When Ammetta Malhotra decided to take part in the Mrs Elite Universe beauty pageant a year ago, many people discouraged her, telling her that she was “too muscular” and didn’t fit the requirements of a beauty pageant contestant.
But far from being discouraged, the dismissive comments made the 46-year-old mother of three more determined than ever to compete in a beauty pageant … and win.
Her purpose? To show the world that strong really is the new beautiful.
“Muscular is beautiful, that’s really my message. I wasn’t put off by those comments because, thankfully, there were also others who assured me that I had what it took to represent the country on an international stage. To bring positive change, I knew I had to persevere.
“But I also had to be self-aware. Having just come out of several fitness competitions, I knew that I was a little too muscular for a regular beauty pageant … at least at this point of time. The pageant world isn’t ready for someone so muscular.
“So, I adapted. I re-worked my training regime and softened my physique a little. I remained toned and sculpted, just not as muscular,” she says.
At the Mrs Elite Universe pageant 2018 (her first beauty pageant), Ammetta was the second runner-up.
It was an achievement, but she was determined to go further, convinced that she could do better to prove that a “fitness girl” could also win a beauty pageant.
So, she joined the Mrs Malaysia Globe pageant the same year and was crowned Mrs Globe Classic and the subsidiary title of Mrs Fitness Globe.
Her win led her to her first international pageant: Mrs Classic Universe which was held in Sofia, Bulgaria earlier this year. Ammetta competed against 34 other women from around the world and came out as the second runner-up. She also won two subsidiary titles, Best National Costumme and Mrs Sports, naturally.
She was ecstatic that her perseverance paid off.
“It took a lot of hard work and time but the whole point of all this was to have a bigger platform to share my message. I think beauty pageants are only relevant if the participants have a bigger message to share. I learnt a lot at the Mrs Classic Universe pageant. These were women who had successful businessess and each one had a real purpose for joining the competition.
“If you are just looking at physical beauty, than pageants are irrelevant. With a fantastic make-up artist, anyone can look beautiful, right? There has to be a bigger purpose and I think more and more, international pageants are focusing on this,” explains Ammetta.
Muscular is beautiful
Fitness has always been Ammetta’s passion.
“I was always athletic … throughout school and even at university. I was never been into beauty at all. In fact, when I was younger, my mother tried to tell me to be more ladylike … to cross my legs like a lady and be more feminine. She was convinced that I had the ‘X factor” but I was a tomboy and I didn’t really heed her advice. She passed away when I was 17 and with her, that dream kind of died,” explains Ammetta.
After graduating with a Masters in English Literature from Universiti Malaya, she decided to pursue her passion and so, with the support of her family, she opened her own gym – Target Fitness – in Petaling Jaya.
The gym has been running for 19 years and over the years, Ammetta has built a built a strong following among women who bought into her message of making fitness and wellness a priority in their lives.
She then pursued a Masters of Science in Rehabilitation Sports at the University of California in the United States so that she could serve her clients better.
“A lot of my clients were older and they came to the gym with numerous issues and I wanted to be able to create training programmes to address their specific needs,” she says.
Although her business was doing well, Ammetta realised that she needed to do more.
“I had a successful business, I got married and had three children (aged seven, 10 and 12) and I decided it was time to focus on myself and challenge myself,” she said.
She took part in various fitness competitions to try and push the boundaries of her own fitness.
She entered the World Fitness Federation (WFF) Universe event in 2017 and though she didn’t win, she wasn’t put off. She trained harder and then took part in the WFF Kahma Classic competition in Melbourne, Australia where she came our on top in the sports model category.
“So why did I enter a beauty pageant? I realised that if I wanted to spread my message on fitness, I needed a bigger platform. Even though I’d taken part in fitness competitions, I realised that I was still only reaching people who were already on their fitness journey.
“If I wanted to reach more women, I needed a bigger platform and beauty pageants are a great platform because I can reach not only women but young girls. After all, who watches pageants after all? 10 and 12-year olds who aspire to be beautiful. I want to show these young girls that being fit and healthy is beautiful,” says Ammetta.
The world is her oyster
Winning third place in an international pageant was exhilarating, but for Ammetta, the hard work has only just begun.
“Winning doesn’t mean a thing if I don’t do anything with the title and the platform that I have been given. Many people think that once you win a title, things will magically change and that everyone is going to fall at your feet.
“It’s not like that at all. When you win, that’s when all the hard work starts. How am I going to make my voice be heard? I have to go out there and market myself … get the attention of the media to share my message. Are people going to respond to my message? Am I going to make a positive change in society? That’s really the point of all this,” says Ammetta who stands at 170cm tall.
Juggling her duties – as a gym owner and trainer, a mother and a pageant ambassador – isn’t easy, Ammetta admits.
“I’m a horrible mother!” she jokes. “It’s all a fine balance. I don’t have an assistant … in fact, sometimes my children are my assistants. But no, I have a schedule which I stick to very closely. I still pick my kids up from school and send them to their classes and events. But thankfully, I have a very supportive husband and a very good team at the gym who I can rely on. It is a fine balance but I have only this one year to try and achieve my goal. After my term is over, that’s it,” she shares.
Although she has no plans to enter any more beauty pageants, Ammetta is already working on her next project – creating Malaysia’s next supermodel.
“The organisers of the Mrs Classic Universe pageant offered me the position of national director for the Supermodel of the Universe pageant which I am very excited about.
“Malaysia has not been able to produce an international supermodel in years. When we talk about supermodels, we still think of Kavita Kaur and Amber Chia. But we have so much potential. Our Malaysian look is so diverse and I am confident we can do well internationally. So that’s going to be my goal,” she says, adding that fitness and wellness will still be the focal point of her work.
“I am going to be the Tyra Banks of Malaysia,” she says, a wide grin on her determined face