Dubai born Manasvi Noel graduated from Etobicoke School of the Arts in Drama and Acting from CIMT College, Toronto, and is currently studying Media Communications at Humber College. She was inspired to pursue belly dance in Dubai after experiencing an emotional performance on Arabic music. She temporarily moved to Mumbai to cultivate her passion for belly dance, and met Veronica Simas DeSouza of Veve Dance—Bollywood Choreographer of Sheila ki Jawani and Tees Maar Khan fame. Manasvi Noel has taught women between the ages of 16-65 yrs and people of all sizes. She began dance classes and workshops especially for pre-and post-natal women as belly dancing was originally evolved from that concept. Her main purpose is to make her students feel confident, beautiful and self-loving! She believes women today are under a lot of pressure to look, feel, and act a certain way, but a woman should be whatever she wants to be and believe in herself.
Vinita Kinra: Welcome to Global Asian Times, Manasvi. How did winning the Miss India-Canada crown change your life?
Manasvi Noel: Thank you for the welcome! The title changed my life overnight! I was suddenly the center of attention, something I am not used to at all. I was looked at for inspiration and leadership. I initially felt the pressure of the crown, but it became my confidence. After winning, the path to my goals is accelerated and everything seems achievable.
Vinita Kinra: As a little girl, did you always dream about being a beauty queen?
Manasvi Noel: Not at all. It still amuses me that I am seen as a beauty queen. Until 6 years ago, I believed I was one of the ugliest people on this planet. I was tall but fat, had severe acne issues, my body language was timid and hesitant. I used to wear my brothers clothes so I would blend in with the crowd. I did grow up watching and learning from pageants, though. My mom would make my brother and I watch them to learn confidence, wittiness, and body language. As a little girl, I always dreamed of being the “hero” in Bollywood movies.
Vinita Kinra: You are an optimal combination of beauty and brains. What would you be doing today if you were not reigning Miss India-Canada?
Manasvi Noel: I would be spreading the knowledge of belly dance. Whether or not I am Miss India-Canada, I am still doing it.
Vinita Kinra: When and how did the fascination with belly dancing begin?
Manasvi Noel: It began when I was in Dubai (where I was born and raised partially). I saw a local belly dancer perform and it was the most beautiful performance I had ever witnessed. It was fluid, emotional, and contemporary. That performance stayed with me, and I later went to Mumbai to learn the art from Veronica Simas De’Souza, who choreographed and trained famous Bollywood actress Katrina Kaif.
Manasvi Noel: It’s pressure-packed and exciting. I knew I always had a leader in me somewhere. There are so many things I want to do and such little time. I hope I can live up to the title.
Vinita Kinra: Share with us the journey of your beauty pageant. Was it grueling or enjoyable?
Manasvi Noel: It was one of the best experiences. I met some wonderful, talented people and made life-long friendships. It was an altogether different world when we were being trained. Yes, we got yelled at for making mistakes, and encouraged when we needed to be. But every second was worth it. It was another level of excitement and attachment with everyone. All of us were in it together.
Vinita Kinra: Did you have a support group like family, friends, or acquaintances who believed in your dreams of creative pursuits?
Manasvi Noel: I always flaunt my support system. They are the best. They always believed in me and pushed me to fight and emerge. My mom always kept me inspired and my brother gave me the little kick every time I needed it. I owe a lot to them for what I am today.
Vinita Kinra: How do you plan to shape the female South Asian community of Canada with your title win?
Manasvi Noel: It will take more than just a year for my plans to surface. But I am building my base in this one year and hopefully soon I will be successful. I am working a lot on mental health and dance—the two things that are rarely taken seriously in the South Asian Culture. So it’s going to be a bumpy ride, but I am pushing forward. It’s 2015, and it’s about time we were educated on all important aspects of a person’s well-being.
Vinita Kinra: In your opinion, what is the biggest obstacle in winning a beauty pageant?
Manasvi Noel: You are—the second you lose faith in yourself, you lose. I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety a year before the pageant. I knew something was wrong, but I didn’t know to what extent. I had a broken leg, I just came out of 3-year toxic relationship, I had suicidal thoughts that I considered normal. It was the rock bottom. I knew it had to be something big that would bring me back. So I had to win. But winning to me was dancing on stage without falling or tripping. I was a dance instructor in Mumbai at the time and with a broken leg, I was useless. So I signed up for the pageant, giving myself an ultimatum that by then, I had to back on my feet and dancing. And I did, with a screw in my knee. After the performance, I received an overwhelming reaction from the audience, and I had never been happier! The title and crown really felt like a bonus. But when I decided to give it everything I had, I erased my obstacles.
Vinita Kinra: Having studied drama and acting, do you nurture ambitions of being a Bollywood/Hollywood actress one day?
Manasvi Noel: Well, I haven’t really considered it, but if something comes along it would be fantastic. I actually went into acting and drama to overcome my timid personality. I knew I had to put myself on the spot, challenge myself and overcome many barriers. So I chose drama. I hated myself before that. With acting, I fell in love with plays and the stage. I grew to be a passionate, strong-hearted woman. The stage became my home. I love being in the spotlight through performance. It just feels so powerful to be able to control the audience and everything that happens around you.
Vinita Kinra: You definitely didn’t put all eggs in the same basket as you’re studying Media Communications at Humber College. What are your future career plans?
Manasvi Noel: I always say that life is too long to be doing just one thing. I want to work in the PR industry, preferably with Toronto Police. Out of the many things I am passionate about, Justice is one of them. I want to influence the good in people and have a part in making a difference.
Vinita Kinra: Who has been the biggest mentor in your life?
Manasvi Noel: I can’t really point to one person. I think every terrible situation, good and bad people I met, every critique and remark I heard, everything I came across in life taught me life’s greatest lessons. If it wasn’t for all the obstacles and pushing through, I would never have made it this far.
Vinita Kinra is a Toronto-based author, editor, speaker and activist, best known for her short story collection, Pavitra in Paris, launched to critical acclaim in 2013. She is also a contributor for India’s largest English daily, The Times of India.