Who is Aneesa Sheikh:

Aneesa Sheikh is a 20 year-old Pakistani-American who is currently pursuing a dual degree in economics and Communications at the University of Michigan, “At thirteen my father and I relocated to the World renowned figure skating training facility in Metro Detroit, Michigan. During this time I had a passion for music so I simultaneously learnt various styles of guitar and singing.”

How Aneesa signed up for the pageant:

When Aneesa was in high school, she was the captain of the speech and debate team, where her teammates encouraged her to compete in the Miss Michigan Teen USA pageant, “Upon winning this title, I began to showcase my music at several events and began my nonprofit initiative ‘Music 4 MIRACLE’ inspired by my father. I met Ramina Ashfaque at a photo shoot as well, who encouraged me to follow in her footsteps of representing Pakistan on an international stage.” Aneesha shared that she was hesitant about this as she wasn’t sure how the public would respond, “During a trip to New York City this past summer, I connected with several Pakistani and South Asian artists. They were very welcoming and supportive of me despite my mixed ethnicity.” This was the pivotal moment for Aneesa when she realized that representing Pakistan on an international platform would be giving a voice to countless young women who are afraid to step outside of societal normalities.

What it was like representing Pakistan

Representing Pakistan was the most beautiful experience for Aneesa, “My father is Pakistani and when we lived alone together throughout my teenage years, he integrated me into the Pakistani culture even while living in the U.S.” Even though she lives in America, Aneesa has always been in touch with her Pakistani roots, “Representing Pakistan was definitely very educational for others, just because the media has shaped different stereotypes of what a Pakistani girl should look or be like.”

The experience

“Interacting with girls from all over the world, and learning about their cultures and views was extremely eye-opening for me,” says Aneesa. Most of the girls were above the age of 25, which made Aneesa even more grateful for this experience, “I went in knowing Pakistan is very underrepresented in this industry so my goal was to enhance South Asian visibility and that’s what I did.” Aneesa and other contestants were given an opportunity outside their comfort zones through various activities, interviews, performances, and interactions, “This really made me realise my capability when I just try,” she added.

How competitions like these challenge make or break the beauty standards of the society?

Aneesa believes that beauty is subjective and trends keep changing over time, “Competitions like this support beauty of all kinds. Pageants feature various looks and sizes because each girl represents a different country. I do think there is a predisposed beauty pageant standard that the industry will always represent.”