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Miss World can give a platform to voice of ordinary young girls: Miss Bangladesh Shammi Islam Nila

From Kolkata’s ‘bhel puri’ to humble beginnings in Dhaka, Miss World Bangladesh opens up about living her childhood dream in a candid chat with My Kolkata

Rumela Basu | Published 09.03.24, 06:15 PM
With roots in Barisal and Dhaka, 23-year-old Shammi Islam Nila is representing Bangladesh on the Miss World stage

With roots in Barisal and Dhaka, 23-year-old Shammi Islam Nila is representing Bangladesh on the Miss World stage

As a little girl, she loved wearing a tiara and looking at herself in the mirror. At 23, Shammi Islam Nila is representing Bangladesh on the Miss World stage after a four-year-long wait.

The only one wearing a sari — a handloom cotton — Nila is easy to spot among the 120 women competing in the 71st Miss World pageant being hosted in India after 28 years.


The model and television presenter, with roots in Barisal and Dhaka, is the sole breadwinner of her small family. Despite the challenges, she remains a spirited young woman with big dreams — one of which is to become Miss World.

My Kolkata caught up with Nila on the sidelines of the Head to Head Challenge in New Delhi’s Bharat Mandapam, where each contestant had to present their projects under the Beauty with a Purpose segment. From simple beginnings in Barisal and Dhaka to getting the news of being selected for Miss Bangladesh auditions while in the hospital, Nila has had an interesting journey so far. Happy to talk to someone in Bangla — Nila spoke candidly about her path to Miss World and more.

Edited excerpts from the conversation follow…

My Kolkata: Tell us a bit about yourself and your journey to getting to the Miss World stage.

Shami Islam Nila: Miss World has actually been my childhood dream. When I was little, I used to wear a crown and pretend to be Miss World in front of my dad, and he’d clap for me. As I grew up, I realised that this wasn’t just about a childhood dream but that it could be a platform to make my voice heard.

I was working as a model, presenter and emcee in Bangladesh, and one day my manager informed me that the pageant was happening and that I should apply. I wanted to go, but there was a lot to consider since I am the sole breadwinner for my family and being part of the pageant meant I wouldn’t be working for a month. After discussing it with my family, we decided that I would work extra hard to make up for this break. Before coming here, I was putting in extra hours, which unfortunately led to me falling ill. I actually received the news of my selection in the hospital. The day after I was discharged, I auditioned for Miss World Bangladesh, and now I am here.

What was your family’s reaction to the news?

Coming to this stage is like living a dream for me, so they are very happy. At home, I have a younger brother, who is nine years younger than me, and my mother. My father is no more, but I am sure he’s clapping from up there to see me here.

You grew up in Dhaka. So if someone were to go to Dhaka, what should they experience in the city?

First of all, you must visit Puran Dhaka (Old Dhaka) to experience the cultural heritage. You must try the food — Dhaka has some great places to eat. There are a lot of things to do in the city and outside, but you must also meet people and experience their hospitality. People in Dhaka will go out of their way to make you feel comfortable. In fact, you might sometimes even wonder why a stranger on the street is coming up to speak to you, but that’s how we try to make people feel welcome.

A cycle rickshaw passing old buildings on a narrow street in Old Dhaka; (right) a vendor selling jalebi in a local market

A cycle rickshaw passing old buildings on a narrow street in Old Dhaka; (right) a vendor selling jalebi in a local market


Is this your first time visiting India, and have you been to Kolkata?

Yes, this is my first visit to India. In fact, this is actually my first international trip. What is really interesting is that I got into this rush to get my passport done in December. There was a gut feeling that I needed to get it done, and thank god I did! Miss World gave me my first passport stamp!

I have never been to Kolkata, but it has always been on the list. I want to go to Kolkata to try the food, especially bhel puri (laughs). It might sound strange but I know so many people who have visited Kolkata from Bangladesh and come back raving about the bhel puri, so I definitely want to try it. And shopping, of course!

Your outfit is unique, and you’re the only one in a sari here. Can you tell us a little bit about it and why you chose this?

This is a handloom cotton sari, which has been designed by a Bangladeshi designer Kuhu. When I met her to discuss dresses for the event, I wanted something that was unique, suited my personality and represented things close to my heart. Kuhu ma’am didn’t want to overpower my “petite frame” with a flowing gown, so we decided on a sari, which would be comfortable and consciously designed. One of the things I support is sustainable fashion and supporting local artisans.

Speaking about support, what is your Beauty with a Purpose project?

The name of my project is ‘Smile Blossom’. I am always trying to make people smile, and it makes me happy if I can be the cause for someone’s smile, so that's where the name came from. The cause I am working towards is to help eradicate the issue of begging. Statistics show that most of the people begging are children under the age of 12 and women. They live their lives on the street in unsafe and unsanitary conditions — without education and awareness. The lack of education brings its own problems, especially for women. They are forced to marry young, and often are married to unemployed, uneducated men who are uncaring and abandon them so they live on the streets with their babies.

I want to help tackle this not just in Bangladesh but around the world. I know ‘world’ is a very big word to use, but that’s why I’m here on this stage. Through this, I can draw attention to my project.

What is your definition of beauty?

Beauty, to me, is inherent in everything. Beauty is about your thought process — how you see and perceive things. It is about being authentic and knowing yourself. To know who you are, what your ambitions are and what is good or not good for you, along with what is good for those around you — that is beautiful.

Events like Miss World have faced scrutiny, with questions raised about their role in women's empowerment. What’s your take on this?

This isn’t just about external beauty. I think an event like Miss World is important because it can give a platform to the voice of an ordinary girl like me. Winning Miss World Bangladesh has helped me reach a wider audience and have my thoughts heard. It's a chance for people to take a young woman’s words more seriously, which might not have happened otherwise.

What would be your message for someone — maybe a teenager — looking up to you as a role model or following your journey?

I would say that it is great to have someone to look up to, you should always have that. However, never forget who you are, who you can be and what you can achieve. Be yourself, and God will take you where you belong.

The Miss World finale, to be held at Jio Convention Centre, Mumbai, on March 9 will be broadcast live on and Sony Liv.

Last updated on 09.03.24, 06:15 PM

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