Beauty queen and entrepreneur | Sunday Observer
Shivani Wedanayake

Beauty queen and entrepreneur

1 May, 2022

She has a charming and magnetic personality. She has a mind of engaging empathetic intellect. She is a woman of complex and lasting beauty. She is none other than Shivani Wedanayake, an acclaimed beauty queen and an outstanding entrepreneur.

Shivani is an exception and therefore, has a character of excellence but not excuses. Her heart has energies, and her actions carry out that aura. Shivani, a product of Bishop’s College, Colombo, has successfully completed a course on entrepreneurship in emerging economies at the Harvard University in the United States which has paved the way for her to shine as a successful entrepreneur in the island which is a remarkable achievement that only a handful of unique women can be proud of.

The studies that Shivani did in a world-renowned, prestigious University of the calibre of Harvard are indispensable and appropriate for a country such as Sri Lanka where there is an emerging economy. Although women entrepreneurship could perhaps be a strange phenomenon in the grassroots to a certain extent, it is an area where a capable person like Shivani demonstrates her enormous potential.

Despite her usual busy schedule, while finding time to speak to the Sunday Observer’s Youth magazine, Shivani indulged herself in a beautiful nostalgia where she recollected her memory on a wave of rather interesting facts which would probably captivate the reader’s mind in an unassuming manner.

Blossoming rose

The young and capable Shivani was like a beautiful blossoming rose. Following her Advanced Level examination, she wanted to try her luck with her ever increasing interest in fashion and photography, helped by the film background of her illustrious cinematographer father whose work was very popular and well acclaimed during the 60s and early 70s.

“But my dad was against me getting into that industry”, Shivani remarked. Meanwhile, following her father’s migration to Canada, she found that she could not anymore forcibly ignore her hidden interest in fashion in particular. Meeting Senaka De Silva, a well-known fashion designer was a major breakthrough in her life that gave her a window of opportunities.

“I got this opportunity to work under Senaka De Silva. He had a modelling school. He was training some models. I started training under him”, Shivani said. The year 1992 marked a milestone in Shivani’s life where she was adjudicated the best model of the year which was also the very first contest won by her.

Being the best model of 1992 in Sri Lanka, she was given the rare opportunity of travelling around the world where promoting the Sri Lankan handloom industry was of priority. The team consisted of super talented fashion designers.

Shivani said, “We had good fashion designers and we wanted to showcase them on an international platform”. She in retrospect commented gladly that she was able to represent the island’s fashion industry during this particular fashion show which was unprecedented and as Shivani pointed out was a great success. It was a combination of a cultural festival, food festival, dance, and music all together.

In the meantime, she found herself being frequently in the spotlight. She rose up to the peak in her modelling career: any mention of the Sri Lankan modeling industry without the name of Shivani is just like staging Shakespeare’s Hamlet at the Royal Albert Hall, without the presence of prince Hamlet of Denmark. She always had a desire of representing Sri Lanka in an international pageant such as Miss Universe.

Miss Sri Lanka pageant

Shivani took part in the Miss Sri Lanka pageant in 1995 where she became the winner. Having won this title, Shivani left the island for Namibia to represent the island at the Miss Universe contest in 1995 where there were participants from 82 countries. Shivani had outstanding scores in three segments, and she was placed 22nd which is a notable achievement for her personally and the island at large.

With the end of her reign, Shivani tied the nuptial knot in 1996. Along with her husband, she started one of Sri Lanka’s first web developing companies which was exactly during the time that the IT industry in Sri Lanka started.

The company put up its own building: it had a high-tech design studio. But, during the period of terrorism, the tech industry got affected and the building with the remaining infrastructure was sold.

Later, Shivani won the prestigious Mrs. Sri Lanka title and represented the island at the Mrs. World pageant in the Israel capital of Jerusalem in 1999. She was the fourth runner up from among the contestants representing 48 countries. With the birth of her two sons, she took a break, the entrepreneur in her still steadily remained.

She said, “Entrepreneurship was always there in me.” She started ‘Island Property’, her own company. Apart from being a beauty queen who honourably represented Sri Lanka on many occasions, Shivani is indisputably a patriotic Sri Lankan who noted that no country in the South Asian region has natural resources as much as Sri Lanka is blessed with.

Young people have much potential

She said, “I am a very patriotic Sri Lankan citizen. I have honourably represented Sri Lanka and done a lot for this country. If again, there’s an opportunity, I would go for it, because I still believe that this country has so much to offer”.

She believes in the fact that the young people of Sri Lanka have much potential, and they should be given opportunities where they can showcase their talent and abilities. In terms of governance, she strongly believes in democratic principles. Shivani is absolutely a great source of inspiration for anybody whose motivational well is dried up.

Her wise, strong, and encouraging words can boost the spirits of someone who is mentally burned out and give a strong willpower to carry on. Her vision is firm, and also, she noted that as long as your task is not executed, probably the mission fails.

She shows that the crowns are not just for your head but for your shoulders. As she became a beauty queen, she got convinced that it is about shouldering the responsibility to innovate leadership whereby it is able for you to impel others to use their talents, vision, and influence.