I have a friend in every corner of the world. I am open to new cultures and people and it was the best place to learn about different cultures and it has impacted me positively. I think it's an opportunity and a privilege to learn and network with these beautiful ladies who all have a mission in life.

3. How did you portray India and Indian culture at the international forum?

I competed in Mrs. Colorado international and was crowned as Mrs. Colorado international 2018. I represented Colorado at an international platform. I was so fortunate to represent my beautiful and colorful state on an international platform. Colorado is my Karambhoomi and I am proud that I got this wonderful opportunity. I got an overwhelming response from people of Colorado and they supported me throughout my reign.

But I believe we should never forget our roots and I belong to India as much as I belong to Colorado. India is my DharmaBhoomi. I love Indian culture, values, and traditions. Whenever I get an opportunity, I talk about Indian culture and traditions. Like food, fashion and faith I carry my beloved festivals wherever my livelihood takes me. It's no different in the US, I celebrate and promote all Indian festivals with my family and friends. "Unity in Diversity" these are not just words but something that is highly applicable to a country like India that is incredibly rich in culture and heritage. We enjoy being Indian, we enjoy celebrating our festivals and I want to inculcate all Indian traditions in my daughter. I am raising her like my mom raised me. I want her to acquire rich Indian traits like respect for elders, following traditions, having a close bond with family, cultural festival celebration etc.

4. Tell us something about your growing years and fond memories you have of Jammu Kashmir?

Frankly speaking, I didn't have many good memories of my childhood. I was born in a Kashmiri Pandit family which I am and will always be proud of. I was only 5 years old and my younger sister was a few months old, when my family had to migrate from Kashmir, we had to run away, If I try to recall from my blurred memories we ran away at night in a fruit truck to save our lives without a penny in hand. It was the time when all Kashmiri Pandits were forced to flee the valley leaving behind their homes and homeland to save themselves from Islamic extremists/terrorists. I have seen my family in exile. I have seen my grandparents' tears and my parents struggle. In fact, this year all Kashmiri Pandits entered in the 25th year of their exile. We are still refugees in our country and in our state.

Just Imagine a family who used to live in a grand house, had a decent lifestyle, had so much of land and was one of the rich families in their town and one fine day they were forced to leave everything and were presented with three options Ralive, Tsaliv, ya Galive(either convert to Islam, leave the land or die). I was born in Kashmir but was very unfortunate that I was not brought up in heaven, my family had to raise me in Jammu in a difficult situation. I grew up with my younger sister in a joint family of uncle, aunts, grandparents, cousins. Our family was very big and we had to live in one rented room, we were not used to the extreme scorching heat. Jammu's weather was extremely opposite to Kashmir. It was a very difficult time for my family. We had to start our life again and then my Dad was diagnosed with kidney failure. My childhood was not like other kids of my age, it was a rough phase of my life. I lost my father at a very young age because of kidney failure and that incident turned my life upside down. But I had a very good support system, I would like to take few names (MeenakshiKoul, Meenakshi Raina, Sheetal Sharma -my childhood friends ) All my school teachers from Vishwa Bharti), My maternal relatives (Mamu, Massi, and MausaJi ) Everyone has contributed towards my achievements. I would have not achieved anything without their love and support at my worst time. My relations are my prized possession and I always thank God for that.

I have some good memories with my childhood friends. I miss everything about my childhood friendship, our matador rides to Muthi, I still remember it used to take us one hour to reach home from our tuition. Our Late-night studies and talks, shopping together in the parade market, Vaishno Devi trips and how they all made me feel during my bad phase. Always there for me to cheer me up. During those days' friendship was so selfless. Childhood memories are the best memories and I will always cherish them.

