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A mother, a wife and a top model: How Mumbai-based Soniya Singh became Mrs Commonwealth International

Meet Soniya Shetty Singh, a Mumbai-based mother who pursued a modelling career after having a baby. With her determination, Singh beat the odds and went on to win an international beauty pageant. Like a typical Indian girl, Singh had given up her career after she got married.

She dedicated herself to the family life and had put on a lot of weight after having a baby. Her's is a heart-warming story where she was encouraged by her sister-in-law to take up a career in modelling when Soniya was fighting postpartum depression.

She represented India at the Mrs Commonwealth International 2016 held in London and bagged the title of Mrs Commonwealth International Asia Pacific.

Soniya was able to realise her childhood dream of being a top model but she never imagined that all of this would happen in a reverse sequence of events.

Here is Soniya's story of dreams and determination and how it can inspire a million of other mums like her. 

The Beginnings

Soniya Singh Mrs Commonwealth International

Soniya Singh Mrs Commonwealth International

Soniya hails from Mumbai but spent her childhood in Pune. Her parents were in the travel business. Soniya, recalls, "That small area of Chakala was my world in Andheri east."

At 6’2” inches of height, Soniya would always stand out amongst her peers.

She says, “Whenever I passed by my college corridors or walked on the roads, I noticed people observed me keenly, in fact, even people driving would notice me. I realised that there is some reason and I could consider getting into modelling.”

She participated in the Mr and Miss Citadel Pune in 2004 and though she couldn’t win the title, the pageant gave her a huge exposure. Soon, she bagged amazing assignments - walking for Anita Dongre, Tanishq, Westside and Shopper’s Stop to name a few.

She was pursuing her career in modelling when in her final year of college, her father fell severely ill and was hospitalised for a year before he passed away in 2006.

During those difficult times, Soniya focused all of her attention on studies, ignoring modelling altogether. She took up MBA in Human Resources and worked in corporates.

In 2009, Soniya also had a brief stint with Femina Miss India South. Soniya got married in 2011 and continued working incorporates.

Talking about handling work and home post marriage, she says, “We were blessed with a baby girl a year after my marriage but I continued working."

Modelling Beckons

It was during this period that Soniya was encouraged by her sister-in-law to reconsider modelling. The path was not easy as she had put on a lot of weight due to stress, untimely food habits, and irregular routine.

She says, “Somehow, my inner self was not ready to accept myself the way I had become.” Still determined, she approached her guru Lovell Prabhu who suggested her to lose weight if she wanted to make a comeback. She started training with Jeetu Chavan and followed Rashmi Uttamchandani’s diet. “It took me a year to lose all the kilos that I had gained," she recollects.

Family support

Soniya recalls, "My sister in law Sneha has always been my support. We both compliment each other wherever the other falls short. Back in those days, she understood my frustration and the state of my mind very well. I was not even considering it to be an option at that point considering my daughter was just over 2 years old. She made me realise I should take it up and work towards it."

As a bahu, whether she got the same support from her in-laws, Soniya says, "My in-laws do not stay with me. But I have had a great support from my father in law.  Although they belong to a very orthodox background. My father in law is very proud of me and doesn't consider me less than his sons. I am lucky daughter in law."

On her husband's reaction, she says, "We both have very different ideologies in life. He has been a very big critic of mine. When I started my new journey. He was unsure if I would reach the finishing line as he knew I have never prioritised myself over him and my family. But this time he saw a very different me. It is because of his criticism I am what I am today."

Mrs Commonwealth International pageant

Talking about her experience at the Mrs Commonwealth International pageant, Soniya shares that there were many unsaid and untold efforts behind it, as it was also her first-ever overseas pageant.

And she was naturally very excited and nervous about it. “I have so many wonderful memories to take back. The biggest compliment I got was when I entered the stage for the first time and the judges said ‘Is she a Mrs Contestant? We thought she was a Miss Contender’.

Message to fellow mums

Soniya says, "All I can say. It is all there in the mind. Strength doesn't come from muscles but from your state of mind. Your thought process can either make you or break you. In a world full of Cinderellas dare to be a barman. Prioritising yourself and balancing it with your responsibilities is an art. It will cause initial friction but settles down with time."

Read: How this mum of twins lost 25 kilos in 9 months

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