Imagine yourself in a foreign country, attending college in a small town. You walk into class and see Lady Gaga sitting on the front row as a student. That’s pretty much how international students from Nepal felt when they walked in the GUC or sat down in a UNA classroom to see Priyanka Karki.
The beautiful, tall, dark-haired, caramel-complexioned senior, Priyanka Karki, came to UNA in the fall of 2007.
“When I was 18 I tried out for Miss Teen Nepal, never expecting to win,” said Karki. “The competition took place during a short holiday from school, so I figured I’d try it out and meet some people.”
Karki, who described her childhood as normal and financially comfortable, said she was shocked when she was crowned Miss Teen Nepal.
“The next day I was all over the newspapers, the TV, and people were calling me to do more interviews and even offered me movies,” Karki said.
Within months she had used her platform to pursue a dream she never knew she had. After originally deciding to become a bio technician and major in science, it all changed instantly.
Karki became a TV host, starred in commercials for Sunsilk, Close-up Toothpaste, Wei Wei Noodles, and a variety of banks, and was featured in more than 40 music videos, awareness documentaries, and even starred as the lead character, Tina, in the TV show “Gharbeti Ba,” a successful show from Nepal comparable to “Three’s Company.” The television stint lasted 52 episodes.
“And I just wasn’t focused on school anymore,” Karki recalled. “I was skipping to go do a commercial, or go do some other gig. Eventually I knew I had to make a change.”
After a couple years of being in the spotlight, Karki was sick of it. She said some tabloids were hurtful and her privacy was completely taken from her.
“I didn’t tell the press I was moving. I didn’t tell anyone but my family,” she said.
She had a family friend who was living in Florence, and that’s the only reason, she said, she decided upon UNA. So she left Katmandu, Nepal to come to the United States to focus on obtaining her degree in Film and Media Production, with a minor in theater. Karki graduates this May, and hopes to attend New York Film Academy for her masters.
“I had my freedom back. I realized how much of a private life I missed,” she said.
But living in a country where everyone knows your name has its perks. She said she was catered to and people wanted to be her. But here, she was just another student at UNA. She admits her life in Alabama is a humbling experience.
“I waited tables here,” she said. “I would’ve never ever had to do something like that back at home.”
Karki was married this past summer to former UNA student Rochak Mainali. And like her choice to move to UNA, she kept it all a secret. She said Mainali, who was also from Nepal, was different from other guys who only went out with her because of her fame.
“He knew I was famous. He knew who I was, but he never treated me any differently,” she said. “That was the first thing that attracted to me to him.”
And now with graduation embarking on her, Karki said her time in North Alabama will never be forgotten.
“I came here and I found myself again,” she said. “I remembered who I was and how important school was to me, and I did everything I set out to do. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished.”