MOSES LAKE — Sixty cities. Eleven U.S. states. And four countries.
That’s how many places Shree Saini has been since she was crowned Miss India USA last December at a pageant in New Jersey.
August has been an exceptional busy month, with Saini criss-crossing the country to speak at and participate in celebrations of India’s August 15 Independence Day holiday. All part of the responsibility of being the reigning Miss India USA.
“I am so used to traveling now, if I go to New York, I take the night flight and sleep on the flight. I do the same thing coming back,” she said.
In fact, Saini said the celebration of Indian Independence Day in New York was one of the biggest she’d ever seen, with 200,000 people out on the street.
As a pageant queen, Saini considers herself an ambassador. Not just to the Indian-American community, which she represents, but also for causes she considers important — the American Heart Association and something she calls “emotional fitness,” that is, the ability to be resilient, kind and considerate of others.
She chose the American Heart Association because when she was 12, Saini said she needed to have a pacemaker installed to keep her heart beating properly.
“I will have it in my chest for the rest of my life,” she said.
As for emotional fitness, Saini said even pageant queens deal with the stress of life, with dark emotions, and grief we sometimes give each other.
“Pageantry looks so glamorous, but we all go through the same things,” she said. “I’m a full-time college student at the University of Washington doing honors work. In the morning I take a midterm, in the afternoon, I emcee a show in New Jersey.”
“It is stressful at times,” she said of all the travel. “But I’m privileged to be stressed with college work. We are so lucky to have the basic necessities of life.”
As she prepares to travel again — this last weekend, it was back to Ohio — Saini said she is beginning to get ready for the Miss India World pageant, which will be held in New York in December.
“Some of these girls are so much older than me,” she said, a little nervous at the prospect.
But then she regains her composure.
“You have to emphasize how you would be the best ambassador and show off your charity work,” she said.
Regardless of what happens in December, Saini said she will continue to do the best that she can to make “the most positive impact” for her neighbors and for the world.
“I’m going to be Shree regardless,” she said. “I love meeting people, and I like listening to their stories.”
Charles H. Featherstone can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org