Manya Singh, who rose to fame overnight, after being crowned Miss India 2020 runner-up, was felicitated at her alma mater - Mumbai’s Thakur College in Kandivali.
Singh attended the event with her father - an auto rickshaw driver.
The 19-year-old was crowned VLCC Femina Miss India 2020 runner-up in a ceremony last week. Despite not winning the title of Miss India World, Manya’s life story has been abuzz in the media.
Born in Mumbai and raised in the small town of Hata-Kushinagar district- in Uttar Pradesh, the 19-year-old was crowned VLCC Femina Miss India 2020 runner-up in a ceremony last week.
"I was scared to even dream of Miss India. I would often get goose bumps and feel how can someone like me carry this big a dream. But today when it has come true, there's this sense of peace that I made it, that I've made my parents proud. I feel there's a halo," Singh told PTI in an interview.
Feeling caged at her home in Uttar Pradesh, which felt too distant from her dreams, Singh ran away from her village after she completed high school.
"I took a train from Gorakhpur to Mumbai and arrived at Kurla station. I was born in Kandivali so I immediately came to the area," she said.
An emotional Singh recalls speaking to her father two days later.
"When a girl runs away, people start talking about you. This isn't only limited to Uttar Pradesh but across the country. Naturally, my parents were worried. When I called my father, he started crying. In a broken voice, he asked me what I was doing there all alone. But I had to run away."
Her family followed their daughter in Mumbai soon but the battle in the big city now awaited the small-town girl.
As she didn't have enough money, Singh got a job at a Pizza outlet, which helped her complete her junior college.
"I would mop the floor, do dishes, and also sleep in the storeroom. On the job, I observed how people carried themselves, how they'd dress up, talk to each other. It was a massive learning for me for the entire year that I worked there."
She later joined a call centre and worked in several companies throughout her graduation to support herself financially.
"There I polished my language, worked on my diction and voice. I started work to support my education but even that shaped up my personality and prepared me for Miss India."
The pageant became a goal only a year after her arrival in Mumbai. She said she realised that a platform like Miss India would recognise her rebellious voice and support her larger-than-life dreams, but her parents found it incomprehensible.
"My parents were gobsmacked and felt I had gone crazy. ’People like us don't even dream, and you're thinking of Miss India crown?' they said. My father would always tell me, there are more heels in my bag than books! Somewhere they were scared because I didn't even have a Plan B."
Singh said she always followed her heart but never at the cost of dismissing her parents' concern. It's also why, she said, she always kept them informed about her goals and made them a part of her big decisions.
"I heard their insecurities, respected their fears but didn't lose hope. When they saw me work hard, then the way they supported me, it became my strength."
Singh even spoke about her tough road to success during the competition. In an Instagram post, she described how she spent "numerous nights without food and sleep" to achieve her dream.
With PTI inputs