Mention the name Shweta Sekhon
and the first image that would probably pop up in your head is the lanky beauty standing in front of TV host Steve Harvey after he announced her as the winner of the Miss Universe Best National Costume category at the 68th
Miss Universe pageant held in Atlanta last year.
It was a surreal moment not only for Shweta, but also for all Malaysians because her win means that she would have put the country on the world map.
Unfortunately for her, Harvey later announced that the Miss Universe Best National Costume winner was indeed Miss Philippines, and not Shweta.
It was not the first time Harvey made such a mistake: in 2015, he caused another confusion when he named Miss Colombia as the winner of the Miss Universe pageant, only to clarify later that Miss Philippines was actually the winner
While the incident left Malaysians bitter and disappointed, the silver lining is that the blunder probably made Swetha more popular than any other Ms Malaysia Universe beauty queens that we've had because she had the world’s attention on her, albeit for a very short while.
Putting all that behind her now, Shweta marches on with her head held high, focusing on her future undertakings.
Shweta took some time off from her busy schedule to share with Rojak Daily
a little more about herself, and her experiences in one of the most majestic competitions in the world.
A regular girl who dares to dream big
Shweta, whose real name is Shwetajeet Kaur, is just like any other girl with an ambition to make it big one day.
She grew up under the care of her single mother, who moulded her to be resilient and determined.
She pursued her tertiary education in Help University, and she is very into music, books and watching TV series.
“I love listening to instrumental music, especially when I am stressed or before I head to bed after having a long day, as it helps calm me down.
And she can't live without her books.
"Books like true life stories and poems attracts me very much! My favorite poet is Lang Leav!
“I am such a diehard fan of her's. I love how her poems opens up my mind and speaks to my soul in different ways every single time I read them," she cooed.
Another addiction of her's is binge watching TV series when she had the free time.
“My current favorite TV Series is 'YOU'!”, shared the bubbly 23-year-old.
Pageant is her calling
Shweta admitted that she grew up watching beauty pageants on TV and found the contestants inspiring and their messages empowering.
She wanted to be just like the girls strutting their stuff on a world stage.
Interestingly, even her family approved of this idea.
“Pageantry has always been my interest ever since childhood. I grew up watching Miss Universe as back then, it was often telecasted on NTV7.
“I still remember those days when my family used to say how we wish someone from our side would be there on that stage and I immediately connected myself with this whole industry.
“Growing up, learning and understanding the flow of pageantry just got me realising that it has always been my calling. I am so grateful to God that I am able to find my pathway in this industry and that is why I am here standing as the Miss Universe Malaysia of 2019,” she shared.
An experience of a lifetime
While the 1.72-meter tall lass has the body, the looks and the intelligence for the competition, she still had to work hard during the pageant, considering the fact that she faced stiff competition from other participants.
However, she said if she were to describe her experience in the pageant in two words, it would be ‘craziliciously fun’!
“The experience there is just a whole new level . It took me some time to digest the fact that I was actually at one of the world’s most prestigious events! Everything was just on-the-go as for the first time ever, the pageant week was only held for 10 to 11 days."
Shweta wasted no time making new friends while she was there.
“I know all 89 girls as we somehow were just all excited to know each other more, thus we always rotated groups throughout the day when we are either rehearsing, travelling around or socialising over dinner or lunch.
“As days passed, I could feel the competition getting intense, but it never caused any drama or jealousy between any of us. In fact, during the gala night, we were all cheering for the top three.
"I guess we all were just so excited to have be able to witness one Queen being crowned at least for once in our lifetime, being part of the show ourselves,” she said.
The dress of dreams
During the National Costume round of the Ms Universe competition, Shweta was donned the unforgettable “A Peranakan Indulgence” costume designed by Malaysian couturier Carven Ong.
The dress, which was adapted from Malacca’s Baba Nyonya heritage, caught everyone’s attention with its inclusion of various local delicacies such as onde-onde
, kuih koci
, ang ku
(red tortoise kueh), kuih talam
, kuih lapis
, sago cake and also the Chinese red egg, all neatly arranged on four ‘tables’ attached to the dress.
Shweta said her first impression when she saw the dress was happiness and amazement.
“This was definitely one of the biggest national costumes ever made for Malaysia. I have always wanted to wear something big and food related as I am a foodie myself," she laughed.
