Manju Bangalore: Miss Oregon USA, Aspiring Astronaut, and Sports Illustrated Model

Manju Bangalore: Miss Oregon USA, Aspiring Astronaut, and Sports Illustrated Model

March 22, 2023
By Katerina Katakalides

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Manju Bangalore is the inspirational queen we all need! Manju is the reigning Miss Oregon USA 2023, an aspiring astronaut, professional actress, and Sports Illustrated Swimsuit model. You might even recognize her from Beyoncé’s music video for BROWN SKIN GIRL. Let’s learn more about Manju, her aspirations, and preparations for Miss USA during our Queenly TeaTalk!

Katerina: Hi everyone! Welcome to another Queenly TeaTalk! We are so excited to have another Miss USA queen with us and a phenomenal state titleholder. We have Miss Oregon USA joining us today! Here she is now. Hi, Manju! How are you?
Manju: Hello! I’m so good, how are you?

Katerina: I am doing fabulous, thank you so much for joining us today. I like to start all of our TeaTalks this way- would you be able to introduce yourself to our audience?

Manju: Absolutely! I am Manju, I am a physicist and aspiring astronaut and I’m actually in a bio astronautics program right now and hopefully one day it’s going to train me to do research in space. I’m also a signed actor and I just modeled for Sports Illustrated Swimsuit last year. I was a finalist for them! I am also the founder of Operation Period, which I’m really passionate about and I’m your Miss Oregon USA.

Katerina: Wow! That is amazing, you are extremely accomplished. We love a woman in STEM here at Queenly!
Manju: Well, I love Queenly, so right back at ya!

Katerina: So, being a woman in STEM, you’re an inspiration for so many others in pageantry. How has it impacted the way that pageantry?

Manju: I make sure to emphasize that being a woman in STEM, representation is really important and it is in pageantry as well. I talk a lot about recruitment for women in STEM by creating a safe workplace and a harassment free workplace, right? And that applies to pageantry too and making sure that there’s no misconduct, no harassment, and that everyone in pageantry feels welcome.

Katerina: That’s so true! How to treat anyone in every workplace should really make them feel comfortable and respected. So, what got you into pageantry?

Manju: My parents are immigrants from South India and we grew up watching Miss World, Miss Universe and Miss USA and I remember being like five or six and watching Miss USA and being like “she’s so cool, I want to be like her!” So as soon as I was eligible for Miss Oregon Teen USA, I needed to apply. Worst case- I don’t win and I’ll try again. The first time I competed, I placed as the 2nd Runner Up and then I kept competing in Miss Oregon Teen USA and I briefly moved to LA when I signed as an actor. I then competed in the World system and I competed at Miss World America. Then, I moved back to Oregon since it’s where I’m from and where I was raised. My dad has Parkinson’s and I’m one of his caregivers as well. So, I competed with Oregon USA a few times and then this past year actually decided a month before the pageant that I was going to compete. You know what, let’s just do it and I won! It was so exciting- sometimes you just need to go for it!

Katerina: Wow- congratulations! You mentioned before your platform is Operation Period. Can you tell us a little bit more about Operation Period?

Manju: It’s the broader idea that we, as women, are limitless as long as we have the right resources, support, and care. So, at Operation Period, we’re really working to make sure people have access to the basic necessities like menstrual products because it’s really easy to say “okay, you can just do it. You can do anything you set your mind to.” It’s another thing to actually get some of the resources they need to actually succeed and we can provide education and we do a lot more training for other young people to organize for access to menstrual products.

Katerina: Absolutely! If people lack the resources they’re honestly unable to succeed because they don’t have the toolset. Let me just say, you are so multifaceted! What are some things that made you so interested in so many different fields?

Manju: *laughs* I really still have that childlike mentality of wanting to be everything! Every time I learn about space travel or the history of acting or the history of modeling I just get so excited about the different possibilities for both myself and so many other people. So, with the astronaut stuff, I wanted to be an astronaut since I was about six years old- sorry, five years old! I learned about Kalpana Chawla, who was the first Indian woman to go to space, and since then I was like “if she can do it, I can do it!” Then I ended up working at NASA in the Astro office, so I got first-hand experience of what it’s like to be around astronauts, to watch them get trained, and help train them. Then with acting, I’ve been acting since I was ten years old and I’ve been doing theater and then I was like “you know what, let me move down to LA to pursue this more frequently and more holistically.” My favorite memory of acting was working with Beyoncé on the set of BROWN SKIN GIRL, which was insane!

Katerina: I feel like my brain can’t even wrap around what that experience must’ve been like! Can you tell me what that was like?

Manju: I got a call from my manager and she was like “you need to be on set in two hours.” And I asked “what set? For who?” She replied “I don’t know, they have told us. It’s just a Grammy award winning artist.” While being escorted upstairs, I asked “what is this set for?” They said “You don’t know! It’s for Beyoncé, you’re on the set of BROWN SKIN GIRL!” It took everything in me not to freak out! Then when I went on set Beyoncé came up to me! She asked “how are you doing? Do you need anything?” I was just like “I am so perfect! I am fantastic! I’m getting paid to work with you!

Katerina: I feel like you had a once in a lifetime experience! Although I feel like nothing can top that, do you have any other exciting events as Miss Oregon USA?

Manju: Yes, I do! I’m actually hoping to do a sponsored zero gravity flight with the company Go 0G! Hopefully it’s going to be later this month in California or Texas. I’m going to be able to experience the same zero or microgravity you experience in space, in a flight. So, I’ll still be within the Earth’s atmosphere, I won’t be going to space this time- hopefully soon! I’m going to take my crown and sash up with me because I don’t think a USA state queen has gotten to do this yet, so it’s an honor to create history- especially during Women’s History Month!

Katerina: Wow- what an exciting experience! Another exciting experience you have coming up is competing at Miss USA. How are you preparing?

Manju: I designed my dress with Sherri Hill, which I’m super excited about! I am also doing a lot of mental preparation because I know that it takes a lot to be able to compete and to be competitive at the pageant. Getting to know my sister queens has also been very important to me and bonding those friendships. I’m also doing interview prep, nutrition, and fitness to make sure that I feel and look my best!

Katerina: I have a feeling that you’re absolutely going to shine at Miss USA! I can’t wait to watch you take that stage!
Manju: Thank you so much!
Katerina: And thank you for joining us today on a Queenly TeaTalk!
Manju: Thank you for having me!

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