It’s that time once again where we have stunning people leaving our country to represent beauty and brains on the international stage. Today on the Buzz I speak to Ornella – Miss Sri Lanka for Universe 2018
One girl who I say is beautiful inside and out and so full of love and joy. She has always remained simple and approachable and all credit to her mother.
You can see more of her on HI TV on Thursday at 8.30PM. Let's cheer and support her as she brings fame to our little country.
Full Name – Ornella Mariam Jayasiri Gunesekere
Hometown - Mount Lavinia
Status - In a committed relationship
Birthday- January 23rd 1992
Passions- Anything that changes things for the better
Favorite Colors - White, Blue, Canary Yellow
Tell me about your winning moment?
It was a tough competition and a dream realized after eight years which made the entire night surreal. I am still living that moment appreciating the fact that with time, patience and perseverance dreams really can happen.
What made you take part in the pageant, and how was the experience?
I decided to try it one last time - there were many motivations to take part, but the primary one being the hope of being part of the new Miss Universe family. Miss Universe promotes self confidence and encourages women to take up their rights and empower other women to do the same. I have done this in the smallest ways I could over the past ten years. Miss Universe would give me a big platform to reach and share this same perspective to many others - starting from Sri Lanka.
The experience was wonderful and challenging at the same time. This year was very competitive and a lot of intelligent women came forward and I was simply happy to be around and learn from them all. The win was simply the cherry on the cake.
What would you say is special about being a beauty queen?
You are perceived as a role model and with this comes power. You are bestowed a unique opportunity to inspire, challenge and evoke change. It is a privilege that comes with a huge responsibility and the most special aspect of it is that you have that power to make someone else believe in their own power within.
Who has been your biggest support in your life?
God. Without Jesus, I would not be here today.
My mother, Mitchelle De Kretser and stepfather, Arvin have also played a huge role. My grandma, brothers, family and all those who have believed in the vision and dream - I am nothing without the support of those who have backed me.
Tell me about your school days, and how was early life?
I studied at Holy Family Convent Bambalapitiya until third grade and then at Lyceum International School, Nugegoda until I completed my Cambridge Ordinary Levels. Early life was very simple. My parents worked overseas, so my grandmother, Elaine brought us up for the majority of our middle childhood years. We did not have much but we were happy with even some jam and bread. Up to date one of my favourite comfort foods is strawberry flavoured melon jam by MD on some toast.
What would you say, is the biggest challenge young women face in Sri Lanka?
Women are not seen nor treated as equal to men. We are seen as weak, vulnerable and as companions - which affects our country in more ways than many people realize. It stems from being taught that women need to be protected, ironically from men themselves. This mindset has to change from our youth and this will cultivate a generation of men who treat women as equals with the respect they want also.
Women in Sri Lanka account for more than half the population and are recorded as being more literate than men, yet over the past few decades only account for 40% (and less) of our workforce. The "traditional" roles afforded to women along with the mindset that women are, by default, the primary care takers and home makers. This needs to change.
We are more than happy to be these - however, changes need to be made from the top down to make way for women to have time to explore their own skills and intellect and apply them to our work force. We are more than housewives and the stereotypical expected roles that have been handed down for far too long.
There is value in tradition however not at the expense of our women and their capabilities. Imagine how much further our country will go with a fully utilized work force where women are empowered to contribute equally towards our economy
What are some of your most defining moments in life?
The day I found out about my spine problem.April 23rd 2007. My doctor told me point blank - " You have to change your way of life..."
The day I found Jesus Christ at Church camp at 16. Every day after that is a day that I choose to re-define how I live my life and how I improve and work on myself
Tell me about your project, and what made you start?
Another volunteer himself, Sameera Udayanga, invited me to fill in as a substitute as the school did not have an English teacher at the time. I fell in love with the improvements I began to see in the students and their excited responses to my unconventional teaching methods (*unconventional to Sri Lankan teaching methods) and I was simply hooked. The school now has about 215 students and I work mostly with the middle school classes, helping to express themselves confidently, challenge them to want bigger and better things rather than traditional expectations, and show them that the world is much bigger and has so many opportunities that match each individual respectively. You can contribute towards an upcoming project which I am sure will change the face of things for both women and children in Sri Lanka. Stay tuned.
