Somya Thakur, Nari Shakti

Somya Thakur: The Face of Inclusive Fashion

Success Stories Women

The fashion industry is a mixture of glitz and glamour. Everyday fashion designers design new, beautiful, and aesthetically pleasing dresses and showcase them worldwide. However, when you look closely at the industry as a whole, it has just now started to become inclusive, and they are catering to customers such as plus-size, trans, and disabled customers. Shining through in this inclusive representation is Somya Thakur, title holder of Miss Wheelchair World India 2022 till now.

As the famous saying goes, “Clothes aren’t going to change the world; the women who wear them will.” This quote makes us think of Somya Thakur, a woman who didn’t give up on her passion because she was physically disabled. Somya has a loco-motor disability, and due to her weak leg muscles, she cannot bear her body weight. 

When faced with life’s challenges, one can either succumb to them or confront them head-on. Somya chose the latter, persevering to complete an MBA from Punjab University. Currently, she works as an HR professional with a private company based in Mohali. She made it to the headlines in 2022 with the title of Miss Wheelchair World India 2022. She was the only finalist to represent India in Miss Wheelchair World in Mexico. Somya graciously shares her inspiring story and illuminates her path into the world of fashion.

What made you participate in the Miss Wheelchair World India 2022 pageant? What motivated you to pursue the title?

Somya Thakur

In 2018, I began wheelchair modelling during the Longest Fashion Show, in an attempt to break the Guinness Book of World Records in Chennai. When I entered the ramp and rode my wheelchair onto the stage, everyone hooted and cheered for me. I wanted to challenge the notion that people with disabilities can’t be part of the fashion industry but I wasn’t getting opportunities due to lack of awareness in the fashion industry.

While exploring, I learned about Miss Wheelchair India, but it didn’t happen for several reasons. Later, I participated in Miss Kozinoor, Punjab, to show that a girl in a wheelchair can look and speak beautifully. Unfortunately, in 2020, I met with an accident, which raised doubts about my entry into pageantry. Moreover, due to COVID-19, Miss Wheelchair couldn’t happen on time.

As fate would have it, my mentor, Anita Sharma, encouraged me to give an audition for Miss Wheelchair World. In the audition, I shared my experience working for the disabled community in the Rotary Club, working as a wheelchair model and spreading awareness for inclusive fashion, modelling and pageants. Making it to the semifinals, I eventually represented my country in the Miss Wheelchair World finals in Mexico. It was an effort to make people aware and change the negative perceptions surrounding disability, and I was quite successful in doing that.

You have represented India on an International stage. Can you share some memorable moments from that Contest? 

Somya Thakur The Face of Inclusive Fashion

Representing India on the International stage was an honour for me. I remember, during dinner on the first day, everyone had to say something about their country. Everyone was shocked to know that India is a country with 1.3 billion population. During that discussion, I took the opportunity to shed light on how we address disability-related issues in our country. I explained that having a population of 1.3 billion represents power, and even though the country is still developing, it is doing great in disability-related matters. It was a moment of pride for me when fellow participants acknowledged that being selected from such a massive population was a big achievement.

I  remember another standout moment when I introduced them to India’s culture, presenting gifts from Gujarat, Himachali topis, phulkari and other handmade products. It helped me showcase the vibrant richness of Indian culture. Overall, it was a phenomenal experience.

How can we better support contestants in Miss Wheelchair India and Wheelchair World, and what help do you think the government and private groups should provide for them?

As a contestant, when you are representing your country in pageantry, you face many difficulties. In that case, receiving help from an association can make things easier for us. In comparison to Miss India or Miss Universe, where contestants have strong support teams, awareness about Miss Wheelchair India and Wheelchair World is lacking. If there is an association for us, we can get financial support, learn to groom ourselves and do other things.

If I explain it with an example, the Paralympics provides athletes with disabilities a platform to showcase their talent to the world and it receives substantial support from the government. It raises a valid question about why similar backing isn’t extended to those participating in pageants. I believe support from the government and private institutions can empower us to represent our country on the stage with more confidence and pride. Celebrities like Sushmita Sen and Dia Mirza are working towards creating awareness.

Message from Somya Thakur

I believe this is the ‘era of women.’ All women should come together and bring change by embracing their imperfections. One shouldn’t confine their beauty to a checklist. I believe beauty is being confident and embracing flaws. I find inspiration when I see other empowered women and how much they have contributed to society. All women should support and uplift each other to create a more inspired and stronger community.

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