Sarah-Jane Dias was born in India and later settled in Oman, gaining both the nationalities. Growing up, she always wanted to perform in front of the audience, and with the support from her family, she achieved it. She started working as a background artist and now is an Indian actress, host, VJ and former Miss India. While talking to our team, Sarah shared with us the experience of her first commercial and her moments from her Miss World journey.
As marvelous and stunning Sarah is, she has overcome mental health with a holistic approach and Yoga. If you are having a bad day or feeling low, this one is for you as Sarah tells her about Ayurveda, Positive affirmations, and Guided Meditation and their importance in today’s fast-paced life.
Questions and answers
Can you start by talking about how your journey began as a VJ?
I was a kid who always wanted to be on stage in front of the audience and perform. My mom used to take me to famous studios for auditions, sometimes giving many auditions in a day during college and even after graduation. I remember I landed my first commercial as a Quality Walls girl. Out of the blue, I got an opportunity from Suresh Natarajan to do a Tata Finance billboard.
While building my confidence to be on the camera, I got the opportunity to be a VJ. I went in for the audition and spoke about Tupac Shakur, the famous rapper, and my love for rap music since they asked me to talk about something I love. I got a call in the next couple of days, saying I was selected. I was happy and excited. At that time, being a VJ was like the cool and hip thing, and it was an opportunity of a lifetime. So, from 2004 to 2007 that I was a VJ, I got to travel the whole world with my job, met all kinds of beautiful people and just work with music. Since I’m a musician myself, I sing. And just to be able to work in music was a complete dream come true.
You were born in Oman, and your first movie was a Tamil Rom-Com. How did it take place?
So I was born in Bombay, and then we moved to the Middle East when I was in the third grade. After that, I came back in 2000 for college. I won Miss India Pageant in 2007, after which I appeared in my debut – ‘Theeradha Vilaiyattu Pillai.’
The music is very close to you. Can you tell us a little more about it?
Everybody knows that music came before language, and it is a universal language since you don’t need to speak the language of the song to enjoy it. So, by default, it makes everyone passionate about it. Everyone has a specific song that puts them into a certain mood or a famous artist who they look up to. When Khalid BB had come out, it was a song that was popular or when Shakira started to sing to gain popularity. Regardless of the understanding, Hindi music is also popular.
I love Jazz too, and there are Jazz artists who have collaborated with Indian artists. So, I love people, and I love this universal language of connection. I wouldn’t exclaim that I love music, but it’s a part of me, not some hobby or passion that I have. It’s a part of me, and I think it’s a part of everybody. That’s how I feel about music.
At 15, you won the Miss India Oman pageant. It is a huge achievement at such a young age. When you look back at it today, how do you feel?
When I was young, I watched all the pageants with my mom, and since then, I always knew that I wanted to be a part and won the Miss India pageant. Back then, my mom would drape a saree around me, and I would walk around, giving poses while she pretended to click pictures. Also, I used to dance, and we used to have all that talent rounds. So, I quit my job at Channel V as a VJ leaving everyone confused. I told them one thing, “Look, I am twenty-four, and the cut-off age for joining Miss India is twenty-five. If I don’t do this year, then it will be the biggest regret of my life”. I’m glad that I took that chance and quit my job because now I don’t have any regrets.
You even further won the Miss India title and represented India at Miss World. Take us through this journey of Miss India and how is it to represent not just you as a woman, but a woman from India?
I initially faced criticism, after which I worked really hard losing a lot of weight and finally winning the contest. We went to China for the miss world pageant. It was a month-long slumber party with many girls from 110 countries, which made it an enjoyable and mind-blowing experience with lovely memories of staying at the hotel. They had put us alphabetically, and so I was with Jamaica and Indonesia. Miss Indonesia was my roommate. She didn’t speak English, but we understood each other. By the end of it, we were calling each other sisters with dedicating the songs we sang in the talent round to each other. We developed this. Miss Jamaica, Miss Ghana, and Miss Guadeloupe were wonderful people from different backgrounds and had their own rich culture.
Miss Italy was much younger than us. The older girls helped her out, which was really great. We enjoyed the different sites in China, including the Great Wall of China. Since we were there just before the Beijing Olympics, we were right outside Bird’s Nest stadium, which we got to watch, and then eventually beyond this, we saw the magnificent and grand stage of Miss World. My parents and other’s parents came for the contest. The whole thing was a once in a lifetime experience.
Can you talk to us a little about your life in Muscat, Oman? Where do you feel like home the most?
India is my country and spending twenty years here, and it has always been my home. Since I have spent the formative years of my childhood in Muscat Oman, I would say it is also my first home and Bombay. I’m very much desi at heart and also proud of being Indian.
All of my friends in the Indian School, along with me, used to listen to Hindi music on the school bus and watch Hindi movies on the weekends. I wouldn’t say that I have two homes, but spending more time in Bombay, it feels like my first home.
Can you talk about Holistic living as you seem to very much believe in the science of Ayurveda?
I got diagnosed with anxiety and depression, which was a challenging phase for me as I could talk about how it felt to lose something, but I didn’t have access to resources or even people to talk about anxiety and depression.
I believe in clinical science and psychology, but I also believe in alternative medicine and therapy that has a holistic approach to healing one’s mind. That is when I started conducting research led me to find Chakra healers. I found this lovely psychologist, a shaman healer, and a community of people. I started talking more openly to people. While talking to a person who was going through the same problems, I realized that there were many people out there who are suffering.