What has been your favorite travel destination and why?
The US - for many reasons but mostly because that is where most of my family are based. I also love Thailand and it is the country I have visited the most.
What do you hope to do as your first mission if / when you win the international title?
I am already working on something with my team at Luz Blanca. We have come up with and on the crux of sharing with everyone the amazing new venture and plan for the school I have been working with... this will require a communal effort and I hope you all will support this endeavour.
How would you describe Sri Lanka to the world, on the BIG stage?
Sri Lanka should be your next favourite travel destination.
Our history, our culture, our people, our food, a multi faceted land is truly like no other. We are ready to cater to multiple walks of life offering something for everyone... Surf, sand, rest and rejuvination... Our little pearl of the Indian ocean has got it all!
What would you say is your biggest challenge today?
Every day is a challenge for me to be better than I was yesterday. Apart from this, as Miss Universe Sri Lanka... it will be challenging for me to gradually enhance the mentalities of some of our people to help them change their perspectives for the betterment of us all.
How can one VOTE to show you support and make you win?
Stay tuned to updates by following me on Instagram @ornellamjg and I will keep you posted about voting once it is announced :)
I thank you in advance xx
If you could have been told one thing that you weren't told when you were a teenager, what would you like to have heard?
Be ready to accept change and learn to let things go
If not Miss Sri Lanka, what would have you done?
The same things I am doing. The titles were all unplanned and came as life came a long. Given what happened so early on in my life, I have learned to be open to new experiences and take life as it comes. I do what I do, I keep being who I am - Come what may :)
If you could crown any other contestant and NOT you, who would you pick from the girls?
Any of the women at the pageant would do justice to Sri Lanka. They are intelligent, strong and beautiful and if their true intention is not self but the country then power to any one of them.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I trust too much and think the good of everyone and sometimes this can back fire and hurt me. It still doesn't change me giving people second, third and fourth chances though.
If you could ask the President one question, what would it be?
Sri Lanka was the first to have a female prime minister directly succeed another female prime minister, and is also the first time that a nation possessed a female prime minister and a female president simultaneously. The progress of women in Sri Lankan politics, however, has stagnated. How would you change this?
If someone made a movie of your life would it be a drama, a comedy, a romantic-comedy, action film, or science fiction?
How about a little of everything? I like spontaneity, variety and movies that are unpredictable. My life has been so unplanned and thing have some how fallen into place in the most unimaginable and seemingly random ways so why not in the movie too?
How healthy is the pageant industry today?
Perceptions are improving and changing with the times, pageants themselves are also now more wholesome and substance oriented as opposed to a typical focus on outward beauty . I beleive this evolution is much healthier and appeals to a larger audience in a positive way .
There are so many Miss Sri Lanka titles today, your thoughts?
If there's a will, there's a way...
Who is your all time favorite beauty queen who represented Sri Lanka?
All our women have represented Sri Lanka well. I have learned something from each of them.
What’s your opinion on the political situation in Sri Lanka and how would you speak about this on the international stage if asked?
If you look at this region and the bigger political picture, this area is going through a lot of changes and these changes are multi-dimensional and are external. My hope is that Sri Lanka stays true to our core values and what makes us great as Sri Lankans.
We have all seen and been through enough at the expense of people who misuse their power - be it in parliament or otherwise. As citizens, we must take individual responsibility to educate ourselves of the whole situation and support leaders who will take Sri Lanka forward in peace, progress and prosperity - for all.
Do you ever talk to yourself? When and what do you say?
I always talk to myself about anything and everything. It's quite therapeutic and helps me understand situations better.
When you're having a bad day, what do you do to make yourself feel better?
Shut off and stay away... quietly
Which TV family is most like your own?
The Heck's from the U.S Sitcom "The Middle"
Who's your celebrity crush?
The Rock - Dwayne Johnson. He seems like a really great man plus he can sing :)
What do you like to do on a rainy day?
If I had the choice... Stay in. Blankets. YouTube. Tea.
Would you rather win an Olympic medal, an Academy Award or the Nobel Peace prize? And why?
I would like to be remembered as someone who left a legacy that changed things for the better. A legacy that inspires others to be their best regardless of circumstances.