After being crowned Miss India USA July 16, Troy resident Vaidehi Dongre will now compete in the Miss India Worldwide competition to take place this winter in Mumbai.

After being crowned Miss India USA July 16, Troy resident Vaidehi Dongre will now compete in the Miss India Worldwide competition to take place this winter in Mumbai.

Photo provided by Vaidehi Dongre


Troy woman named Miss India USA

By: Brendan Losinski | Troy Times | Published September 23, 2021

 Prior to winning the Miss India USA pageant, Dongre had to qualify by winning the Miss India Michigan competition last spring.

Prior to winning the Miss India USA pageant, Dongre had to qualify by winning the Miss India Michigan competition last spring.

Photo provided by Vaidehi Dongre

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TROY — Vaidehi Dongre’s mother encouraged her to join beauty pageants as a young girl after their family moved to the United States from India in order to make friends and help become more comfortable speaking English. Now, Dongre is the 2021 Miss India USA.

Each year, the competition is hosted to celebrate Indian culture and heritage after statewide qualifying competitions are held across the country. Dongre, now 25, hasn’t competed in any pageants since she was a child, but she was inspired to try it again after her mother developed some health problems.

“There’s a state pageant. Michigan has their own pageant,” Dongre explained. “My mom has been sick for the last few years, and I thought joining would make her feel better, but I won, so I was thrilled to join the Miss India USA pageant after.”

Dongre is the daughter of Satish and Manisha Dongre. She graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in international relations and business and now works in business development for the New Zealand Trade Commission.

House District 41 state Rep. Padma Kuppa, whose district includes Troy and Clawson, has known the family since Dongre was a child. She said Dongre’s success came as no surprise to her.

“It was really interesting, because her mom and dad really encouraged her to participate in public-facing events. I always knew she was destined to be in the public eye,” Kuppa remarked. “Her father is a musician. Her father’s sister is a vocalist. Her mother is a dancer and dance teacher of Kathak dance. Vaidehi and my daughter got along well. They both walked like they were dancing.”

Dongre said that the competition at both the state and the national levels was fierce, but that her life experiences and her close connection to her family gave her the tools she needed to win.

“There’s three rounds. The first round is an evening gown round and an introduction. The second is a talent portion, and the last is Indian ethnic wear, and a question-and-answer session. I don’t know that there was one thing that set me apart, but I think 25 years of my upbringing was a factor. Our family would go back to India frequently, and they always made sure I was in touch with our culture. I think being 25 as opposed to 18 or 19 gave me life experience that gave me a lot to use. I was a caretaker for my mom during the pandemic because she’s not mobile anymore, so that gave me a lot to draw on. My talent portion was the Kathak dance that my mom developed the choreography for, so I think that was a big part of it.”

“A lot of people don’t realize, but beauty pageants require training. It’s a competition for a reason,” Kuppa added. “It’s its own sport, in a way. She really worked hard in the last few months to be a part of that competition. I was turned off by beauty competitions, but she showed me how much it takes to succeed in one.”

Because of her victory, Dongre will now go on to compete in the Miss India Worldwide competition in Mumbai, India.

“It functions with the same structure the Miss India USA pageant does with the three rounds,” she said. “The competition will be pretty fierce. There will be some beautiful, talented girls I will be going up against. ... It has been delayed because of COVID. They are expecting it to happen in January of next year. Once I’m there, I’m competing against Miss Indias from Great Britain, New Zealand, South Africa, etc.”

The Miss India USA competition took place July 15-16 at Royal Albert’s Palace in Fords, New Jersey.

“A lot of the prizes (from Miss India USA) come in sponsorships,” Dongre said. “My plane ticket, hotel stay and outfits for Miss India Worldwide are all sponsored for winning the Miss India USA competition. It’s $3,000-$4,000 total in costs when you add it all up, so it makes a big difference.”

Dongre also said that her community was a big component of what allowed her to succeed and do her best in the competition.

“I want to thank the city of Troy. It really does make a difference to feel supported by your community. I went through Troy Schools. I even had lunch with my first and second grade teacher a few weeks ago. It gives you the help you need to excel,” she said. “I think I spent my whole life in Troy pretty much, so I was representing the Indian community and the Troy community. I was lucky to have grown up around a really diverse set of people, and I was lucky to have a lot of teachers growing up who encouraged me and helped me. I think having a community that supports you like that leads you to accomplish more.”

Kuppa said that Dongre is using her platform to raise awareness of important issues and that she couldn’t think of anyone more deserving of the title of Miss India USA.

“She has a really strong work ethic and committed herself to empowering people and using her pageant platform to help ensure that women have financial empowerment,” Kuppa said. “So many women left the workforce or were laid off during the pandemic, so making sure they can have that stability to support themselves is important.”

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