“To succeed, you have to believe in something with such a passion that it becomes a reality.” I am Ritika Ramtri, India’s first Pageant Coach and the Founder of The Tiara Pageant Training Studio, Pune. I work intending to become an epitome of inspiration, devotion and guidance and I’m passionate about transforming the lives of individuals through the medium of pageantry and embracing them!
In my childhood, I was always fascinated by beauty pageants; however, I never wanted to be on stage,it was never my aspiration! The only thing I was passionate about was how things work in this industry and on this note, I would like to share an incident regarding this when I was 6-7 years old and was invited to a party. Despite being involved in the party I was more fascinated to watch Miss World as it was being telecasted on that day. Looking at my dedication for the same, my aunt got so amazed about the fact that a 7-year-old girl is dedicated to pageantry so much! Watching the show, I got a lot of queries in my mind regarding it and slowly & gradually my interest in the field increased.
Talking about my academics, I did my Bachelors’ in Literature from Jesus and Mary College, University of Delhi, Masters in English from Punjab University, Patiala and B.ED & M.ED from Annamalai University. I used to teach in a convent school followed by a public school. However, after some time I decided to put teaching on hold and to embrace my career, took admission in Symbiosis College, Pune, for an MBA programme to continue with my studies. Simultaneously, I started looking for jobs and got the opportunity for working in the ACE Academy which was a talent academy. I loved that job! Being from the Army background, I was always interested in organizing events, etc. While working there, once I was told to be on the stage for being a pageant girl as there were fewer contestants available. Although I didn’t want to be on stage I went and won the runners up in that competition. That was the first and the only pageant that I won casually. Although, I was always interested in how things work in this industry. There has always been some connection that I have felt with pageantry that has made me work in it. After working for Ace, I was involved in Pageantry only as a profession, from 1997. I trained Sandip Soparrkar for Grasim Mr India in the same year. He was my first student to be trained who also happened to be the participant of the soft skills workshop too. Currently, he is a big name in Mumbai for his choreography. I remember meeting him at the Holiday Inn hotel where I was conducting a soft skills workshop. Although for some time I also moved to handle the work of model coordination, it didn’t appeal to me much so I decided to stick to pageantry only. I also got indulged in an advertising and public relations course from Symbiosis Institute of Business Management after completing my MBA and also received an award for topping the class for the same. On that day, one of my known photographers gave me a suggestion of writing as well. Although I didn’t have a journalism degree, he advised me for the same as him with his team, was looking for writers who can communicate well. I also continued with Pageantry training after that I got involved in training Gauhar Khan. In 2002, Gauhar approached me again, this time for training her for the Miss India pageant. That time, I used to train her the entire day and finally with the training and her hard work, she won the title.
In 2005, Amrita Thakur, whom I have seen growing up as she was my neighbour’s daughter, approached me for training her for the Miss India pageant. After Amrita happened, in 2006, I trained Jyotika for around 6 months and she also made it to the top thirty.
In 2007, I trained Shilpa Keswani and Zoya Tapia as well.
However, 2008 was a bleak year of my career as there was not a single girl among my students who made it to Miss India pageant and at that time I realized that I needed to be more organized. Then, for maintaining the balance, I started the group class concept, while continuing with the individual class system in 2009 and that format worked. After that, another Tiara girl, Pooja Chopra won the title of Miss India World. She has now become a known personality and has been seen in movies like Commando, Heroine, etc. She became the first Indian girl to win Beauty with a Purpose in Miss World under my guidance. Those days we used to train boys as well. In the same year, I was invited by Pageant of Radio, a great show about Pageantry. I was the only Indian there invited and was asked to critique the Miss Universe Pageant. I was honoured to be given that position and it was an amazing experience.
Inspirationally, Pageantry is more of a passion and not a business for me! In 2007 I moved to Pune where I used to train girls under my name but after some time, I wanted to send one of my students, Soniya Jain for the pageant. However, they wanted a person who comes from a registered organization and thus I registered Tiara. In 2008, I registered Tiara; though the Blogspot was there earlier as well it wasn’t registered. After this, it further became formal and I also trademarked it to keep it safe and secured. However, I never try to connect a commercial angle to it as it is just out of my passion. I would say that Pune has supported me a lot in my work and journey!
