By clicking “Accept”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts. View our Privacy Policy for more information.


We sit down with Nandita Banna (Miss Universe Singapore 2021) and Valerie Lim (Miss Universe Singapore 2011 and current National Director of Miss Universe Singapore) to talk about what they think sustainability and empowerment means for the modern woman.

The very first lab grown diamond crown of the pageant-verse: being crowned and thoughts on sustainability

The 22 year old was crowned with the very first full lab grown diamond crown in all of pageant history in Singapore, and went on to clinch top 16 at the 70th Miss Universe competition in Eilat, Israel. 2021 was a year to remember for Miss Universe Singapore indeed.

Nandita quipped that she was ecstatic, having secured the title on her first try. “Thinking about the fact that I have the opportunity to go to Israel and participate in this big international competition which I never thought I’d be able to achieve (…) the first feeling I felt was excitement because this was my first ever pageant and I managed to win.” Needless to say she was also proud that the judges had recognised the hard work she put into the competition.  

Passionate about sustainability and technology to improve people’s lives, the beauty queen believes that all individuals play a role in consciously weaving sustainability into their lives where they can. “I think we definitely have to take purposeful and meaningful actions to reduce our individual strains on the environment. I also think that it is something we have to deal with quickly because climate change is a very pertinent problem and we don’t have a lot of time left. We have to pull concerted efforts to come together and really ensure that our future is more sustainable and more green, not just for us, but for future generations.”

Valerie adds that sustainability should be associated with mindfulness. With technology and information readily available at the tip of our fingers, the National Director emphasizes that we should seek a deeper understanding of processes in general, giving ourselves less reason to turn a blind eye.

Empowerment in the modern age and how does sustainability serve as a catalyst?

Akin to how sustainability should be weaved into everyone’s lives, Nandita thinks the same for empowerment. “I think being empowered means having the autonomy to achieve what you want to achieve, and do what you want to do. Having the right and freedom to go ahead and explore your interests. For me, it’s participating in pageants but also studying and being an academic. I think when you have the freedom to do what you want, that’s when one would feel most empowered.”

Valerie recounts that her participation in Miss Universe 2011 opened up a world of opportunities. “It gave me the chance to cross paths with people from all walks of life who openly shared experiences that helped me understand myself and what I value.” This shaped the way Valerie defined herself 10 years ago, and expressed that she would be most glad to pass on these learnings to Nandita, 10 years down, today.

The Empowered Woman, The Better Woman

On tips for someone who is starting their journey to empowerment and unparalleled self-confidence– “I think being empowered means knowing yourself well. Knowing what you want to achieve, but what is that rite of passage? You need to know where you want to go. Simple daily self-reflections like, “Where do I want to go?”, “What is my goal for today”, “What do I want to achieve in the next week, in the next month?” When you put yourself in the position to chart your path, you feel this sense of autonomy take over and that drives you to go out and get those goals under your belt. In that way, you won’t be swayed by other people’s opinions, and what others think of you as well. Because you have said to yourself, “I will achieve this, and I will do this thing.””

Navigating uncharted waters, When does one seek help?

Valerie prods Nandita on the topic of seeking help as it can be daunting to swim in uncharted waters, considering the long arduous journey ahead of the newly minted beauty queen Nandita. Given the current age of technology and information coupled with the pressure to always be in the know, what if she does not have the answers to certain questions?“

I think there is always that pressure that, especially in the modern age, you’re supposed to have all the information, supposed to be ever ready to do anything and everything. I think it’s important to step back, and think about the long journey you have ahead of you, and realise that it is okay to not know, or not have your whole life planned out. Take baby steps, day by day, plan for the next day, plan for the next week. But you don’t have to plan for your whole life. Because honestly you would not know where you will end up, or what opportunities may come across that would empower you differently in the future. In my case, I never expected to come across this opportunity at a beauty pageant. But I did and it changed my life and I can feel empowered in different ways now. Think about it as taking steps on a little bit you do each day to maximise your potential for that day or for that week. So that’s how I would approach that uneasiness with not knowing what’s lying ahead, or uneasiness of ‘I don’t know what’s going on.’”

On Lab Grown Diamonds

Nandita associates diamonds with a “long history of having conflict involved, and then war, and lots of loss of life. And I think sometimes that’s what turns people away from gems and in general luxury items because there is a lot of hardship involved in creating them. And which is why I think lab grown diamonds are one of the best modern inventions that we’ve had where we can enjoy beautiful things but at the same time create a conflict free enjoyable thing and I think it’s a great invention and we should definitely focus on that instead of still trying to get all natural diamonds which may come with conflict attached to them.” She hopes the spotlight shines on lab grown diamonds instead of natural diamonds which may come with and ethical cost.“

The impact on the environment where we don’t have to disrupt the natural ecosystem just to get some precious stones that people are going to use for human consumption. I think it’s great that we can create these ourselves in a sterile facility. I also think it’s great that they’re conflict free because diamonds have had a history of war and loss of life attached to them, and it is really great that we can enjoy these beautiful natural pieces while not harming human life and assuring that these communities are not destabilised and countries can prosper because of this.” Ending with a smile, Nandita is glad that countries can now move forward and prosper as they rightfully should.

The Miss Universe Singapore National Director absolutely loves how technology has advanced with lab grown diamonds at the forefront of disrupting the industry.. “Because we are focused on sustainability these days, I think it’s the perfect blend of being able to give someone something beautiful and also being kind to the environment.” This indirectly forges a more stable and sustainable environment for future generations and Valerie hopes that everyone sees lab grown diamonds as The Better Way forward.