5. You lost your father at an early age due to kidney failure. How did this impact you?

That incident turned my life upside down. It changed me as a person. I was in deep shock for years. I preferred to stay away from people and stay in my own zone. I was not able to accept that my dad is no more with us. I was an innocent kid who didn't know the concept of life and death. I was in depression for almost 5-7 years. I was a daddy's girl and suddenly one day my dad was not with us. It was hard for me to absorb the fact that I won't be able to see him again. It was very painful and traumatizing for me and my entire family. If I survived it is all because of my Mother. She is the reason for my achievements and accomplishments.
I am proud to say that I am raised by my mom. She is an epitome of courage and strength. I owe my life to her. Whatever I am today is all because of her positive attitude and her will power. She is a God-fearing woman and always taught me never to give up on your dreams. Try and keep on trying until you succeed and her positive words still keep me going. She is my role model and I wish my daughter look up to me like I look up to my mother.

6. Tell us about how you got associated with it?

I have been through the loss of my father and I know how painful it is to lose a loved one. He was diagnosed with kidney failure and we couldn't find a donor for him on time, that wait was so painful and traumatizing for me and my family. When we were able to get a transplant, unfortunately, it was too late and we couldn't save his life.

By organ and tissue donation we can save lives. Someone can see, someone can walk and someone can breathe. I am myself a registered organ and tissue donor because I hope to have someone save their dad someday. I didn't want anyone else to lose their father like I did. I have been through the loss of my father and that makes me so passionate about promoting the amazing gift of organ and tissue donation. The donation is the ultimate gift of life.

When you are in a beauty pageant, people look up to you as a role model, the answers which we give serve as a piece of advice for the concerned public. I wanted people to understand the importance of organ and tissue donation and my passion towards my platform inspired me to join the Donor Alliance.

I am a goodwill ambassador for donor alliance. Donor Alliance is a non-profit organization dedicated to saving lives through organ donation and transplantation. I am actively involved with them. I have made several appearances in festivals, parades, and interviews (tv, radio, newspaper). I share my story with people and talk to them about the amazing gift/benefit of organ and tissue donation.

7. What measures do you think are necessary to bring out more awareness amongst people about organ donation?

Organ, eye and tissue donation is an amazing opportunity. We all have the power to save someone's life. Someone can see, someone can breathe, someone can walk and someone can get back to their family. Your donation means a world to the person in need. It was surprising for me when I got to know the statistics. More than 1,20,000 people are waiting for life-saving transplants in the United States. Every day 22 people die waiting for life-saving transplants.

Around 1.6 lakh patients are waiting for organs in India with a mere 12,000 donors available. It is a huge number. There are a few things that anyone, registers donor or not can do to raise awareness for the need of donors: -

Register as a donor: If you are not already on the registry, now is an excellent time to sign up. The most amazing thing about being a donor is that one donor can save up to 8 lives through organ donation and through eyes and tissues we can save and heal up to 75lives. Joining the registry is one of the best ways to leave your mark on this world. Signing up takes seconds and is a very easy and painless process.

Encourage others to join: As you spread awareness about organ and tissue donation, encourage your family and friends to register with you. Starting this conversation can be difficult as it deals with sensitive issues, but by educating yourself you can easily broach the topic with compassion.

Update your social media: This is a great way to show your support through organ donation. You can write posts, tag friends who have been affected by the donation process, sharing articles showing how easy it is to save a life.

8. How different is life in the USA from India?

In America, you have an independent life. You have full freedom to be the way you want. Privacy is of utmost importance, you don't see people intruding into your personal life, you can dress the way you want, travel wherever you want and can be passionate about anything you appreciate and on the other hand in India, unless you are from a very wealthy family, you are limited by your choices. You may be restricted from doing certain things because of the social implications and taboos. Your choices may be influenced by family, friends or society because people try to judge others based on their lifestyle, choices, and experiences.
You have physical comfort everywhere in the US -buses, trains, airplanes, office buildings, homes, restaurants etc. You have heaters in cold places and air conditioners in hot places, you don't have power cuts, you have so many choices everywhere. On the other hand, in India, a middle-class person is subjected to physical discomfort in many places buses, trains etc. Living in America will give you a new perspective on things. I believe many people live in America not because they are making more money, but just because life is more independent, comfortable, no one judges them and with many more options for their enjoyment.

