India's Adline Castelino, the third runner-up at the recently-held Miss Universe 2020, says the country has to grow a lot more in terms of equality for women. The 22-year-old adds that it’s important for a nation's progress to focus on women and give them equal status.

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“We are doing a lot of things that are fantastically brilliant and we are going in the right space but I am very passionate to talk about the state of women in the country because I feel in any nation, the state of women translates into the state of the nation. I feel in our country even if we have made progress, we have a lot more to grow in terms of equality, in terms of how women are paid as per men," Castelino said.

The newly-crowned Miss Universe third runner-up says that she wants her life to be an example for all the young girls who are looking for inspiration because “as a young girl, I was trying to find that role model.”

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“I would love to see more women leaders in politics, in business, in boardroom meetings. As a young girl, I remember looking at this photo where there were only men in the boardrooms and plastic water bottles but not a single woman. So, having women in these positions is really important and being a young girl who was really yearning to see women leader and to relate to her, I think it’s very important for our next generation," said the beauty queen who was born to Karnataka-origin Mangalorean Catholic parents in Kuwait and came to India to become a financially independent woman.

 “This is something I look forward to working on regardless of anything that happens. I know this is the long way we are looking at but this is important,” she added.

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Castelino also feels very strongly about multi-tasking to reach one's goals. 'We have this problem in society that we think any individual can only pursue one profession at a time...I have always been a multi-tasker. I not only want to make it huge in the entertainment industry but also look at philanthropy as another way of expression.”

Talking about how she felt on stage during the finale night, she said, “Just before I would step on the stage that particular night, I remember telling myself that I need to give my best not only for myself but for my country. It was very important because every day when I would get up during the pageant... I would hear about what was happening in India and how the conditions were deteriorating and that was emotionally affecting me."

Castelino also recalls how people walked up to her during the contest just to express concern for what was happening on the COVID front in India. "There were a lot of sympathies around so for me to find that strength in the people that were trying to fight the situation and to really embody that was important."

“I also felt that it was even more important globally right now because of the kind of talks that are happening about India globally. It was important to show them that we are still power to be reckoned with and even if we are going through this, we can walk shoulder to shoulder with any country and that is exactly what I was thinking,” she said.

She also recalls how she missed seeing an Indian flag in the preliminary rounds but finally saw one during the finale.

 “During the preliminary competition that happened just before the main event, I was really searching for the Indian flag but unfortunately we couldn’t have anybody at the venue. There were flags from different countries so my eyes were really finding that Indian flag and on the final day somebody turned up with the Indian flag. That gave me so much power to perform well. It was like 'yes we are here and we will be remembered as a nation regardless of what happens',” she said.

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On the pandemic in India, Castelino said that in these trying times, it was important for everyone in India to work together for unity and growth.  “…it is important for people to work with the government especially during this time and to have absolute transparency on things that happen so that better decisions are made because it's a very sensitive time,” she said.

 Finally, what were her biggest takeaways from the Miss Universe pageant?

 “I think it’s such an impactful experience and has left a very deep mark. I would say that subconsciously and consciously I have always been a deep person and always looked at deeper meanings in life so for me to go through this entire experience especially during this time and really see this platform for what it is and how it can bring the change in the society has transformed my life forever.

 “I would like to use whatever I have learned during this platform in the future not only to bring value for myself but people around me for sure,” she sums up.