Every profession has its highs and lows and you have to learn to take all the good and bad. Overall, It’s a very rewarding experience. When one gets acknowledgements from the students it feels great and encourages you to make your training best for them. I would say that what inspires me the most to continue being a pageantry trainer is the fact that it will provide an opportunity to transform lives of various people for not just achieving one title but also encouraging them to groom for their entire lives!
As a pageantry trainer, my job is to take a newbie and transform her whether it comes to the teaching of makeup, how to speak, what to speak, maintaining a posture, poise and I have also learnt photography and most of the times do it myself for my models. I have invested a lot into this now. I try to cover the entire gamut of activities that a pageant girl needs, starting from hair, makeup, clothes, wardrobe assistance, how to go for auditions, where to apply, etc. Girls are always welcomed back for the refresher courses and programmes even if their period, of course, is over.
Talking about the challenges, It’s all subjective as one may like some model and others may have a difference of opinions. In this industry also, sometimes it becomes difficult to understand how one talent win and another lose but that only encourages us to do more research and work harder. Sometimes the girls themselves are a challenge when they keep the same thought process and do not want to change it. They become rigid and not understand at that time. Otherwise, it’s a very beautiful experience to see a girl emerging from her cocoon and developing into a beautiful butterfly! It’s not only about winning the beauty pageants but to groom them for entire life. That’s the main idea!
I’m that person who will only focus on the positives of the work I’m into! When it comes to the pros of this profession, for me it’s the passion that I have for Pageantry. Although I love interior designing as well I’m more passionate about pageantry. The connection is so pure that many times I don’t even notice the negative side of this profession. Also, there is not a major negative in my field of work. However, competition in this field is a lot which can lead to ugliness sometimes as in the case of fashion sabotage, etc. But that is something that can happen in every profession, even incorporate jobs. Talking about the positives, girls become powerful. It helps in transforming their lives completely. One of my students, Sejal Kumar, is doing so well because of her hard work and looking at her journey provides me with immense pleasure.
I would also say that every time a girl wins, it is a milestone for me. Also, I got the opportunity to train Manushi Chhillar for the Miss World title and that was an amazing experience. She also acknowledged me for the same and even today we are in touch. She is such a humble and a genuine person for whom I would say that from the very beginning I was clear in my mind that she will touch the skies in her journey. The hard work she did for her Beauty with Purpose project was amazing and it paid off.
Another milestone I wanted to bring in light is that I got to train a boy who was hearing impaired. Initially, I was not sure about training him but then I decided to do the same. I trained him for a year. His mother came to the classes along with him so that she could translate whatever is taught him in the Marathi language so that it can be understood by him. He was successful in winning the Gladrags Manhunt award in 2012. That time I realized that I could inspire someone and I consider it as a Milestone.
As part of the milestones, I have also won the Pageant Planet Award in 2018 and grabbed the first position in India and third in the World.
Things I wish I knew before- Knowing everything from the beginning makes it dull. But learning it through the journey is important. I loved unravelling, meeting different people and moving to different places as I’m a lady of pleasure. Every year I have different plans and new ideas for my training programmes. Also, I started with a Q&A session on my social media in this pandemic. I have made a bank of these questions to discuss with girls daily so that they could think and read about such topics regularly and express their opinions.
As a piece of advice, I would say that a girl should be humble, willing to learn, compete healthily and should compete with herself as well. After winning also one should be gracious enough for the same. Other than that they should be fit physically, emotionally and mentally as well. All these three aspects are equally important! She should be resilient. It is important to be open about your thoughts and at the same time knowledgeable. Education also plays a major role and it always helps. Most importantly she should be a positive person ready to take everything coming in the path.
In my perception, these pageants are known as Beauty Pageants for a reason and have their own set of standards. Thus, every girl, who wants to get involved in this industry should understand the prerequisites and do their hard work accordingly. Some amount of grooming should be present even before the training starts as it is very important to understand the path and adhere to it. Also, commitment and respect for the work you do are very important. It not only includes the outer beauty but, the girls in this field should be an ambassador of beauty in all terms.
My success mantra is that I do not focus on what others think about me or even what the competition says about me. I’m like a horse with blinders and am focussed in my work. I’m someone who believes in honesty. My parents have groomed me to be an honest individual and I think everybody should work with honesty in whichever profession they are into! More than winning, working with integrity is the most important.
The pandemic has been very good to me as I have got a lot of time to think about a lot of things. It has helped me groom both emotionally and mentally. According to me, there is room for every individual in this World so why compete?