Shree Saini is a Conqueror of Life Challenges

2 years ago / by ABHIJIT MASIH
Shree Saini

‘Tis the season of being grateful. Shree Saini, the newly crowned Miss World America, certainly has loads to be grateful about. 

On October 2, 2021, Shree Saini was crowned Miss World America 2021 by Diana Hayden, Miss World 1997. This December, she will go on to represent the United State of America at the Miss World 2021 contest in Puerto Rico.

The 25-year-old girl born in Ludhiana and raised in small-town America, has a rough time getting to where she is now. 

When she was but 12, a blockage caused her heart to beat weakly, sometimes only once in five seconds. She required one heart surgery then, to be followed by others, once every 10 years. She still wears a pacemaker.

Then, a few years back, a car accident left her with severe facial scars, which ordinarily could have ruined any chance of competing in a beauty contest, leave alone in Miss World America.

Saini painfully narrates the torment she endured in the aftermath of the accident:

“I had wounds oozing with blood, my face was so swollen for weeks that I could not see my ears, and my tears would further burn my wounds so I could not even cry because the salt in my tears caused more pain. I had to request my university to allow me to come to classes with a fully hidden face. My mom sewed extra wide brims on hats so that I could be protected from pollution and the sun. Between classes, I would go to the bathroom to wipe wounds and put healing ointments. My face was furthermore aggregated when a doctor suggested rapid healing and caused more traumas. My mom was feeling terrible about my condition, so she said yes to each and every possible treatment, no matter how expensive it was. That was the most painful time for my family.” 

Her family’s support and her own resilience saw her through this tough phase – and decide that she had a future in ballet. 

“My parents raised me to be a solution focused and a possibility mindset individual,” she says. “I focus my work on the ‘right now’ and on taking moment-to-moment decisions. I make annual, monthly, weekly and daily goals. I break daily goals to hourly time slot goals. Each evening, I [go over] my day for productivity and service work. I would dance extra long hours in my garage to match the skills of regularly healthy students.”

She explains what made her pursue her childhood dream to go for the competition.

“Miss World is the biggest and the oldest beauty pageant in the world,” she says. “It is in its 70th year. More than 125 countries compete for this crown and, most importantly, it is a charity-based pageant. The CEO, Julia Morley,  has raised over 1.3 billion dollars. I was fascinated by the work done by contestants all over the world. I wanted be a part of Miss World since I was 6 years old. I even have my photo from age 6 dressed as Miss World.”

Winning the Miss World America title, Saini feels, is the answer to her prayers, her reward for serving over 100 not-for-profit organizations. She says the title is a service job and not reward for competing with others.

Saini still fondly recalls her win.

“I prayed and worked very hard since last 10 years in my nonprofit projects, and I was hoping for God’s favor,” she says. “For me true prayer is being of service to others.”

shree saini

Saini credits her win to her mentors, teachers and, most importantly, to her parents. 

“My parent’s middle name is ‘Sewa’ [service],” she says. “I have grown up in a house that puts social service above self service. My mom got the highest civic honor, the NASS medallion, by secretary of state for her philanthropic and volunteer work 5 years ago. Mom gives, gives, gives and gives.”

Living up to her family’s mission of service to others, Saini has worked with many nonprofits. The title win, she feels, will help her further her efforts. 

“I want to serve over a 1,000 nonprofits during (the time I hold) my national title. I want to do Zoom events and in-person events and impact millions of people,” she says.

Saini hopes to work with the two organizations closest to her heart – the American Heart Association and CRY. Her closeness to the American Heart Association is personal, though.

“Each non-profit has a noble goal, all work is important, but I especially feel grateful to American Heart Association,” she says. “I am alive because of the inventions [of] medical professionals. My pacemaker is a very recent invention, and I consider myself fortunate to serve AHA.” As far as CRY goes, she says the world’s biggest responsibility is to children, and to be physically and emotionally available for them. 

After more than a year-and-a-half of ups and downs during the pandemic, Saini is grateful she has come through unscathed. She says being alive and being able to take care of her health is a privilege. She wants to take the opportunity to be kinder.

“When with your big heart, you speak kindly to others, you reach out to others, you uplift a person’s confidence,” Saini says. “You forgive and help others elevate, that is generosity of spirit. It is so easy to hold grudges and gossip, it is more important to forgive and elevate others to higher levels with your fine behavior.” 

Speaking to children, she asks them to choose right. 

“Choose forgiveness over grudges, and forgive completely, not superficially,” she says. “Choose kindness when given unkind treatment, which is true kindness. Choose inclusion when you were ignored and reach out and renew lost friendships.” 

With her wishes and prayers answered, Thanksgiving will be special for Saini this year. She plans to spend it with her family and friends, appreciating her rich blessings and the love showered on her by her community and the world.