Indian origin Australian Actor & Model, Saroni Roy, was awarded the India Australia Goodwill Ambassador 2018 at the Miss/Mrs/Mr India Australia-Touch the Soul 2018, a prestigious, star-studded beauty pageant organised by Reena Koak, National Director, Miss India Australia Corporation. The award was presented to her by Miss Lebanon Australia 2016, Mary Mehajer, for her contribution to the society and her endeavours towards making a real difference in the world. In the panel of judges, was Bollywood superstar, Miss Asia Pacific 2000, UN Environment Goodwill Ambassador, Dia Mirza. Some other eminent personalities that graced the panel of judges were, Madison Croft, Brooke Murray, Bipin Sharma, Craig Kelly MP.
Excerpts of an exclusive interview of Saroni Roy, which was conducted by Mitaan Express
How did you feel after bagging the Ms India Australia Goodwill Ambassador 2018 title?
I felt rewarded, appreciated and I admit, I did feel a sense of pride for myself. Because this title does not have a male or female differentiator to it, neither does it have anything to do with one’s physical beauty. Just being a beautiful woman wasn’t my concept of beauty and this title is solely a recognition for my small bit of contribution towards social causes so far, a support and encouragement in my journey to achieve more.
You are a cancer survivor, so what’s your message to the aspirants of the title?
It takes immense courage and determination to be a part of a pageant such as this, and my message to everyone aspiring for this or any title, or contest would be that life may throw the toughest of hurdles at you, it may seem the end of the world at that point in time, but believe me it’s not! With courage, determination and a positive will, we are capable of becoming victorious against all odds! I believe that the common man is the most influential and has the power to make the change he wants to see in the world. Utilize every skill and talent to create art, the joy of creating something beautiful is the most peaceful state of mind. And it’s a myth that not everyone is an artist. Because art is not just about painting, dancing or singing, it’s also about nurturing beautiful minds, raising children into compassionate human beings, it could be as simple as teaching hygiene and safety to a child in an orphanage, or bringing back the Olive Ridley Turtles to our beautiful Versova beach after 20 years! An incredible work of art by Afroz Shah! The campaigns I worked for in the past, I hadn’t even registered for this pageant then, so don’t just work for a better world only to win a contest or an award or to show it on social media, do it because you want to bring about a change, do it because you want to create a more peaceful and beautiful planet to live in. I do it because I do not treat my circumstances and physical limitations and challenges as an excuse to not work hard towards creating a brighter future, so can you!
What are your plans for India?
I would like to connect and collaborate with people and organisations in India to raise more awareness worldwide about the causes I currently wish to work towards, support me to shape the path and work as one big team to achieve positive results.
What are your views about curbing crime against women in India as there is a sudden rise of such cases in the country?
It’s painful to say the least and I don’t think it’s sudden. We saw Nirbhaya in 2012 and now Asifa, and I’m sure there were millions of such cases before and in between, which were not reported or did not make a fervour just because they were considered a wee bit less brutal to our eyes. My campaign concept ‘Train the boys’ stems from this very issue and would be an initiative towards understanding and addressing it, not just as an India-centric issue but also a worldwide concern.
When are you planning to visit India?
I’m not sure, but maybe next year sometime.
Please tell us about your India connect in your projects like ‘Body Positive’ and ‘Train the boys’.
I’ve lived most of my life in India so both my campaign concepts are deeply rooted to my experiences in India.
I grew up thinking I’m fat, dark and ugly and there’s nothing attractive or likeable about me. Even as a 6 year old I remember envying my best friend just because she was fair and one day I learnt that she’s fair because she eats food that is white in colour like egg whites, milk etc. Then we had our aunts and cousin sisters and friends who would be applying musoor dal paste, malai and what not as a face mask for fairer skin! Then there’s don’t eat chocolates, ice creams etc because you will get fat and no one will marry you! So the over- arching idea here is not the nutritional value of what a child is eating or even to have healthy skin and hair, but rather impose the conventional concept of fair, skinny and beautiful, even further. Rather than talking about the adverse effects of it on your health and the planet at large.
Whether you’re 8, 18 or 80, I still come across people of all colour, size, shape and age being unhappy about how they look and feel about themselves. There’s so much of body shaming and cyber bullying on social media all the time! An increasing pressure to be skinny and pretty can be mentally stressful and can lead to a lot of mental illnesses and health issues. People project a lot of negative emotions and energy towards you just because they only think you look better than them and success comes easier to beautiful people! No! No matter what size, colour or age you are, anyone achieving their goals has worked very hard to get there. So can you! There are no shortcuts to success.
I’m a cancer survivor, and have been through surgery and radiation therapy, I lost my thyroid gland, lot of my lustrous hair, my skin, my metabolism, my body, my energy levels, everything changed. I couldn’t lead an active life for a long time. But I fought, accepted the changes and weaknesses and cherished my second life, the new, changed and different ME. ‘Body Positive’ would be my initiative to encourage more people to accept themselves the way they are, make the best of the resources and skills you have, don’t be embarrassed of the curves, scars or stretch marks, that illnesses or stressful situations induce, be proud of them, wear them like a badge of bravery.
‘Train the Boys’
Domestic violence and crime against women is prevalent in most parts of the world, and it is definitely one of the most pressing issues in India. We have definitely been talking about a lot of positive efforts towards empowering women, educating our girls, making them aware of the sexual threats. With films like Dangal we have talked about training our girls in martial arts, carry pepper spray, making them physically stronger, train them in various defence mechanisms to protect them from molestation, rape, assault, abuse or any sexual threats. I would say it’s absolutely incredible efforts there. But to me that seems like only an aid to this intrinsic problem. But to get to the root of this issue, we need to pay attention to the boys. We need to raise better men who respect men, women and every being on this earth. I’m not saying all men are criminals or are acting against women. But the point I’m trying to make is however empowered, confident and strong our girls are if the boys or the male members of the society can’t decipher right from wrong and respect her, she’s still not safe! So ‘train the boys’! Because maybe the juvenile delinquents, or the criminals did not receive guidance and good parenting as a child. We encourage adopting the girl child, but I would add to that by saying adopt the boy child.
I came across this Indian ad by ‘All Out’ #standbytoughmoms https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vBAqly7WGWs I loved it, it echoes my thoughts. It’s something that men and women in India need to understand that all crimes start small. Only when we raise better men, can we create a safer world for our girls. Whether it’s a terrorist or a drug addict or a rapist, the cause is most likely psychological issues and conditioning, stemming from zero to bad parenting, zero or negligible guidance or sex education, or a sheer lack of a value system that empowers them to be able to handle, support and cherish the strong-willed and empowered women of today.
You’ve interviewed SRK, what’s your idea about him?
While most of my interviews are always wonderful memories I cherish, speaking with SRK was like…I couldn’t have been more star struck‼ It’s his 500% confidence and conviction in himself and in whatever he does, which is so captivating and engaging. And in all of this mesmerising aura, you will inevitably get a glimpse of a heart of gold that shines through.