The Truly Amazing Women Radio Show

February25episode

From Miss DC to the Newseum: Broadcast Journalist Sonya Gavankar


Sonya Gavankar is a TV personality who has been seen hosting programs on PBS, BGTV, and MHz Networks.

Her broadcasting career has spanned diverse programming from international food shows to hard news. And her career began on the other side of the camera—when in 1997 she was crowned Miss DC.

She was 20, and a student at American University. Although she didn’t go on to win the Miss America crown, she finished her education and used her wit, smarts, and talent to land a position at DC’s prestigious Newseum, a 250,000- square-foot space filled with exhibits and interactive programming.

So we thought it appropriate to interview her in the broadcasting studio of the Newseum, where she makes the movies that showcase the exhibits of the country’s top news events covered by the press.

In this podcast interview we discuss:

  • Life as a pageant queen (what was her talent?)
  • What it’s like behind the scenes at DC’s 250,000-square-foot Newseum
  • Her work as a philanthropist—and the skinny on winning the 40under40 honors from the EnVest Foundation
  • Why she secretly wants a career as a fine artist
  • Her (shhhh) pregnancy, and more!

Download our podcast interview with Sonya, at right.

  • Click here to read our the article we crafted for the March 2013 “Women in Power” issue of our business magazine, Be Inkandescent.
  • Want a sneak peak of our Q&A? Scroll down for more.


Be Inkandescent: First, we want to hear all about being Miss DC. What is the pageant world really like?

Sonya Gavankar: It seems like a totally underground world that people love watching on TV and they love making fun of, but they don’t really understand it. I say that with authority because I was one of those people. I watched every year with my mother.

We would watch all of the pageants on TV and make fun of all of the girls and cheer for our home state. I never thought that I would ever enter one, but I answered an ad in my college newspaper that said, “Young women looking for scholarship money, call this number.” I did, and it was the preliminary pageant to the Miss America Pageant.

I had always been a tomboy—I feel most comfortable in my pajamas—so I wasn’t one of these girls who had always dreamed of dressing up and wearing an evening gown and a swimsuit on national television. I did it as a joke because I thought it would be a really good story to tell one day to my grandchildren.

But when I met the other contestants, I immediately got very competitive and wanted to win. That is what I set out to do, and that is what I did. I went into it as a joke, but soon after I had to go to the Miss America Pageant where I was going to go up against the big time—you know, Miss Alabama, Miss Texas, girls who have been bred to do this. And here I am showing up with a short pixie haircut. I was behind the curve to say the least.

Be Inkandescent: Is the pageant world what we’d expect, a little, well, odd?

Sonya Gavankar: It is totally surreal, but it is also great. It is a little bit like cheerleading camp. There are a lot of really perky personalities, but you immediately find your tribe. Three of the girls from the contest were my bridesmaids in my wedding. You find your like kind.

We just had our 15-year anniversary, and nine of us got together to reminisce. It was like being backstage again with these girls.

We don’t really have anything in common except that we are driven young women and have this shared experience at the age of 20, 22, 24, and it was like being back to old times. Except that we ate carbs—that was the only difference.

Don’t stop now! Click here to read our entire interview with Sonya in Be Inkandescent magazine.

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