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Worldly Beauty with Ayesha Gilani

Ayesha Gilani | Photo Credit: Huy Aaron Huynh

Hello there, dolls. In the last one and a half year alone, I have experienced the most extreme, eye-opening, transforming, often physically and emotionally taxing, yet all the more rewarding journey of preceding (just under) 30 years of life. I invite you to share in my learned lessons and stay along for the ride while I continue to travel waters very infrequently traveled: That of the Pakistani beauty queen.

On June 19, 2009, I traveled to Toronto, Canada from my current city of Washington, D.C., with three overweight suitcases chock full of self-designed gowns and enough wardrobe to dress the entire cast of a Sanjay Leela Bhansali Bollywood flick. But more importantly I carried a heavy heart bursting with dreams of becoming the new Miss Pakistan World 2009. Eight days full of rehearsals, pop quizzes, essay writing, photo shoots, TV/media appearances, interviews, no sleep, stress pimples, under-eye bags and anxiety-induced palpitations later, I was crowned Miss Pakistan World 2009, as well as Miss Congeniality.

From the moment that crown was placed atop my curly blown-out tresses, my life immediately changed. Since then, I have participated in two of the five world largest international beauty pageants. At Miss Earth in the Philippines, I received immense support from the critics, judges and fans, who deemed me media favorite all three weeks. I also placed as a semifinalist in the talent portion and won an award for best carrying a traditional Filipiniana dress, plus Miss Congeniality runner up. During Miss Tourism Queen International in China, I was awarded runner up for the subtitle of Miss Elegant.

Parade in Beijing, Miss Tourism Queen International 2009

All such high-scale pageants required constant awareness of heavy media coverage at all times, and daily impromptu fashion shows and competitions for crowds as large as 16,000 live guests. Naturally, we were required to put our best face (and hair, nails, skin, legs, et al) forward, quite literally, at all times. No exception, unless we wanted to be the blogger’s joke of the week. I credit this experience to my constant awareness of my appearance and a successful routine to maintain it with minimal effort on days that I couldn’t afford more effort.

It’s now the beginning of a new era for me. To date, I’ve gained the life-altering experience of traveling the world as an ambassador of Pakistan, also achieving the titles of Beauty of Pakistan 2010 in China, Miss Globe Pakistan 2010 in Turkey, and my newest and currently reigning title won in Beijing, Beauty of Asia 2010, which made history for my country with the first continental win ever.

When I’m not traveling, I give back to  my community by organizing and hosting events to aid the less fortunate. I also speak at universities and institutions as a motivational speaker about women’s rights in Islam, as well as self empowerment for women of all races.

A personal focus of mine is bringing the mainstream Western fashion industry Pakistani talent to the public eye. The Pakistani fashion industry is booming and the West is captivated by the glitz and glamour of traditional South Asian culture. The key is fusing these two cultures in a way that is fashion forward, yet aesthetically flattering, without ever being tacky. Tacky is bad. Avante-garde, on the other hand is my specialty.

Celebrity Showstopper for Rani Emaan at New York Fashion Week 2011 | Photo Credit: AA Film Studios

However, long before I lived the life of a beauty queen, I was a beauty junkie. For 12 years, I owned a business called Limelight Beauty Artistes, working as head artist, personal stylist and wardrobe designer. I was personally trained by celebrity makeup artist, Debra Macki. Limelight Beauty Artistes provide the industry’s most sought after and buzzed about beauty and fashion specialists to the entire US. Writing beauty columns, teaching makeup artistry, modeling, acting, and teaching traditional Egyptian cabaret belly dance are other passions that fall under the Limelight Beauty Artistes umbrella.

"Flaunt" exhibition held at the Honfleur Gallery in DC | Photo Credit: John Ulaszek

With all my experience, I can’t wait to share all the new insider tips and tricks I picked up from the industry that eats, sleeps and breathes beauty. Murphy’s law runs rampant in beauty pageants. Due to the spontaneous nature of being in new countries under unsure circumstances while always being photographed, blogged about and criticized from all angles, we all often found ourselves emulating MacGyver in some pretty testing scenarios. So be careful not to underestimate a beauty queen. I may look lightweight, but I can fashion an Audrey Hepburn-esque updo armed with only a mascara wand and sweat socks in two minutes flat, which moonlight as nunchucks in the event you need a little extra convincing. Stay tuned. This is just the beginning.

Love and peace,

Ayesha currently sleeps, breathes beauty, and is working on a new beauty column for a new magazine.

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