Adline came to India’s Maximum City from Kuwait when she was 15. An age when most of the Indian families are busy choosing whether one should choose to become a doctor or engineer. Her dream, however, was to grow as a financially independent woman. “There was a big drive that I need to be in Mumbai and be a financially independent woman,” she says. “I was like every other 15 years-old who didn’t know much about things and I believed there is something for me in Mumbai. I was shy sometimes. I used to think that with the marks on my body, I am not good enough to represent India,” she adds.
India has won two Miss Universe titles, Sushmita Sen in 1994 and Lara Dutta in 2000. It’s been a decade since an Indian delegate was crowned with a Miss Universe title. Today, Adline will compete against 72 other beauty queens from across the globe for the 69th Miss Universe title. Speaking on the transformation in her attitude, she says, “The moment I stopped looking at what I can’t offer and what is life beyond me, my perspective changed. I focused on my strengths and not the weakness that comes along with it. I never knew my journey would be so different.”
She was crowned Miss Diva Universe on 22nd February 2020.
Immediately after, the country slipped into a national lockdown, and all her aspirations to work towards effecting a positive in the country hit a roadblock. “I will always cherish in my life that there was a moment when I represented the country and got so much love from people. It’s doesn’t come out of a place of fear but gratefulness. There are so many things I wanted to do. But then, I realised that it’s my choice to be a victim or a victor. I realised the internal freedom I had, and to be grateful for what life offers you,” she confesses.
“It’s a very different journey and something I had to figure out on my own. I was never a technologically sound person but I learnt a lot on how to use Instagram, zoom and developed my strengths. The pandemic also taught me to be more humane. The entire journey helped me understand that the pageant is really not just about you. It’s for your people, and since they are giving you the platform you will have to do something for them,” she adds.
It’s a huge challenge. Over the years, the definition of beauty too, has changed. “I think the definition of beauty has undergone a very profound change. For me, beauty is defined by kindness. The kindness, first of all, towards yourself. You need to have the courage to not just be proud of your strength but also your weakness, all the flaws. We must not just embrace it but also be confident so as to give confidence to others. I feel that’s what the society requires more. People need to accept and not cancel each other. That’s when the beauty of humanity becomes into picture,” she opines.
It may sound utopian, but in the times of crises, a leader becomes a dealer in hope. There is enough pessimism to counter; the world governed by the trend of othering. And of course, the rise of digital and social media that has not just helped us to connect with each other but also brought out the worst in people at times. One such method of othering piggybacks on body shaming and trolling by anonymous people as a tool. “I think we live two lives — one in digital and one in reality. Our digital life is just a reflection of what our societal life is at the moment. The seeds of hatred are already there. It just blooms out and flowers out in the digital space,” she comments.
“We need to educate people. Everyone has technology but they don’t have the wisdom to use it. Why online ethical behaviour is important. It is also a consequence of a very preconditioned problem that we have. I too used to compare my body with the ‘Instagram worthy bodies’ that I used to see,” she adds.
“It is very important to work on your personal space. One thing that kept me going is the love for my country. I know if I win it is going to bring a lot of changes for women in the country,” she shares. She elaborates that along with the national title came the awareness for the farmers – a cause for which Adline has been a vocal advocate. “It made me more ambitious to bring more international recognition to all of these issues. I used to always feel that the hardest journey you take brings out the best in you. It’s heartbreaking to see what’s happening around but we have to be strong and look at the positives,” she adds.
When she won the title, Adline stated that she wished to work for the betterment of farmers, particularly women farmers. The cause is particularly close to her heart as her grandmother was a farmer. “For the longest part of my life, I didn’t even know her [grandmother’s] name. I don’t even know how she looks. There is not a single photograph of her. It really pains me. As a girl, I was very ambitious. I had a lot of plans for myself and did a lot of things that I wanted to do. But she lived such a short life of 22 years, only to be forgotten like this – it is painful for me. As life has it, today I am 22 and representing India at Miss Universe and talking about my grandmother and so many women like her who are still living a life of oblivion in the country. My grandmother lost her life in 1969. We are in 2021; we have progressed in a lot of areas but a lot is left when it comes to women and giving them that kind of status and equitable rights. As women, it is not only important for me and you can make it, it is also important to make room for other women to come in and achieve.” She expresses and quickly adds, “I want to inspire — even if it is one girl out there — to go beyond the labels pushed by society. The entire sky and universe are for women.”