Meet India LaRoda, born in sunny Los Angeles and also a proud citizen of the United Kingdom. India broke cross-cultural boundaries this summer 2017, when she was crowned Miss India America — the first biracial, African-American and East Indian, to be a titleholder of this crown in its twenty-five years.
India, with her global platform, is an advocate for diversity and women empowerment. She’s uplifting and refreshing, we’re honoured to have an exclusive interview with her featured on British Bindi, sharing her beliefs, experiences and pageant journey;
What made you enter a pageant?
I’ve been going to school all year round since high school; last year I decided to take a summer off and do something entertaining, yet productive. My mom presented me with the idea to participate in the Miss India America pageant, which I was initially hesitant. However, I know in order for me to grow as a person, I must get out of my comfort zone and that’s when my pageantry journey began.
What motivated and really drove you to want to win the title of Miss India America?
When I realized that I was the only biracial contestant, my motivation was to win and be a positive representation by showing the key to success begins with loving who you are first, regardless of what others may say or how narrow-minded they are.
Who was your biggest support system during the pageant?
My family and friends
If someone wants to enter the Miss India America pageant, what’s the process?
The root of the process is being confident and embracing who you are. After you reach that level of acceptance, the journey becomes a beautiful way to grow as an individual. You’ll start networking for sponsors, enhance your communication skills, meet so many wonderful people, and build a platform that represents what you stand for and are passionate about.
What would you say your toughest challenges were, growing up as a female from a bi-racial background?
I, fortunately, have amazing parents that provided me with a good balance; this helped me embrace my cultural background at such an early age.
Starting when I could walk, my parents were very protective about how I would see the world or people. So we would travel to various countries and I would see firsthand other cultures, their way of life, language etc.. The exposure to the various facets of people, helped me not grow up to be judgmental. People do have an opinion of me when they know I am biracial, but I am so secure that I use their insecurities to springboard my determination to help others. Additionally, I am affected by the injustices that are circulating in today’s society with regards to race. That is the toughest challenge, and I only hope to use my platform to bring equality and justice for those that cannot use their voice.
Have you ever felt insecure in your own skin? What advice would you give to someone who lacks self-esteem?
Yes, I have. I think naturally growing up in a society that emphasizes more on outer beauty, it is easy to become blinded by the importance of inner beauty. However, I overcame that by embracing my insecurities and surrounding myself with people who spread unconditional love and support.
What do you love about your Indian heritage?
There are so many things I love about my Indian heritage. As a Bal Vikas graduate, I embrace the five core values of human values. I love Indian history, and the powerful beneficial imprint the culture has brought to the western world; I’ve noticed a positive Indian influence across the board, such as in weddings, music, film, fashion, and food.
Winning the title of Miss India America has given you a global platform and opened many doors for you – how will you use your status and presence to help improve the hardships you’ve faced being from an ethnic minority background?
First and foremost, as the first biracial titleholder in twenty-five years, I really believe the doors have opened for not just me, but those that are multiracial. The subtle innuendoes have made me a much stronger individual, because I feel that I deserve not to be judged by ethnicity, but my accomplishments and traits of being a positive role model for myself and those around me. I am aware of both communities that I identify with, and I hope to use my global platform to be part of a solution.
Tell us more about how YOU feel about women’s rights and empowerment, and about the tour, you’re about to conduct.
Women are strong and powerful souls. Throughout history, there are many women who fought and sacrificed for equality which ultimately paved the way for future generations like myself to have the opportunities. As for my public speaking engagements, I just got back from New York. I was part of a panel speaking to parents and students about the importance of volunteering by sharing my story, and the impact helping others has on the community and individually.
Considering you’ve lived in both LA and the UK, is there anything you like or find different between the two cultures and lifestyles?
I call both home. I love that both cities where I predominately travel and live, (London and California) are cosmopolitan and have diverse communities.
Why do you think you won Miss India America?
I believe I won Miss India America because of the 5 core humanistic values I uphold which are: peace, truth, love, non-violence, and right conduct. These qualities are a representation of what Miss India America embodies, as well as exuding positivity with a purpose.
How has your life changed since becoming Miss India America?
It has been a whirlwind experience. I’m thankful to have a global platform that allows me to speak on issues that I am passionate about, and want to help make a difference. On a personal note, I feel myself growing more into the woman I am supposed to become.
What’s next for you? What do you want to achieve in the next 10 years?
In the next 10 years, I hope to be a board-certified paediatrician, have a family, write a children’s book, and have my own non-profit organization.
India LaRoda is an incredibly beautiful, inspiring soul. We’re excited to keep up with her journey, as she spreads positivity and strength for such worthy causes.