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Three years ago, I was very new to the fashion industry (in many ways, I still am). I had just managed to land my first ever fashion ramp show and I was terribly excited. And I was scared too! It wasn’t being on stage that scared me. Nope! I’d been performing on stage since I was five years old. I was after all a trained dancer in Bharathnatyam and Kathak and I had also done my A levels in Drama and Theatre Studies. Being on stage wasn’t something that scared me anymore. What scared me was Lubna Adams.

For those of you who don’t have much to do with the Indian Fashion Industry, Lubna Adams is one of the premier ramp choreographers of India. She is a legend. She also has a reputation of being quite the task master. She is a perfectionist. If she doesn’t get what she needs from you for the show, she isn’t one to mince her words. I heard Miss Universe 1994, Sushmita Sen say once that Lubna had driven her to tears a few times when she was an upcoming model in the 90s. She wasn’t exaggerating.

No wonder I was scared then.

Rehearsals started, fittings took place, everything was ready for the final show. And it was a big show, to be conducted across four major cities in India; New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkatta. After all, it was a L’oreal show introducing their new range of hair colors, Inoa into the Indian Market! I was a nervous wreck. I was just finding out then that catwalk is not something that comes easily to me. I’m a good dancer, I’m a good actor…but catwalk…uhm…well, not exactly my cup of tea! I had fumbled through rehearsals, I kept forgetting my entries, my turns, I slouched, failed to tuck my tummy in, failed to keep my knees straight in four inch heels, tripped…the list was endless. I’m sure I really tested Lubna’s patience.

Now today was the show. I had just been told that I was the one who had to start the show. I had the first entry. The pressure was mounting. I didn’t want to mess up. I couldn’t afford to mess up! I was a struggler. This was my first break and what a break it was! I was working with some the finest in the nation. I just couldn’t afford to mess up.

The curtain was raised (metaphorically) and the first few beats of the music that we were supposed to walk to started. I took a deep breath, mustered all the attitude I could muster  and took a step forward, out of the shadows. I stepped into the main archway to the center stage and suddenly something went wrong. One moment, I was up in the air and the next, I was flat on the ground! I had slipped and fallen! I had done the unthinkable. But what happened next was the hilarious part. I didn’t feel humiliated and wonder what all the audience must be thinking of me. I didn’t think, ” Oh shit, this hurts! (I had fallen pretty hard on my butt”. No!

The first thought that came into my mind was,” Oh Shit! Lubna is going to Kill me!!!!!!!”

(Luckily for me, Lubna, sitting in the sound booth right across the hall, didn’t see me fall. The lights hadn’t come up completely yet and I was still half in the shadows. No one in the audience had been able to see me. And it helped, of course, that I immediately stood up and continued my walk down the runway as though nothing had happened. Thanks to that, no one, except those backstage, knew what had really happened).

I felt like writing about this because recently, while I was going through some earlier Miss Universe pageants on YouTube, I saw something similar happen to Miss USA 2007, Rachel Smith. During the evening gown round, she slipped and fell flat on the ground. The same thing happened next year as well to Crystle Stewart (who was also Miss USA). These girls weren’t as lucky as me. Not only did this happen to them on a much bigger stage, it was also recorded and played  over and over again by various news channels all over the world. Compared to my hundreds (and maybe not even those) millions of people saw it happen. On top of it, it was the Miss Universe competition where even a tiny mistake (or accident, in this case) can cost you your crown. I can only imagine how excruciatingly hard  it must have been for these girls.

But what amazed me was how unfazed these girls were by it. There was a momentary shock, of course but they recovered, smiled at their clumsiness and carried on! Kudos to both of them. What they did takes a lot of courage to do. It might have been Riyo Mori and Dayana Mendoza who won the title and crown of Miss Universe in 2007 and 2008 respectively, but to me…it will always be Rachel Smith and Crystle Stewart who are the ultimate winners. The show, after all…must go on!