When you have a physical illness, you opt for treatment, so why not do it for mental illness because the brain is a part of your body that is the center for all the commands that go to the rest of your body. If your mind is not healthy, then the rest of your body can’t be healthy. Physical ailments as a simple headache to something bad as a thyroid problem can come from depression and anxiety. I feel that from conditioning and modern medicine, the allopathic practices have just gone in the opposite direction of only treating the body.
Whereas in the Ayurveda, the approach towards the body is different, making it holistically and giving everyone medications according to their body’s mechanism.
Let’s talk about the matters of the mind. What would you say about mental illnesses and how do you deal with it?
I am still fighting my mental illness every day. We are all blood and bones at the end of the day, so anybody can do it if I can do it. You can beat any physical, emotional, mental issue or illness you have. You just need to get up and take a right positive actions towards it. I know it is possible because I have done it. Many people have done it, and there are stories out there. I’m glad that the world we’re living in today is having these discussions, and maximum people are coming around realizing that something is not right. We all are connected and are powerful beings. If you understand that and you understand the power that your mind and body have, then that means that you are capable of healing yourself. I want to give people that understanding and that realization.
You are also a certified Yoga Trainer. What role has Yoga played in your life, and why did you choose to be a trainer?
Deanne Pandey, a very famous physical expert, initially introduced me to Yoga. I used to do a lot of weight and cardio, so I needed to do something for flexibility. After the first session, I called her, saying that I was bored because I was used to fast-paced workouts. Trusting Deanne, I forced myself to wake up since the classes were early, and I’m also disciplined and hardworking. By the time the seventh class was over, I had realized it had a significant impact on my overall life. I was motivated to wake up early and go myself. I have had mental health issues in which sleep was a major problem. But after this, I was sleeping and breathing better. I found that I was able to stay calmer during the day. I thought there must be something here, so I continued to practice, and for many years before I went and got my certification, which was something I wanted to do for myself.
You have said somewhere that traveling and cooking are your hobbies. Do you have a favorite travel destination?
I love anything creative, whether it’s creating a lovely itinerary for a travel holiday. Bali is one of my favorite destinations, so when I created a beautiful itinerary around surfing, I went to Bali for a surf trip. And then I love cooking because firstly it’s a great feast and it allows for creating things.
I like to cook fancy things. I don’t think it’s been a very long time, but I love making like interesting; when I say fancy, I just mean unusual combinations like an “Orange Chicken Bake” just like something which is just out of the ordinary. And yes, I also love writing! I write poetry, or I write lyrics, or I only write really because it helps me empty my mind, it helps me to think clearly, and yes, I think that’s pretty much it. And I love; I don’t know if we can qualify that as a hobby, but I love food!
So you are a certified Yoga trainer, so can you tell us about Meditation and how should one meditate? For how long should it be done?
So first of all, it’s about getting together to do a guided meditation. It’s a great way to get introduced to Meditation because someone will be talking you through what to do, so it makes it easier for you. Secondly, I have a basic guided meditation on my Instagram TV, which you can check out. It’s a guided meditation video of only 5mins, and it’s a great place to start.
Many apps are available online, and many guided meditations are available on YouTube.
I would say start literally with 5 minutes and just remember one thing, “Meditation is not about being quiet or keeping your mind quiet. It’s about allowing the thoughts to come but not getting attached to it. So you can’t look at it like clouds going by” – You see one thought and let it go by, you know another thought and let it go by because your natural state of being; the brain’s natural state of being is designed to think, that puts a design to do.
The more you practice Meditation, the slower your thoughts are, and if you can slow your thoughts down, you will slow your emotional reaction down. And that generally makes for a much calmer person, and it is also important to remember that Meditation is nothing but watching you, watching your breath.
There are often days where one feels low. How do you think on such days, when the sun doesn't shine bright enough?
I allow myself to feel bad because, with darkness, there is light; if there were no darkness, there wouldn’t be light. So if the bad days are part and parcel of life and the worst to do is to fight them and to be like I don’t want to have a bad day. You need to focus on what you want, like “I want to have a good day,” and then if something happens that comes along, that challenging thing; you find a way to deal with it.
I couldn’t do this until I worked with therapists and healers, and now I have understood how to do this. So I always say that I want to have a good day and, of course, challenging things.
You have to allow yourself to feel it, let it be any emotion, any negative emotion just as much as the positive emotion you need to allow yourself to feel it.
You are supposed to feel disappointed. It’s ok! Just as long as it doesn’t take over your actions towards others, and it doesn’t make you feel negative towards yourself for too long.
If you were given a chance to go back in time, what would you do?
Honestly, I don’t think I want to go back in time. I like thinking about moving forward in life.
Do you have a mantra to deal with the humdrum of critics and e-bullying?
I think everybody is entitled to an opinion. It does not govern their decision of me. The question here really is, “Do you know who you are?” If you know about yourself and your boundaries, then nothing anyone says can bother you. So, it’s not about the critics, but it is about you! Regardless of what anyone says, you should allow yourself to feel. Ok, I have felt bad. But does that change their opinion of how I think about me? When I look in the mirror, do I think I’m hot? Yes! And that’s all that matters.
What is your one golden word of inspiration you'd give to the young strugglers of our country?
I have been giving this advice for years, and I think it’s still the piece of advice – “You can never lose your individuality because everybody is unique, everybody!” Never try to be or sound like anybody else. It’s good to have aspirations and inspirations. ‘Be you! Be the best version of what you can be.’
Lastly, who inspires you, both: as a professional and life in general?
In my personal life, my mom, my sister, and all of my friends, especially my girlfriends and my professional life, my team, Adblink, work persistently to get opportunities for me and put me in the spotlight. Also, celebrities who are entrepreneurs like Jessica Alba, Priyanka Chopra, and Jennifer Lopez motivate me.