Imagine a teenager dedicating almost 4,100 hours in volunteer service in four years, helping raise $25,000 for pediatric cancer research, professionally training in classical Indian dance, and aspiring to become a pediatric oncologist. This is certainly a lot more than what is expected from a 15-year-old, but Cayla Kumar from Queens Village, who has become an inspiration for many young children of her age, has proved that children are capable of meeting every expectation if encouraged.
It is, therefore, heartwarming to see Cayla (who had won Miss Bronx’s Outstanding Teen earlier) win the prestigious Miss New York’s Outstanding Teen competition, which took place on April 7th, in upstate New York.
Recently, we got in touch with Cayla and asked her to tell us a few things about herself. Cayla believes that she is basically a shy person, “who would rather sit in the corner than interact with people,” shared her initial lack of self-esteem that made her compete for the pageant. However, after training for a year and winning the title, she now feels a lot more confident. She says that the whole process, the interaction with so many people, and the competition itself taught her much, “I learned to stay true to myself, and I would not have been able to do a lot of these things that I do if I didn’t start competing in the beauty pageant. So, it helped me find myself.”
Cayla has definitely come a long way, so how is Cayla feeling today after winning?
“I still can’t believe it!” she giggles, “I am honored to have this opportunity. It really proved to me that if I put my mind to something and if I truly work hard to achieve a goal, I can do it.” Cayla sounds confident. “Ever since competing in the pageant I had to learn how to speak on stage. It showed me that I am capable of so much more.”
Cayla has been dancing since she was 5 years old. She is a trained Bollywood dancer and is currently attending the Sadhanalaya School of Dance to become a professional Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi dancer. She has performed Bollywood dances on the Miss Teen stage and says, “I love dancing because it helps me share my passion and it is one way I can express myself, and I love sharing and spreading my culture.”
So, what is the one thing Cayla gains when she goes out to volunteer? What is it that makes her happy?
“I think it is the feeling at the end of the day knowing that it helped make a difference and that it made an impact on someone’s life. It is the drive that keeps me going. It is a great feeling knowing that people come up here saying that you are doing an amazing job and you are helping to make a difference, and that keeps me going.”
Cayla, whose mantra is hard work and self-belief, has a long wish list – she likes the medical field, she wants to be a fashion designer, and she also wants to be a motivational speaker, “I want to do it all!” she says.
Now, after becoming Miss New York’s Outstanding Teen, Cayla is getting ready for Miss America’s Outstanding Teen at the national finals from July 24th to July 26th in the preliminaries in Orlando, Florida.
Cayla will receive a resolution on the state Senate floor on April 30th by Sen. Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) in appreciation of her winning the contest and for her countless hours of volunteer service.
We are so proud of her! We heartily wish the outstanding and amazing Cayla Kumar all the very best!