Former Miss World Diana Hayden to speak at TOIFA’s International Women’s Day event

LARISSA CAHUTE
VANCOUVER DESI

Diana Hayden

Former Miss World and Bollywood actress Diana Hayden will be one of six successful women participating in a panel discussion Saturday at Richmond’s River Rock Casino Resort in honour of International Women’s Day. Submitted photo

It was a long “climb” to the top for former Miss World and Bollywood actress Diana Hayden.

“I climbed my way to the top,” Hayden told Vancouver Desi from her home in India. “It wasn’t very straight away into the glamour world.

“I just worked really, really hard.”

At the age of 14, Hayden’s parents split up and she was forced to quit school and find a job. She worked hard to earn a living — as a telephone operator, a receptionist.

And today she pays it forward by helping women through motivational and confidence-building lectures.

In celebration of International Women’s Day on March 8, the Times of India Film Awards is using its global platform to celebrate “the spirit and power” of women like Hayden this weekend.

TOIFA is hosting an event Saturday at Richmond’s River Rock Casino Resort bringing together six successful women — three from British Columbia and three from India, including Hayden — to participate in a panel discussion, followed by a fashion show, dinner and music.

“Women panelists were selected to represent women achievers from various fields: politics, arts, entertainment and entrepreneurship,” said TOIFA Project Head Sameer Soni. “(They) are pioneers, visionaries and are women who have followed their dreams.

“Each one has a story to tell and has made a difference to the world.”

Hayden hopes to share her story and the lessons she’s learned.

“I know the trials and tribulations you face as a women in the work force — in the glamour world as well,” she said.

“(But) we can achieve whatever we put our minds to — and sex is not a barrier, it’s not an issue.”

While Hayden admits India has “come very far” — “we still have further to go,” she said. “As much as (India) has so much heritage — our culture, it’s so old.

“We’ve got a lot of women here, but if you look at the workforce and Indian rule, even at home, the level of equality that women have in the west, we do not have it in India.”

Local broadcaster and fellow panelist Shushma Dutt is eager to hear the viewpoints of women such as Hayden.

“It will be an interesting thing to see how (Indian women) present their problems and views — it’s going to be very interesting to hear Diana Hayden talk,” she said.

In Dutt’s daily work, she interviews strong and successful South Asian women on OmniTV and plans to share their success and advice at Saturday’s panel.

She particularly focuses on immigration and the challenges women face when transitioning into a new culture.

“I think women get the majority of the problems,” she said. “If the kids are not listening it’s (her) fault — you haven’t given them the education they should have. The responsibility lies on the women a lot.”

Other panelists include local psychiatrist and author Dr. Shimi Kang, who is a true success story having gone to medical school when she was 19 years old, then started a charity at 22, worked at hospitals across India and completed a fellowship at Harvard Medical School.

Minister of Children and Family Development Stephanie Cadieux, former Miss Asia Pacfic Dia Mirza and actress Perizaad Zorabian will also contribute to the discussion.

“The key message is of empowerment and celebrating the strength and passion of women,” said Soni. “South Asian women have been an active voice of global development and are the epitome of spirit, courage and values.”

The panel starts at 6 p.m. and is followed by a Marc Robinson fashion preview featuring B.C. designer Davi Bains and Indian designer Satya Paul.

lcahute@theprovince.com
twitter.com/larissacahute

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