In 2011, Dika Restiani had set her sights on acquiring a Masters degree in International Political Economy at the Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) in Nanyang Technological University. Little did she know that decision would compete for the first-ever Muslimah Beauty Pageant that would turn her whole world upside down – for the better! After taking home the much coveted crown, Resty (as she is known to her friends) found herself in a rollercoaster ride of fashion shows, social commitments, and, yes, her own flavor of fame and glory.

The 26-year old fashion model, non-profit organizer and entrepreneur (she has her own line of fashion clothes) feels that being beautiful does not need to be in opposition to one’s religious beliefs. In fact, religion and beauty can go well together (and women do not need to show off too much skin just to be pretty).

What do you think makes a woman beautiful?

A beautiful woman is one who is able to maintain her dignity and at the same time able to contribute well for the betterment of the community. For me, beauty is not just a physical thing. It is about how our existence can be valuable for others.

Do you think there is a clash between your religious beliefs and the notion of beauty that many women adhere to?

I believe there is a lot of misunderstanding on the definition of beauty itself. Many people assume that beauty is the exploitation of women through body, face, and other physical things. But beauty, in my view, is not only about physical attractiveness. It is about how our existence can be valuable for others. So, it goes beyond the physical and depends more on human connections. The beauty of a woman will glow when she is doing good or doing something useful for the society. For example, if there is an incredible woman with the most perfect physical features, but when she misbehaves, the things she does will reduce the physical beauty that she has. Morals and good manners will make someone, who may not be physically perfect, look beautiful always in the eyes of others and in the ‘eyes’ of God, of course.

Why did you decide to join the Muslimah Beauty in 2011?

I decided to participate in the pageant as well as the Ambassador of Fashion Muslim Halal and Sharia, Muslimah Beauty initially because of the prizes. They were giving the winner a free pilgrimage to Mecca for two and that was enough to get me interested. I thought, if I won, I would love to bring my mother with me, as my gift to her. I remember my mother often saying that she wanted to see the Ka’aba. She just came back from Hajj at that time and when she was home, I heard her say, “I miss to see the Kaaba.” Of course, as a child there was a sense of aspiration for me to be able to bring her to see Mecca again and give her want she direly wanted. And thank God I won the competition and I was able to make my mother’s dream come true.

Did you have any expectations before joining the pageant?

I did not really have any expectations. I was not thinking about winning or not. Besides, I was studying in Singapore and my parents expected me to concentrate on my studies. Alhamdulillah wasyukurillah, what happened was more than what I expected. Not only was I able to take my mother to go and see the Ka’aba during the pilgrimage again, but I was also commissioned by the Government of Indonesia to go to Paris for a fashion show, photo shoot, and to promote Indonesian Muslim fashion in the French capital. It felt like a dream come true, Subhanallah.

[widgetkit id=71]

How did your life change after winning the competition?

After winning the Muslimah Beauty 2011, there certainly were many changes going on in my life. Being famous or known to many people (especially after the fashion show and photo shoot in Paris). I became a fashion icon and Muslim teen idol. I also received many offers to appear on TV and many other media. But if I may be honest, those are not the things that I would pursue in this world. In fact, at the height of the fame, I was actually afraid to slip in the pleasures of the world of fame and materialism. But I absolutely love doing social work. It makes me feel happy and I was able to learn how to be more sensitive and have a caring heart for others. I feel most satisfied and rewarded when I can bring many benefits to people, particularly the marginalised and poor. This type of happiness is something that money cannot buy.

As a young woman who has already achieved so many things, what are your plans for the future?

Honestly, even now I feel that I am a ‘nobody.’ I feel neither rich nor great. I do not consider myself a famous person. But I am a grateful person. I thank God that I have recently completed my studies at RSIS. In the near future, I would really like to become a lecturer and to share my knowledge with others. I also run my own business in fashion and beauty, which I named KHADDIJAH. Finally, I plan to dedicate some of my time to two social organisations I am currently involved with: Plangi (Care for the Children of the Country), that takes care of children who do not have a chance to get a decent education and the Indonesian Young Sociopreneur Club (IYS Club), which is platform for young entrepreneurs to provide skills training for underprivileged or low-income families.

In this fast-paced and highly liberated world, it is easy to lose sight of what really matters in life. It is therefore very refreshing to see young women like Resty who sees beauty, religion, and womanhood as a means to reach out to the community and undertake socially relevant endeavors. Intelligent, beautiful in heart and spirit, and caring for others, that is Dika Restiani.