Rediff Logo find
Allen Solly banner
October 14, 1997


Diana HaydenThe little princess

Suparn Verma Diana Hayden



Great hair.

Loads of confidence.

And a smile that's worth the proverbial million dollars.

It was no wonder then that Diana Hayden, Miss India-World 1997, also walked away with the Miss Beautiful Smile trophy.

And now, come October 29, Diana will fly to London for the preliminary rounds of the Miss World contest to be held in the Seychelles on November 22. "I believe in fate," she says. "All you can do is give it your best shot. After that, you have to hold back. But I do think I have a fair chance at winning that crown."

If she does, she will be the third Indian - after Reita Faria and Aishwarya Rai - to be crowned the most beautiful woman in the world.

Not that Diana has ever considered herself stunningly beautiful. She had too much of the tomboy in her for that. "I was always headstrong, always a terror," recalls Diana. "And though I had an extremely orthodox upbringing, my parents never curbed me in any way."

Her parents did not try to stop her when she decided, at the age of 17, to leave hometown Hyderabad with not a single rupee to her name. "I strongly felt," she recalls, "it was time for me to spread my wings."

She touched base in Bombay in 1992. Nineteen ninety four saw her in Bangalore, working for the event management company, Encore. "It was then that I had a car accident," she says, "that tore the ligaments in my leg."

Diana Hayden After a recuperative period, she moved back to Bombay and flirted with modelling until BMG Crescendo came along. As artiste manager, she was solely responsible for managing the careers of pop artistes like Anaida and Mehnaaz.

"Diana helped establish the artistes management division," says Mehnaaz. "She was very good at public relations, and she knew how to look after her artistes. In fact, she was the one who initiated me into the secrets of make-up. Until then, I had no idea about how to do my own make-up."

Anaida is particularly proud of Diana's tenacity which, she believes, was a major factor that contributed to her winning the contest. "All the odds were against Diana. The work pressure had increased and she was simultaneously juggling both her job and her preparation for the contest. Besides, she had to cope with a lot people who were jealous of the fact that she would become a celebrity if she won. You see, Diana is a very down-to-earth person and these people were afraid she would change. It was only then that she realised who her real friends were."

Suresh Thomas, who heads BMG Crescendo, was equally proud. "Diana managed everything on her own. I helped her in the only way I could - I offered her long leave and told her she could walk right back to her office if she did not win."

Diana was grateful, but did not feel it was right to keep BMG-Crescendo hanging. She resigned her job, but still misses the presence of the daily grind. "I like responsibilities and I like having a steady job. The competition, the split second decisions - all these are a real high. I have a great passion for work. So much so that, right now, I feel there's something lacking in my work. Being on the ramp is a high - but it's very temporary and very short-lived."

Diana Hayden Prime modelling assignments are, of course, part of the perks of being crowned Miss India-World. "I won the contract to do the Colgate and Palmolive ads," she says. "And everyone thinks I must be making pots of money. But what people don't realise is that I have to do these ads for free."

Modelling is not new to Diana; she did do a couple of fashion shows in Bangalore besides her brief stint in Bombay. Nor does she plan to do it all her life. "The money is good, it give me a platform to do whatever I want to in future. I have been toying with the idea of hosting a talk show - I like bringing issues to people's notice," says Diana.

After which digression, she goes on to attack the hypocritical nature of both the viewing audience and the judges of the Miss India contest, "Everyone cribs that the participants give clichéd answers to the questions that are put to them. But when someone dares to speak her mind, she loses the Miss Universe crown."

Which is an obvious reference to Madhu Sapre - who will always be known as the girl who almost won the crown. Madhu lost the top slot because she said she that if she were the prime minister of India, she would build more stadia to promote health awareness.

"Today," continues Diana irately, "you say you want to be like Mother Teresa and everyone goes 'Oh Yeah!' But, then, it's so hypocritical because that is what you are expected to say anyway. I think its time people made up their mind as towhat they want to hear."

Diana Hayden A confident Diana doesn't remember doubting her victory. "I knew I was good, so I never really thought about losing. And I knew that what finally mattered was my last answer - that was what would decide the ranking of the Miss India winners."

Which was something she wasn't really worried about. For she had done quite well in her preliminary round, even evoking a response from her judge, the Birla scion, Kumaramangalam. "He asked me to choose between my career and my children." Diana said she would devote the first five years to her children before returning to her career. And Kumaramangalam responded with a "Oh, good!" Leaving Diana absolutely thrilled that she had managed to evoke a response (judges at the Miss India contest are supposed to be non-committal and stone-faced).

When Nafisa Joseph was crowned Miss India-Universe, Diana whispered something in her ear that made her laugh. "Yeah, everyone I know wants to know what I told her and, guess what… I'm not going to tell you either."

But she lets you into another secret. "When my moment came on stage, I was a complete wreck. All the while when I was with BMG, I would tell Anaida and Mehnaaz that it's okay, that they were the best, that the show would be just great. The trick, I would tell them, was to take a deep breath and step on the stage because everything would be fine. But it just didn't work with me though I told myself to be rational and practical. Eventually, though, having those thousands of people looking at me proved Diana Hayden to be a great high."

Then, she smiles. "I told Nafisa," she says sotto voce, "I was happy she won the Miss India crown because I would not only make more money, but also have the world at my feet, after winning the Miss World contest. God willing."

Tell us what you think of this profile