Miss Kerala 2020: How organisers, contestants overcame pandemic challenges

Athira Rajiv, Erin Liz John and Aswathy Nambiar.

The recently concluded Impressario Miss Kerala event was held virtually, making the online platforms and social media.

The challenges thrown up by the COVID-19 pandemic eventually turned out to be an inspiring aspect, with participants actively taking part from various parts of the globe.

Erin Liz John, a native of Ernakulam and final-year MBBS student of Government Medical College, Kozhikode, was adjudged Miss Kerala 2020. US-resident Athira Rajiv and Kannur-native Aswathy Nambiar were adjudged first and second runners-up respectively.

Meticulous planning was one aspect that made the event memorable even as it shifted to the online mode. Impressario cofounder Ram C. Memon and the winners spoke to Manorama about the event.

Too many challenges

Ram C. Menon said this was the 22nd year of the Miss Kerala event and this was the first time it was being held without an audience or the media. Initially, there were may apprehensions about holding the event amid COVID but then it was decided that a virtual event was the best option, he said.

A major achievement was that participants were from different parts of the world. The event received 400 entries. Of this 200 were selected for the first round. Almost 100 of them were shortlisted and tasks allocated. On the basis of this, 50 were shortlisted for grooming. For the final, there were 45 participants.

There were four rounds, namely, ethnic, athman, bask, and Keraleeyam. All the participants used studios near their residences. For those who needed help, support was provided from Erankulam. The question-answer rounds were held online. Actors Cijoy Verghese, Rajiv Pillai, and Sija Rose; and groomer Nutan Mohan were the judges. The judges were all participating from Ernakulam.

He said the event took four months to organise.

Great feeling: Erin Liz John

Miss Kerala 2020 Erin Liz John said a great deal of visualisation was needed ahead of the endeavour. She said anxiety was kept at bay. “I had imagined and dreamt of my won,” she said.

Zero audience

She said it was her first beauty contest. “I heard of the event from my mother. She inspired me to take part,” she said.

Erin said empathy and self-confidence were in itself traits of one’s beauty. She said the lack of an audience and the inability to interact with judges and other contestants were a challenge.


Erin gives a lot of credit to her stylist Arunima Gupta. She said it opened up a new world and she could learn a lot. “My parents were medical officers in the Army and the pan-India exposure helped me a lot,” she said.

Favourite round

Erin’s favourite rounds were ethnic and Keraleeyam. She said she felt happy after taking part in those rounds. Her favourite question in the final was on the lockdown. The judges wanted to know if the lockdown had a negative or positive effect on relationships. Erin said familial ties had become stronger during the lockdown and it was an opportunity to look at our own likes and dislikes.

Future plans

“I am a final-year MBBS student. I would want to become a doctor first. Modelling is also in mind,” she said.

From afar: Athira Rajiv

Athira Rajiv took part in the event from Los Angeles. She said it was an immensely pleasurable experience as many advanced countries were not even trying to hold virtual or online pageants.

She said it was a challenge to get the right outfit as getting traditional wear was difficult in the US. She said she was staying alone in the US and found it difficult to get help. She recollected how she had to do make-up, outfit design, and everything else all alone.

Dance and other interests

Athira Rajiv said she was initially hesitant to learn dance but ended up doing Bharatanatyam for nine years. She then learned hip-hop, Latin, contemporary and other dance forms. She said she finished her bachelor’s degree in interior design as her parents were insistent.

“I came to the US to get a certification from the Broadway Dance Centre, New York. Here, ballet is a must and it is very demanding on the body,” she said.

She said the trainer had to start from scratch and said it dawned upon her that dance should not be treated as an art form that would conclusively define her. It was then that she decided to explore other arts as well. Athira did a masters in acting from the New York Film Academy.

She has been modelling and choreographing for producers. Athira would want to be part of Hollywood projects.

No to conservatism: Aswathy Nambiar

Aswathy is also a first-timer to a beauty contest but had walked the ramp earlier. She said her mantra was to just be herself during the contest. She spoke to a photographer and understood how the judges and others would perceive a contestant. The grooming session for the to-50 helped, she added.

Stressful tasks

She said the virtual event was really a new experience. Finishing the tasks would sometimes be stressful and was scared if social media would be full of negative comments, on completion. But, on the contrary, everyone was supportive, she said.

Aswathy said she liked the Athman round which specifically asks one to wear the outfit that defines you. The contestants are also expected to explain to the judges the sense of the outfit.

Aswathy is a mechanical engineer by training. She said it is generally a stream picked up by men. “I could make a space for myself there and that is why I wore a turban,” she said.

Aswathy added that the ‘kasavu’ lining indicated Kerala and the accessories were made of shells and pearl. She said she wanted to put forth her love for her native place Kannur and the beaches with these.

“I also liked shorts and tops as it gels with my nature, of being sprightly. Shrugs are my wings. I never grew up in a conservative manner and I had my own personality and thoughts,” she said.

Future plans

Athira said she chose mechanical engineering as she knew a desk job was not for her. The family was also supportive and she earned a job in the same field. Athira was all set to go to New Zealand when COVID struck. She said she would grab any opportunity but profession was top priority. 

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