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NAFISA JOSEPH

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She's gorgeous! And the winner of the prestigious Femina Miss India-Universe 1997

title. Here's why... and now she's right here on MTV!

Think beauty, poise, elegance and brains. Think Nafisa Joseph, the eighteen-and-a-half-year-old

winner  of the Femina Miss India-Universe 1997 title.

Looking at her, you'll probably think she's been modelling all her life. And in a way, she has.

Nafisa did her first modelling stint at the tender age of 12 for a Wearhouse ad campaign.

"I was always interested in fashion," says she, her eyes gleaming, "I remember, Sheila Panjwani,

a neighbour, got me this opportunity. And then I met Prasad Bidappa, who really helped groom me."

Then on, there was lots more modelling and level headed Nafisa had to divide her time between

her shoots,  academics, and active participation in art and music competitions at Bishop Cotton School

and, later, at  St. Josephs College (Bangalore) - excelling at it all. "Winning is very important to me,"

declares Nafisa.

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"I wouldn't be happy with anything less. And I work towards my goal."

With all that confidence, you wonder if this elegant young woman knew she'd be crowned.

"I strongly believe  in  believing in myself. I worked very hard and had the support of my parents,

my sisters and friends back in  bangalore. Deep inside - I was hoping I'd win: The competition was tough -

but I learned from other's mistakes,"  says Nafisa.

Sure there were times when her confidence slipped a little. "I thought I was well prepared for the

contest till I  actually went into training. There was so much more I could learn. But most important was to

remain focused and  always have presence of mind. This I realised when Hemant Trivedi asked me a question

on nuclear disarmament when I least expected it. Even on the final day, once the 10 contestants were

selected,  we knew that looks were not the only thing that mattered. I was a little nervous backstage.

But, I had this book, 'Gandhi'. I just read his quotes, closed my eyes and focused my thoughts.

Not that I'm a voracious reader, but presently, this book is my prized possession."

And, "The entire gamut - training, sub-contests and the final event - was a lot of fun.

" There were moments of  mischief as well. "There were times when we girls would gang up together

and communicate with codes.

Like when we'd get irritated at being made to do things over and over again, we'd just look at each

other and  sing, 'Hum hongey kaamyaab' - in a tone that meant, 'Hey, let's get moving!

' But it was all in good fun."

Winning the crown has certainly given her self esteem a great boost. Her responsibilities now,

Nafisa believes,  are to portray Indians as the loving and compassionate people they are.

Nobody's perfect. And her drawbacks, she say, are being a bit reserved. "People feel I don't mix much,

but I'm  working at it. And my sister would, perhaps, say I'm a spoilt brat because sometimes I

throw tantrums - but only at home!"

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Fun loving Nafisa is also artistically inclined, but, as she says, also very moody. "Sometimes,

I sit down to  sketch at the unearthly hour of three in the morning!" She enjoys listening to slow rock music.

Her favourite song - 'Dream a little dream' from the movie 'French Kiss'. Heavy metal - no way!

Nafisa's very ambitious, for one. And very optimistic too. Her friends and family are very important

to her - she wants to keep them all happy and is herself a very emotional person.

Talking of life back home, she gets slightly nostalgic and suddenly says,

"Gosh! I AM Femina Miss India-Universe -  it's dawning upon me slowly. But no -

I'm sure it won't change me. After all, I won the crown for what I am,

I'm certainly not going to let go of that!"  Life - for Nafisa - is going to be different now.

But all the same, she intends to study law, establish herself as a multinational corporate consultant

and later (when she's around 30), she'd like to be a political leader, and perhaps, have her own party to

make a  difference to the nation.