Shreya Gundelly, a 19-year-old from Mequon, was crowned Miss Wisconsin Teen USA in late May. “It brings tears to my eyes still, it was the best moment,” Gundelly remembered, acording to a report in Weau News. Gundelly started performing in pageants six years ago. A lifelong dancer with a love for public speaking, she fell in love with the pageant world, but she said it was not an easy journey.
“Looking at pageants, I never had a role model to really look up to that looked like myself,” Gundelly explained, adding, “A lot of people told me I couldn’t do pageants because I was Indian.”
For Gundelly, her ethnicity at first felt like an obstacle. “I would never talk about my Indian classical dance, I would never share my culture because I was embarrassed by it, honestly,” she said, according to a report on WMTV.
Gundelly explained it was pageantry that helped her realize that culture is part of what makes her special, and now, she wants to spread that message to others, particularly young people. “I’m able to go to schools and talk to young girls and boys about the importance of inclusion and acceptance,” she explained, said WMTV report.
Gundelly said her family has always been supportive, but there are not many Indian-Americans involved in pageants, and she explained there can be a stigma surrounding the pageant world, something she hopes to change. “I’ve really made it my mission to educate people and show them that pageantry is a lot more than just the glitz and the glam and the gowns and there’s something underneath there that is so, so special,” she explained.
As Miss Wisconsin Teen USA, Gundelly wants to use her platform to show young people anything is possible.
“My platform [is] about encouraging and inspiring everyone, regardless of your background, to go after your dreams,” she explained, adding, “I’m really on a mission to show people you can do it all”, according to a report on WMTV.