“When Carven asked me what are my expectations for the dress, I recall telling him that I would love to have the elements that keeps us Malaysians as one, embedded in my National Costume.
“Elements like colours, cultures and food! When I walked in his place and saw the dress, I just couldn’t stop smiling and after having him explain to me each and every element, I was so satisfied! I couldn’t stop thanking him for fulfilling my wish,” she said.
Shweta admitted it was difficult to get into the dress that weighs 27kg, but it was a joy to wear it.
“It takes quite some time to get into the dress as there is a mermaid dress to be slipped on, the neck piece, my huge goldfish tail wings, the tables and the headgear.
“To get my hair all in the headgear is a huge task too. It easily takes up to 10 to 15 minutes to get it all on me. I still recall during the preliminary night at Atlanta , everyone was cheering the moment I walked out. What an incredible experience it was!”.
That incident that stunned the world
Despite Shweta’s pride in wearing the dress and her confidence of winning the National Costume round was at an all-time high, we all witnessed, in horror, the big and controversial mix up that took place during the Miss Universe 2019 pageant.
Harvey made a mistake in announcing that Miss Philippines had won the award, and Shweta, who was standing beside him on stage, corrected him by saying: “It’s not Philippines. It’s Malaysia".
However, despite the organisers having initially announced Shweta as the winner on its official Twitter account, they later deleted the tweet and posted another one four hours later, announcing that Miss Philipplines Gazini Ganados was the rightful winner after all.
The incident broke her heart. Sighing, she recounted what happened leading to the mix up.
“Calling for Malaysia ! Calling for Malaysia!
“I heard this announcement twice after all the delegates were told to get off the stage once the Top 20 names were called. Truth to be told, at that moment, I thought probably there was a Top 21!
"A guy then came to me and said, 'Malaysia! You won the Best National Costume title' as he held my hands!
“I still remember how excited I felt! For me, it was as if I won the Miss Universe crown itself because that national costume was definitely worth the weight. I was still in shock as this win means a great beginning for Malaysia in the history of Miss Universe.
“I asked him thrice ‘Are you sure it’s Malaysia? Like Malaysia? The costume with lots of tables?' And all he said was ‘YES, YES, YES!'
"I jumped in joy and immediately I was rushed to a different corner of the backstage area as I had only 10 minutes to get into my costume.”
However, the joy was short-lived as when she was on-stage during the National Costume winner announcement, Harvey referred to her as Ms Philippines.
Shweta said she quickly corrected Harvey.
“I grabbed the mic and said ‘Malaysia’, because I was pre-informed that we had won! Anyone in my position would have probably done the same thing. I mean, it’s our country’s name! I thought it was the right thing for me to do at the time, so that was why I corrected him immediately.
“But, a hiccup happened! Four hours later, a tweet was released by Ms Universe where apparently Philippines was announced as the winner of the Best National Costume. I was surprised as I got congratulated by Paula, the National Director of Miss Universe herself, right after the show ended.
"Until now, everyone is asking me what went wrong? I do not know myself and that’s an answer I seek myself too,” she said.
Nevertheless, Shweta said everything happens for a reason and she’s glad that through the incident, Malaysia got recognised.
She also believed that at the end of the day, be it Malaysia or the Philippines, everyone is a winner.
Immense support back home
Shweta said she was grateful for the support shown by her fellow Malaysians after the incident.
“I am grateful that everyone around me and even on social media were so positive about this whole incident. I was never talked down or got any sort of negativity ever since then till now.
“In fact, everyone is so supportive and open minded. I love how supportive everyone are.”
A valuable lesson learnt
Shweta said the competition taught her one very valuable lesson: “I learnt to seek positivity in every challenge, as challenges are there to uplift you in life and get you closer to your miracles and testimonies.”
She also encouraged others to give the competition a go.
“My advice to the next Ms Malaysia Universe: just be yourself ! As cliché as this sounds, be yourself but the best version of it! Have role models but don’t be a copy of another person. Enjoy this journey as not every girl is blessed to represent Malaysia at Miss Universe.
“It’s a once in a lifetime experience and opportunity. Don’t take this crown, sash and title as a burden. It’s a responsibility! Go all out and let’s do this for Malaysia !”.
She added that while she’s unsure why it is so difficult for Malaysia to win the Miss Universe title, she believes that the crown with the 'Malaysia' name on it is just within grasp.
All it takes is just a little dream.