Miss India 1997 was the first Miss India contest I watched live on TV. It’s quite ironic that I started watching Miss World when Aishwarya Rai won the contest and Miss India contest much later. So, Miss India 1997 will always be special. Since then I have never miss any of it. When Diana Hayden won the title of Miss India World, I knew that Miss World was going to be special since the girl I like was going to my favourite pageant. India had won its second Miss World crown in 1994, came close to winning it in 1996 and many thought it was the closest India can get to since winning another crown so soon was very unlikely, but Diana proved everyone wrong. Her natural beauty, determination and passion won her the coveted crown just like in the Olympic the best one wins Gold.
For Miss India contest, it was her friend and Pop singer Anaida who suggested her to try for the contest. At that time, Diana was a Manager at BMG crescendo – a celebrity event management company, handling the professions of famous singers such as Anaida and Mehnaz. On the insistence of Anaida, she tried for the contest. And as luck would have it, she was crowned Miss India World 1997.
It was reported that she was the last one to be called for Miss India. She was still raw, not familiar with the latest trends and fashions etc. “She was like a tomboy in what I call window-cleaner clothes. She was a plain Jane, heavy around the hips, with little knowledge of fashion,” says Hemant Trivedi who has trained many beauty queens who went on to win international crown.
Watching Miss India contest for the very first time, I was totally mesmerized by her beauty. Her face was absolutely gorgeous and had the grace and charm of classical Indian looks. Back then I wasn’t concerned with what was the contestant’s body stat. What attracts me towards them were there stage presence, intelligence and ofcourse their gorgeous face which was more beautiful if they had the first two qualities. Diana was one such woman. Today, if I have to look at her Miss India video and Miss World video, then I can say there was a complete transformation.
After getting all the training from India’s leading experts, she was ready to conquer the world. She went to Seychelles to compete for Miss World crown. Once at the contest, she soon charmed every one with her classical Indian looks, intelligence and a very prototype Miss World-ish personality. The judges and the press had liked her instantly.
On the final night, during the parade of nations showed through a video, wearing a beautiful gold colour Indian costume, she introduced herself as coming from the land of exotics with history, culture and beauty in her confidently husky voice. As the contest progressed, awards were given and she swept all the awards – Miss Photogenic and Best in Swimsuit. Who can forget the famous crystal-studded swimsuit which won Hayden the beachwear round! This is an achievement no other Miss World has achieved. Then in the top 10 she quoted W B Yeats. In her own words, “In what I believe in, tonight I would like to draw an inspiration from the once and great poetic W B Yeats’s quotes ‘in dream begins responsibility’ For me this title is my dream and the responsibility it brings will cherish and in some ways help the dreams of others.”
The night belonged to her. She was leading all the way. It was just a matter of time before she was announced as India’s third Miss World. The only question was who will be her runners up? Finally, the moment of truth arrived and she won the crown with Miss New Zealand and Miss South Africa as her runners up.
For a woman who hardly knew about fashion and make up, whose body needed to be worked upon, it wasn’t an easy journey. But it was her determination which helped her win the crown. She had a lot to work on. Being trained by the best of the best helped her in achieving her goal. “What stood out was her ambition and drive,” says designer Hemant Trivedi. “I’ve spotted a lot of talent but I don’t see that ambition in too many girls,” he adds.
Mickey Mehta who worked on her fitness said, “I told her to attach herself to her work and detach herself from the results, and she actually did it. She was absolutely focused.” Her Choreographer Shiamak Davar says, “She came for two-three hours a day. She had no ego at all. If I asked her to do something 10,000 times, she would.” Ritu Kumar who worked on her outfits was positive about her chances: “I’ve never seen such a dramatic change in anybody”
It was this training and grooming lessons that transformed her into a stunning beautiful queen. Even before the contest had started, she was already making waves. At the London airport, a journalist working for GQ was told by a customs official that he had just checked-in 86 beauty queens and couldn’t remember much about their faces but Miss India was gorgeous.
While losing the title of Miss India Universe 1997 to the Late Nafisha Joseph after a tie break, she had said she was happy since she had more time to prepare for Miss World. It wasn’t just her determination and will to win the crown, but also she was a willing student keen to learn without carrying any air about her celebrity status as Miss India. She was humble and helpful.
At the Cannes Film Festivals
On being asked by a fan why the need to take part in the Miss World contest, she replied, “To win $100,000 and all the perks that come along with it. And the Miss World title as a platform to start off with. Is that reason enough?” She was the highest winner than any previous Miss World. She was signed by Miss World Organization for more than two years to work with them. Later, she became the face of L’Oreal whose Ads were aired internationally, attended several high profiles festivals including Cannes and became a favourite among many International designers.
Diana is involved with many charities around the world especially focusing on issues affecting women and children. She has worked with many NGO’s, helped raise awareness on many issues and funds in million of dollars such as Variety Club, Lifeline, CRY, Alert India, CAP, of which she is an Advisory Board member, PETA, Greenpeace and the Spastic Society of India. She is also committed to campaigning for Breast Cancer Awareness, HIV/AIDS education and Habitat for Humanity International. In June 2012 Diana released her first book, which is a comprehensive grooming guide for women, titled “A Beautiful Truth – The Art of Grooming for Women“. She is now married to Collin Dick from Las Vegas, USA who has worked in Mumbai for an International NGO. They both have baby girl named Arya Renée Hayden.
From a plain Jane to Miss World, her story might seems like a fairy tale story but what makes her journey beautiful despite obstacles and hardships is that she is a fighter and go-getter. During the Miss World contest, while most of the contestants were busy trying out new cuisines, Diana who wouldn’t leave any stone unturned was the only one who stuck to no-sugar, no-milk diet of fruits and vegetables. It is this grits and determination which helped her win the Beachwear round and ultimately the crown. Many will remember her as a stunning beauty queen from India who won Miss World crown but her story – the sacrifices she made and the hardship she endured with a smile on her face, gives us a lesson i.e. our stories might be different, the things we faced might be small or big but once we achieved our goals, the happiness that comes from within is the same. And we all need to acknowledge who we are and where we come from. Success belongs to those who believe in their dreams and are always smiling in any situation. That’s Diana Hayden story for us.