South Pasadena resident Vinita Khilnani took top honors at the 2018 Miss India North America pageant in Los Angeles.
“I feel proud that I won the pageant representing my Indian heritage and South Pasadena and I hope to encourage young women to participate because it will give them confidence and help them better themselves,” she said.
Khilnani sang Soleil Moon Frye’s “Sunday Morning” in what she described as a fun but challenging night. It started with two days of rehearsal that included eight hours of walking.
“It was a good mental challenge being on stage that night for a long time during the show where we had to stand for about 30 minutes, all in high heels,” she said. “At one point, we had to dance during a technical difficulty.”
As if that wasn’t enough, Khilnani’s evening gown was too long; so she had to wear taller shoes, which presented another challenge.
“I love performing, it’s my passion, so I wasn’t scared on stage,” she said. “I enjoyed the evening, especially the talent show, which was a lot of fun getting the crowd to sing along.”
Born and raised in South Pasadena by an Indian father and Singaporean mother, Khilnani is a SPHS alumni who has earned two Master’s degree in Biology at Cal State LA and Public Health at USC.
While pursuing her studies, Khilnani met NBA player Metta World Peace, who signed her to his record label after hearing her sing one night. She had two singles, “Take Me for One Night” and “Watchu Want” that were featured on E!
“My mom made sure I continued my education so I was going to school and pursuing a music career for seven years,” she said. “I’ve always stayed here in South Pasadena. This is my town.”
After finishing school and ending her music career, she began two more projects simultaneously. Khilnani is a private tutor and test prep specialist and has a knack for comedy.
“I work with a lot of kids in the area helping them with their homework, especially science and math, and getting them ready for tests,” she said. “I love educating kids and providing them with a solid foundation.”
While hosting a car event for Rusnak in Pasadena, Khilnani met someone who got her involved with the Symphony Jazz Orchestra, of which she is now a board member.
“I believe there is a correlation between music and math and this allows me to use my background as a teacher and as a musician for the kids,” she said.
“I encourage my students to be aware of the environment,” she said. “I want to motivate them to do things that will help our planet.”
Khilnani won an award while attending SPHS for completing 1,600 hours of work at the L.A. Zoo. “I was obsessed with helping animals and I believe we need to continue to help protect them,” she said. “We are destroying much of their natural habitat.”
Khilnani is also part of the Rosemary Children’s Services in Pasadena, which is dedicated to helping get young girls’ lives back on track.
“We have a group of ladies and we go to homes and do activities with the teenage girls,” she said. “It’s a blessing to see these girls get better because many of them have had it rough. It makes me appreciate how lucky I was to be raised in South Pasadena.
“I just love so many things and want to do them all,” she laughed. “And one of them is definitely comedy.”
“I love comedy and joined the Groundlings a few years ago where I can create my own characters,” she said. “At Groundlings, they concentrate on characters with the improv and I love that challenge of creating characters,” she said. Khilnani also joined the Upright Citizens Brigade to fully explore her comedic talent.
“I was doing comedy since I was a child and I grew up watching ‘I Love Lucy,’” she said. “Lucille Ball used everyday situations and made them funny. It was all about character in her show.”
Khilnani believes laughter is the best medicine and feels everyone needs to lighten up a little and not be so stressed. “I love making people laugh, that’s my passion,” she said. “My dream is to be part of a TV sitcom.
“There are a lot of unhappy people in this world and I just want to make people laugh,” she said.
“I’m really torn between science and entertainment and what to do about all these interests,” she said. “There are so many things that I can do and I want to do it all.”
Khilnani still lives in South Pasadena and truly feels at home here. She said every time she drives back from West Hollywood fighting traffic, “I feel relieved, that I can breathe again, back in my town.
“South Pasadena holds its character and is a great place to raise a family with the great programs here like at the library and the great schools and it’s also a safe city,” she said.
“I don’t feel like I need to move because this is a great city to live and one day raise a family here,” said Khilnani.