9. Tell us about your family and your little princess.

I am a very family -oriented person. My family is my lifeline and I can't imagine my life without them. Let's start with my Mother. She is the reason behind my existence. She is an epitome of courage and strength. She is my idol, role model and my biggest inspiration.
My sister is my first baby, she recently got married to the man of her dreams. I am so happy for her and I wish her all the happiness in her life.

My Husband: Since I met him my life has never been the same. He made it better and happier. I am very lucky to have such a wonderful man as my husband. I can't even imagine my life without him. I love him and keep loving him till my last breath. He does so much for our family. The small things which he does on a daily basis is much more important than any piece of jewellery. He supports me whole heartedly and believes in me. He is my Genie, he has a solution to all my problems and I know he is always there for me no matter what.
I remember one incident: One cute girl asked me a question at a school (It still brings a smile on my face) and the question was: The international pageants who choose you as Queen of Colorado. How come they didn't choose your King? Kids are so innocent. I am proud to say that my husband is my king. He doesn't have wealth and a Mansion like a King but he has a golden heart. He makes me feel like a queen with his love, care and understanding for me. He is very down to earth and I must say he is the best husband, best father, best son and most important a best human being who respects and values everyone. He is my best friend. He is one of the best gifts I have ever gotten. I am so humbled that God gave him to me.

My in-laws: I have excellent relations with my in-laws. They are not my biological parents but they don't behave differently. They respect their son's choice and love us both, treat me with grace and respect. They always want the best for me, they support me in every decision. My mother-in -law is a friend and a mentor, she never judged or discouraged me and is always supportive of everything that I have done. She is also an excellent grandmother. My father- in - law loves me like his daughter and is proud of me and my accomplishments.

My daughter Zena: Being a mom slows life down. When my daughter Zena smiles and says I love you mom, that is the best thing about being a mom. She is our world, she is our life. What to say about Zena? She is full of energy, she is a super naughty girl and She keeps me on my toes all the time. She has filled our life with love, laughter and smiles. I feel complete being a mother.

10. Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?

Being an HR professional, this is my favourite question. Well, 5 years from now would be difficult to answer. I believe the future is very unpredictable but I do set goals for myself. I have goals/plans for this year. I have set my personal goals and professional goals. I am working on enhancing my professional skills, you will see me competing in a beauty pageant again by the end of this year. My goal for 2019 is to reach and inspire more and more people about the life-saving benefits of organ and tissue donation and to have highest donor registries in my state Colorado and I am in the process of collaborating with an NGO in India too to work for this Nobel cause of organ and tissue donation. I want to leave a legacy and want to do something worth writing. My story will be my legacy. My service towards society and my contribution in saving lives (by raising awareness about the amazing gift of organ and tissue donation. That will be my tribute to my father.

Rapid Fire
• Your go-to style manta - I don't have any style mantra. I believe style comes from your confidence. I love dressing up and I dress according to the event. I believe style is a way to express who you are through what you wear and to be comfortable and confident in it.

• Favourite make-up trick - I love makeup but I try to keep it look as natural as possible. We all should love our skin tone and be confident about it, we should know our skin tone and skin type and choose our makeup products accordingly!

• Favourite accessory -Hard for me to pick one: I love sunglasses, earrings, bracelets, rings and yes watches too. Love them all

• If you could have any super power, what would you choose - I will change my past, bring my Dad back on this planet earth and would love to relive my childhood again with him.

• Fitness mantra - You don't have to be great to start a fitness routine but you have to start to be great.

• Favourite food -Anything served with love

• What according to you is your best feature - I like my Eyes (Black and full ) looks awesome in mascara and eyeliner . They are very expressive too.

• Your idea of a perfect date - Sitting on a coszy couch with my husband, hand in hand watching our favorite movie together and of course with a bag of popcorn

• What's the one thing you cannot stand -I can't stand Liars and double-faced people

• Quick tip for young girls aspiring to be beauty queens - Women are a beautiful creation of God. You all are unique and beautiful. Come and rock that stage. Be humble, be confident, be honest and wear your smile. Hold your head high and everyone will see that spark in your eyes.

We had a lovely time interacting with Apeaksha. Her journey and way of expressing her though is very inspirational and endearing. Here's wishing her loads of success for all her future endeavours.



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