Indian American Chhavi Verg is 1st Runner-up in Miss USA pageant

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Chhavi Verg, Miss New Jersey USA 2017, won 1st Runner-up at the Miss USA pageant May 14. Here she poses for her official portrait photo in fashion by A’GACI upon arriving at the Luxor Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas on May 5. (Photo: Miss USA website)

Miss New Jersey USA 2017, who lost the Miss USA title May 14 in Las Vegas, despite winning the popular vote, told Ela Dutt she plans to do something bigger going forward.

When Chhavi Verg, a business major in Rutgers University, won the Miss New Jersey USA contest Oct. 16 last year, she told Desi Talk she wanted to “break the stereotypes” about the Indian-American community.

She did it again this May 14, at the Miss USA competition in Las Vegas, landing the 1st Runner-up position. Twitter was abuzz however, with dissatisfaction over her 2nd place, some going so far as to say the Indian-American had been “robbed” of the crown.

“We are very proud,” Ravi Verg, Chhavi’s father told Desi Talk as they boarded a flight home from Las Vegas.

For Chhavi and the family, it was a bit of a shock not to win the title, she conceded to Desi Talk. She graciously says, “It was a very difficult competition. All the contestants were so deserving. It was a tough group.”

Looking to the future, Verg who is still processing the loss, said, “I’m going to be viewing this as a challenge, an opportunity, and I plan to do something bigger.”

“I don’t need a crown to do great things. That’s going to be my mantra,” said the 20 year old.

Chhavi Verg, Miss New Jersey USA, who won 1st Runner-up at the Miss USA pageant, and the popular vote, May 14, left, congratulates the winner Kara McCullough, Miss District of Columbia USA. (Photo: Reuters)

The title of Miss USA was won by Kara McCullough, Miss District of Columbia. Meredith Gould of Minnesota won 2nd Runner-up. Many on social media wanted the crown to go to Verg, some of them put off by McCullough’s response that healthcare was a privilege and not a right.

Verg on the other hand, generated a flood of positive responses to her answers during critical rounds of the contest, not just from the audience in the hall. When asked about the dangers of social media, she answered in calm, measured and confident words. “With social media, I believe it has given so much power in this world, but with great power comes great responsibility and I have seen both ends of social media,” Verg said. It had been an empowering experience for her “But at the same time, I have also been a victim of cyberbullying like many of the contestants with me standing on this stage.”

One is not anonymous on social media, she warned.

When asked what she thought of feminism and whether she considered herself a feminist, Verg knocked it out of the park, gauging from the audience response. “Feminism is striving for equality and I do consider myself a feminist,” Verg said.

“I think it’s a misconception when people believe that feminism is women being better than men. But it’s really not. It’s a fight for equality. And we need to realize that if we want a stable society, a better future for every single individual, we need to be equal,” Verg said..

“That’s why I advocate for education for women because women are still held back in places of the world. They still don’t have that right, their independence – that right to their equality – all because of education,” she added. “And once we take that step, I do believe an equal world is a better world.” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yOunqwsfBis)

“It’s a bitter-sweet feeling (to win the popular vote),” Verg said. “But I’m going to be viewing the result as a challenge and an opportunity to do something bigger,” she told Desi Talk. “I don’t need a crown to do great things. That’s going to be my mantra,” she asserted.

Verg was born in India and came to the United States when she was four years old. She loves visiting India regularly to see her grandparents and the extended family.

She enjoys dancing, public speaking, learning languages and committed to fitness and health.  Verg is an ISSA certified personal trainer and hopes that through her certification, she can urge others to take better care of themselves both physically and mentally.

“Authentic, zealous and amiable” were the three words she used to describe herself. She also considers herself a strong proponent of female empowerment through education.

At Rutgers, Verg is also a marketing assistant-director in the Rutgers University Programming Association,  and is involved in Women BUILD, a group that helps prepare women leaders in business. In an interview with the university newspaper, The Daily Targum, Verg said her business studies taught her the ‘5- Ps’ — “Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance,” words she has lived by. Recently, she sgtarted a company on fitness training, C365 – and plans to focus on building that. The last year has been a blur of exercise and eating right to prepare for the pageant. “She sacrificed rasmalai, her favorite dessert all this time,” her mother, Meera Verg, told Desi Talk. Meera Verg admitted she was upset by the results.

A Bharatanatyam dancer who completed her Arangetram in 2013, Verg believes that one of the most important things in life is good health. She started a website to spread that message. She believes “Success is a team effort” and advises others to “Keep your eyes on the stars, and your feet on the ground”

Verg also knows Mandarin and Spanish, her father told Desi Talk earlier.

Miss USA 2017 is the 66th Miss USA pageant. It was held at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. Till as recently as 2015, the pageant was owned by President Donald Trump for close to two decades.

This story has been updated from the original