Carnegie Mellon University
December 04, 2020

Advocacy Through Pageantry

By Hannah Daniel

Mara Falk
  • Tepper School of Business
  • 412-268-3486
While many took up baking or knitting over quarantine, Shriya Boppana, a fourth-year student in the Tepper School of Business with a minor in psychology, picked up pageantry.

"I actually didn't have any experience going in to my first pageant. My preparation for nationals was a little bit different than my preparation for states," Boppana said. "A lot of training is on the walk and the poise and the presence."

Boppana worked with her coach, Miss Nepal USA 2019, to learn the basics of pageantry — how to walk, how to hold her shoulders, even how to adapt her hobby of painting into a talent for the talent portion: a two-minute speed paint. Boppana went on to win Miss India USA and was first runner-up in Miss India DC.

For Boppana, pageantry wasn't just about showing her skills or even filling time during quarantine — it was a way to promote a cause that was close to her heart. Shriya is passionate about ending human trafficking in India and Nepal, and her friend, Surabhi Khanal, founded an organization in 2016 called Save Our Stars to do just that.

Last summer, they built an HIV/AIDS clinic in Samgha, Nepal, and are currently working to populate the clinic with medical professionals and get it up and running as a full-time center for victims of human trafficking.

Boppana's work on the pageant stage raising awareness for Save Our Stars earned her a segment on the Fox 5 Plus channel, a new show called "Becoming a Voice with Shriya Boppana."

Her show focuses on what she calls "social justice causes with depth," because, oftentimes, these causes can be matters of life and death.

Airing in 2021, Boppana will host a 6-minute segment within Fox 5's "The Capitol Forum," where she talks to changemakers within the DC, Maryland and Virginia areas. She will be featuring incredible people and their stories: from activists who've fought to end the refugee crisis, to a person who packed up their life to live in a van to decrease their carbon footprint.

Not only is Boppana incredibly involved in social justice off-campus, but she's also been a part of making campus initiatives more equitable, just and fair since she her first year on campus. Currently, Boppana serves on the Advocacy Committee of CMU's Undergraduate Student Senate.

Since joining the student government, Boppana has worked with the student organization PRISM to help make the campus a more inclusive place for incoming and current LGBTQIA+ students, and last year, she worked with student group SARV to host "Take Back the Night," an event centered around the stories of sexual assault survivors, and changing the climate on campus to make it safe for victims and survivors.

In her final year at Carnegie Mellon, she currently serves as the vice president of internal affairs for Women in Business. After noticing the inequities between women and men in tech industries, she joined the organization in order to promote gender equity in her field and to fight for female entrepreneurship.

Boppana credits all of her success and opportunities to her parents, who gave up careers in India to move their family to the United States so that she could have every opportunity she wanted, whether that be business, education, art or anything in between. "My family is my support system throughout everything that I do."

Because of that, Boppana takes every opportunity that is given to her, and has made incredible strides helping communities both local and international. Boppana's show will air on Fox 5 Plus virtual channel 20 and digital channel 36 on Saturdays at 7 a.m.