Miss Connecticut Sapna Raghavan makes her mark as she represents the cause of diversity


As an Indian-American holding the title of Miss Connecticut preparing for the Miss America competition, Sapna Raghavan is a success story on the road to ethnic diversity in the nation.

Miss Connecticut Sapna Raghavan reacts to the applause from guests at her send off party in South Windsor before she heads to Miss America in December. The competition will be held at Connecticut’s Mohegan Sun.

As the first Indian-American to hold the title of Miss Connecticut, Raghavan also has been successful in getting some fans of the event to rethink what Miss America should look like. She also has found some success in getting the Indian-American community in Connecticut excited about the annual competition.

But, Raghavan, 22, admitted there is still some work to be done.

Miss America comes to the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, beginning with the preliminary competitions on Dec. 12-13. The finals take over the arena on Dec. 16.

“I think I’ve been pretty successful (in getting the Indian community invested in the competition), that’s good,” said Raghavan. “My princess is actually Indian-American like me.”

Miss Connecticut Princesses are mentored by the women who hold the Outstanding Teen and Miss titles in the state program.

“It’s really sweet to see (my princess) look at me and have that representation,” said Raghavan. “I can actually watch it on her face (the realization), ‘Oh, this is possible.’ To see people open their mindset to that is amazing.

“But I won’t lie, there’s been some difficult questions about (my title) as well within the Indian community,” said Raghavan, speaking before her send-off party for Miss America in South Windsor on Nov. 19.

“A lot of people think of that traditional concept of what Miss America is,” said Miss Connecticut, “but Miss America has changed with the times.

“In 100 years, we’ve gone from a bathing suit competition to really a social impact initiative and platform competition,” said Raghavan. “I think, just informing them about that and bringing them along with me through this journey has been really good.”

As the current Miss Connecticut, Raghavan has tried to introduce the general population to the Indian culture. She will be doing that for America as well when she performs an Indian classical dance on the stage at Miss America.

Raghavan is trying in her performance to be true to the art form’s Indian origins, while tweaking it for a modern, and American, audience.

At her send-off party before Miss America in South Windsor, Miss Connecticut Sapna Rachavan performs an Indian dance.

“I am trying to bring people back (to its origins),” explained the Ellington resident. “Indian classical danced is very ancient. My mother learned. Her mother learned. It’s been something that’s been passed through our families.

“If you go to India and see the temples, all the sculptures and the rock formations actually are Indian dance poses. It really is ancient,” said Raghavan.

“But,” she said, “a big part of it has influenced Bollywood dance, so knowing people know a little bit about Bollywood, I’ve been trying to kind of innovate Indian dance…Trying to think of about what an American audience expects from a competition talent versus Indian classical dance– and innovating from there,” said Raghavan.

Three weeks away from the Miss America competition, Raghavan said she has settled into a state of calm. She has had her preparations for the judges. And she has learned to harness her “inner Beyonce” for her walk across the stage. She feels she is ready.

“I know no one believes this but before (the) Miss Connecticut (competition in April) too, I was pretty calm… It’s a matter of chilling out and knowing that what you did and what you did to prepare was all good and now it’s in universe’s hands,” she said.

Win or lose, when the lights are shut off in the Mohegan Sun Arena after the finals, Raghavan said she wants to feel satisfied about what she has done to get her to that point.

Sapna Raghavan, Miss Connecticut, smiles at her send off party for Miss America on Nov. 19 in South Windsor.

“Satisfaction is a really interesting thought process; and my parents have always taught me about success and what that type of satisfaction is,” said Raghavan.

“(When) you see a duck on a pond, you see it gliding. But underneath, it’s paddling really, really hard,” said Raghavan. “That’s what success is to me and a big part of that is being satisfied with how much you paddled and where it got you from point A to point B.”

The Miss America competition opens with preliminaries on Dec. 12 and 13 at the Mohegan Sun and the finals are in the arena. In between, there are several other Miss America– non-competition– activities such as talent shows, autograph sessions and seminars. For information, schedules and tickets, visit MissAmerica.org.

Some images from the send-off party. Photos by Mike Chaiken

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