Discovering her true potential - Zareen Khan

This was one of those interviews that stuck with me. It took a lot of guts for Zareen Khan to overcome her fears and put herself out there as a contender for Miss and Mrs Singapolitan Islandwide 2017. Most people think of pageants as gateways to fame, success and influence. But to Zareen, it’s been an opportunity to find herself again and regain the confidence that she had previously lost. This pageant has truly helped to transform her life and set her on the path to becoming an inspiration to all women out there.

What have you been struggling with since young?

My sisters and I were raised single-handedly by my mother. My parents got divorced when I was 5 years old. My father used to be abusive towards us and some nights, would come home intoxicated and press cigarette butts to my face. I’ve only known a father’s rage but never his love.

I’ve also been dealing with many trust issues and have trouble trusting anyone. I’ve been betrayed so many times by girlfriends whom I had complete faith in and it shattered me to such an extent that I don’t have many friends nowadays. I just don’t know who to let into my life and trust anymore. So I think that somehow, I’ve been traumatised by these past experiences so much that I have lost all faith and confidence in myself. I’m scared of trusting others, putting myself out there and trying new things. I’m afraid that I’m not good enough.

What made you then decide to join this pageant?

I wanted to get into modelling to boost my confidence and raise my self-esteem. I knew that I had to do something about it. My younger sister just happened to pass me the number of this lady whom she said was in the fashion industry and could perhaps help me enter it. That lady was Vanitha. At that point, I still had no idea who exactly she was and what she did. I gave her a call and the thing that stuck with me during our conversation was when she asked me why I lacked confidence in myself. I told her that I was scared of being scrutinised and judged by others and was afraid I wasn’t good enough. She told me to just come down and meet her and I did. The first thing that she told me was “You know what, you’re really beautiful.” which completely caught me off guard. I wasn’t used to such sincere compliments, especially from a woman. It felt really nice.

The following day, I met her again and she broached the subject of the pageant. To me, a pageant was made up of intelligent gorgeous girls and I didn’t think I would make it very far. But she told me to just give it a shot. I actually didn’t give her an answer immediately and talked it over with my husband. My husband has been the biggest blessing of my life and he’s always pushed me to overcome my greatest fears and obstacles. He told me that I should definitely go for it and that I need this pageant to rediscover myself. So that’s how I ended up joining.

What was the experience in a pageant like?

Having gone through the workshops and fitness sessions, I now realise that I’m so fortunate to not have jumped directly into modelling. This pageant has workshops that completely build us up not just as pageant queens but as strong independent women. You can’t gain all this knowledge overnight and if I had simply gone into modelling, it would have made my self-esteem worse instead of better. Vanitha gave me the confidence and trust in myself that there’s nothing wrong with me and that I shouldn’t be afraid to show my true self. It’s not just about the crown and she wants to see us grow as individuals. She once asked me - who do you think is your biggest competitor? And I told her that I think it's myself. I told her that I’m here to discover myself, realise my strengths and overcome my weaknesses. I’m not a fan of the limelight and am completely afraid of cameras. But she pushes me to challenge those fears and become the best version of myself. For that, I’m truly grateful to her. I’m really glad that I took this step because, without it, I would not have been able to learn about my strengths and discover the potential that is in me.

How has the pageant helped you to unleash your potential?

I don't have many friends. I do interact with people on a daily basis but I don’t have many whom I hang out with regularly. Sharing special moments with someone is really important to me but I believe in having the right kind of friends. Those who are humble and sincere.  Vanitha has made all of us into a family. I’ve met people whom I’m now so close to and I’m completely comfortable with which is rare for me.  

I was initially afraid to enter this pageant because I thought it would break my confidence even more. Instead, this pageant has brought me so far and has given me the courage to get over my past insecurities. It was really a challenge for me when I had to do a video interview and be completely honest and vulnerable for the world to see. But it was only when I managed to do that successfully did I realise that although I haven’t progressed a 100 percent, I’ve definitely hit the halfway point. I still have a long way to go but I’m working on it.The word ‘impossible’ is no longer in my vocabulary.  It's always possible, as long as you set your mind to it and be completely honest with yourself. Stop comparing yourself with others and focus on what you need to do.

What would you like to do after this pageant?

There are many women out there who have felt the same way I have over the years and by sharing my experiences, even if I can’t completely transform their lives, I believe I can make a difference. My mum is the strongest woman I know and having raised the three of us single-handedly while working day and night, she is truly an inspiration to me. I would like to be the kind of strong independent woman that she is and be a source of strength to other women . I'm passionate about helping the elderly as well and if there is any cause that is to their benefit that I can take part in, I’ll definitely do so.

I want to move on from my past experiences. I am not a mother yet but if I do decide to become one, I don't want my child to see me the way I am now. By the end of this journey, I would like to see a Zareen who has not only regained all her self-confidence and self-esteem but is also able to help others with their self-confidence and self-esteem issues. My biggest accomplishment will be the Grand Finale on 1st July when I do the catwalk at Marina Bay Sands. That will be the culmination of this entire journey and I am looking forward to the person that I’ll see after that.

What quote or expression would you print on a T-shirt that embodies your values and beliefs?

I would say 'Don't stop believing' and 'Live your dreams'. Because to stop believing in your dreams is to stop living altogether.

Miss and Mrs Singapolitan Islandwide 2017 will be shown on Vijay TV and Star Plus, starting from 26th May. You can also catch the action on Youtube.

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