Miss Ohio United States, a Centerville native, focuses on advocacy work

‘I have to be bold’, Nikita Sandella says of pageant experience.



Centerville native Nikita Sandella is championing diversity in the pageant world.

The 23-year-old was crowned Miss Ohio in the 2023 Miss United States pageant last June. She is reportedly the first Indian American to receive the prestigious title. She also held the title of Miss Fairborn in January 2023, and won Miss Ohio in the Miss World pageant.

The Miss United States pageant, presented under the auspices of the Mrs. United States National Pageant, Inc., “celebrates intelligent women of all walks of life.” Its mission “prides itself in providing an avenue for each young woman to give a voice to those needing to be heard, lend a hand to those less fortunate, and be a compass for those daring to dream.”

“The greatest thing I learned from pageants is to be bold,” said Sandella, who trained with Ritika Ramtri, a pageant coach in India. “I have to be bold enough to set a new standard. I cannot accept things for the way they are. I will make up my mind to create a new reality and the world will bend in accordance to my will. In order to become the first Indian American to win Miss Ohio, I had to garner so much self-belief that I could break the mold.”



The 2018 Centerville High School graduate said she lost more than 60 pounds before her historic win as Miss Ohio. She considers herself to be a self-love advocate, and lost the weight before her pageant for health purposes.

“I never thought I would enter a competition like this because I didn’t feel as though I was good enough,” Sandella said. “Everybody is beautiful. Every body is beautiful. There is a certain ‘look’ that is preferred and standards that are expected of me. I’m here to create the new standard. Let’s do this.”

Through her advocacy work, Sandella is particularly proud to have sent three impoverished, rural girls to school in India last year in partnership with the non-profit Commit 2 Change. In addition to participating in Storytime for Toddlers at the Dayton Metro Library, she has also partnered with Shoes 4 the Shoeless, Shiloh Church Food Pantry, and Dakota Community Center among others.

“Sending those three girls to school in India is probably the greatest thing I’ve done through Miss Ohio,” she said. “Those three girls now have the ability to change their lives. And with that empowerment, they might not have to get in an arranged marriage or have certain things handed to them. They now have agency to choose what they do with their lives because they’re receiving an education. It was important to me to be able to bestow that choice to them.”

Sandella graduated with a liberal arts degree last December from New York University. She plans to return to NYC soon and continue her artistic pursuits which includes modeling, singing and publishing a self-help book. Her book will be geared toward young adult women and offer advice on how to beat comparison and fall in love with yourself.

“I garnered a lot of self-belief and tenacity to go after my goals, so I’m hoping this book can instill a sense of self-love in women so they can do the same things in their own lives,” she said.



The pageant winner is also very close to her mom who works as a cashier at a local Kroger. One of her primary goals is to provide her mom a better life.

“My main motivation in life is providing her a better life,” Sandella said. “When I was a kid, I decided I was eventually going to retire her. I made so many promises that I was going to give her a dream house and I’m still working toward it.”

Assessing the future of the pageant world, Sandella said representation matters in order to offer more opportunities for inclusivity.

“It was a pretty strenuous test to be able to fall in love with myself and to be able to believe in myself when I didn’t see winning Miss Ohio as a possibility,” she explained. “I hope my win sets a precedent for diversity in pageants – not just Miss United States because they’ve been so accepting of many races – but just in the pageant community. I hope diversity becomes a bigger issue. It’s important for people of color to see their dreams as possible. No one wants to see their race as a barrier.”

Above all Sandella is grateful for the chance to represent Ohio and give back to her community.

“It’s been the greatest opportunity of my life,” she said. “It’s been so great to meet so many incredible people from my town and from the state. It’s been an absolute honor to have served my country in this way. I truly see it as a service to be able to promote the various businesses and charities of our state. It has been such an honor and a blessing.”

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