Indian-American dons bikini to promote women's health in India

Indian-American dons bikini to promote women's health in India

Beauty queens have often waxed eloquent on their desire to help make the world a better place and an Indian American woman, more specifically a professional figure athlete, has concrete plans of promoting the cause of women's health in the country.

Nicole Nagrani, who hails from Florida is set on achieving her dream of helping promote the health of women, especially those from villages. So, donning a two-piece bikini may just help Nicole move closer to that goal.

She won first place in the women's pro bikini championship, at the'Sheru Classic Professional Championship'- a two-day health expo cum fitness and bodybuilding event that began on October 5 and showcased top global professional bodybuilders and figure athletes.

"I have always wanted to work for the women in India. First time I came to India seven years ago when we worked on 17 medical mission trips in the villages of Gujarat for promoting the health of women there. And, I'm hoping this huge platform will provide me the opportunity to further my work in India with women," says Nicole.

The event, which held its inaugural edition in Mumbai last year, is said to be third largest Professional Bodybuilding competition in the world and the first International Federation of Body Building and Fitness (IFBB) Professional League event in Asia, according to organisers.

"Last year the event was for the classes, this time it is for the masses. We want to reach out to the youth and spread the message of healthful living," says Sheru Aangrish, CEO and co-founder Sheru Classic Production Pvt Ltd.

"Indian health market is huge and the north Indian villages are very health-conscious, especially in Punjab, Haryana where you'd find gyms in villages. We have been trying to work in those markets and reach out to the masses as well as trying to get the youth off drugs and addictions which are ruining the health of India," adds Sheru.

Jennifer Strobo, Nicole's fellow athlete and a mother of two also from Florida believes that women now can choose to be health-conscious.

"It is ok to take care of one's body and choose the diet wisely but one must know that beauty is inside. And, "I'm not talking about that muscle-flexing outward fitness, which men have been displaying especially at such events," says Jennifer who incidentally has a degree in Architecture.

Both Nicole and Jennifer say they "try their best" to remove preconceived notions about professional woman bodybuilders.

"She is one of the smartest persons I have ever met. I fully support what she does. And, as per health, Americans are becoming more obese and therefore focus on this issue is quite pertinent," says husband Aaron Hill, who is accompanying Jennifer.

Toronto-based, Indian-origin nutritionist who is also here to participate in the event points out, "Fitness is no longer the male preserve. With the bikini category we are showcasing the softer, the gentler side of femininity."

The Sheru Classic event saw over 30 participants drawn from about 11 countries compete across four main categories – Men's Professional Bodybuilding, Women's Professional Bodybuilding, Men's Professional under 212 pounds as well as Women's Professional Bikini.

The Prize money of Rs USD 2.10 lakh is distributed across all categories.

This year, the event hosted a special powerlifting competition for the differently-abled as well as a 'Male Model Search' for amateur Indian athletes. The Health and Fitness Expo section was also held in an expanded format this year.

Two-time and current Mr Olympia winner Phil Heath bagged the Sheru Classic men's pro bodybuilding title and the USD 60,000 prize.  Former Arnold Classic winner Kai Greene came second and was awarded USD 40,000.

In the women's category Erin Stern won first place and USD 7,000. Nicole Wilkins came second bagging USD 5,000.

The two-day event also featured seminars from experts including Jay Cutler, currently the world's best role model and ambassador of bodybuilding after Arnold Schwarzenegger.

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