Pageant delegate dedicate journey to deceased friend
September 13, 2017
Watching the Miss Universe pageant with her mother was an annual ritual for Stephanie Ajodhar for nearly two decades.
Just five years old, she viewed the show for the first time and became an interested observer.
However, it took the loss of a close friend to gun violence to convince Ajodhar to enter the Miss Universe Canada contest. She’s among 60 finalists in the October 7 pageant to be held at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre John Bassett Theatre.
On Saturday April 30 last year, the 26-year-old registered naturotherapy practitioner was going about her business even though the lead story on television was about a double murder in a Scarborough shopping plaza a few hours earlier.
Ajodhar had even sent two text messages to Cynthia Mullapudi that day inquiring if they could meet.
She didn’t hear back from her and it was not until she returned home that evening and the names were released did Ajodhar learn that Mullapudi was one of the victims.
“That was one of the toughest moments of my life,” Ajodhar, a volunteer with Working Against Violence Everyday which is a youth-led initiative dedicated to ending senseless violence in the city, recalled. “Just two days ago, I called her to say I was going to the Scarborough Town Centre and wanted to know if she would join me. She couldn’t because she was doing something. Now she was gone.”
The friends met in Grade Nine at East York Collegiate Institute.
“I clearly remember seeing her for the first time on the first day of the new school term,” said Ajodhar. “We were in an integrated technology class dominated by males with just three girls. She was sitting in a corner and immediately waved to me when I made eye contact with her. I went over, she introduced herself and a close friendship emerged.”
Mullapudi spent two years at the high school, but the friends reconnected through social media and were enrolled at the University of Toronto.
“Even though I was at the St. George campus and she was in Scarborough, we studied together and went to movies and malls,” Ajodhar said. “Cynthia was a soft spoken and beautiful woman who was always smiling and laughing. She achieved so much in her lifetime, but it's unfortunate that she didn't have the opportunity to accomplish her remaining dreams and goals.”
Ajodhar is using the Miss Universe Canada platform to raise awareness about gun violence and the impact it has on family members left behind. She is also dedicating the journey to her deceased friend.
“While I was devastated by her sudden death, I was hurt by some of the negative comments about her on social media,” she said. “She was in the same vehicle with someone else who was killed, but she didn’t know that individual. They met for the first time that night. The assumptions that people were making were false.”
Three months after Mullapudi’s death, Ajodhar applied online to be a Miss Universe Canada delegate.
She was selected last April after two intense interviews.
Since May, she and other Greater Toronto Area-based delegates have been rehearsing for the pageant.
“We rehearse one day every two weeks for about three hours with Paola Nunez Valdez (Miss Universe Canada 2015) and Denise Garrido (Miss Universe Canada 2013 third runner-up),” said Ajodhar. “We have two more rehearsals before the pageant."
As an Operation Smile ambassador, Ajodhar has been fundraising for the charity as part of her humanitarian work for Miss Universe Canada. Proceeds from two events she hosted went to the charity to provide children with facial deformities with the medical care they couldn't afford.
Armed with a Bachelor of Science degree, Ajodhar enrolled in the Centre of Ayurveda & Indian Systems of Healing (CAISH) three years ago.
“My childhood dream was to become a medical doctor, but the passion diminished after taking a few university courses,” she said. “So, I ended up taking some personalized medicine courses.”
Ajodhar graduates from CAISH next year with her doctorate in natural medicine.
“The centre’s perception of medicine and how they treat patients really resonated with me,” she pointed out. “Generic medicine doesn’t work for everyone. Every individual has a different path to healing and I really connected with that.”
The product of immigrants from Trinidad & Tobago and an only child is trained in Ayurvedic tongue and pulse diagnosis that allows her to detect an imbalance in an individual’s body and recommend herbal remedies or physical therapy to alleviate the condition.
She also practices Tai Chi, engages in daily meditation and performs aerial yoga.
Individuals can vote for Ajodhar at http://missuniversecanada.ca/vote-2017/ up to four times daily. The People's Choice Award winner will be unveiled during the Miss Universe Canada 2017 preliminary competition on October 5 and will automatically be among the top 20 semi-finalists.
The Miss Universe Canada winner will be the national representative at the 66th Miss Universe pageant on November 26 at a venue to be named.