updated 5 Nov 2012, 08:27
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Sat, Nov 03, 2012
Daily Chilli
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It's all over for Andrea Fonseka

After three years as the reigning national director of the Miss Universe Malaysia Organisation or MUMO, it's all over for former beauty queen Andrea Fonseka—the Miss Malaysia 2004 winner has reached the end of her pageant ruling career and will hand over her crown to a new national director.

Andrea bows out with a mixed bag of results. On the plus, she's breathed new life into the pageant with high-profile decisions like the selection of Deborah Henry as Miss Universe Malaysia 2011 and dragging the competition into the 21st century with a reality-styled making-of television series, Beauty Camp.

On the down, however, none of the Miss Malaysias under her direction cracked the Miss Universe ceiling, not even Deborah who placed in the Top 16 at the Miss World 2007 competition. To be fair, the closest we've ever come to winning Miss Universe was in 1970 when Andrea's mum, Josephine Lena Wong, broke into the Top 15.

Despite all the hype and hoopla surrounding Deborah, and all the talk that she would end Malaysia's losing streak at the pageant, we were once again let down when "the hot favourite" failed to impress the judges enough to make the Top 16 cut in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

"Learning from that, I realise so much depends on luck," an undeterred Andrea told Daily Chilli. "Instead of focusing on getting into the Top 16, we should focus on representing your country, which is what Deborah did. Everybody had such great things to say about Malaysia after her turn at Miss Universe last year."

"It would be wonderful to get on the international stage, but we're looking at [what the winner can] do for Malaysia in that one year leading up [to Miss Universe]," she added. "Instead of trying to make Miss Universe organisers happy, we have to focus on our part at home."

So what exactly does the job entail?

"We hold on to our culture," Andrea explained. "Tolerance is a very big part of Malaysian beauty—the ability to embrace differences. It doesn't matter what your race or colour is. These are qualities you should find in a Malaysian beauty."

Is there a future for Miss Universe Malaysia?

Agreeing with Andrea's reasoning is Kavita Sidhu, the winner of Miss Charm International 1990-turned actress and movie producer, and now also a judge and mentor on the panel selecting this year's Miss Universe Malaysia.

"You need to be able to compete," said Kavita, who turns 41 this month. "It doesn't matter if you have an oriental face, dark skin or Pan-Asian looks, part of the package is to hold your own. You need to be smart. You can coach the girls to speak articulately and think in a worldly manner, but sometimes you either have it or you don't."

The real issue, according to Kavita, is how to attract these beautiful and talented ladies to the pageant.

"There are many smart girls who are like, 'I don't want to be a model or a beauty queen. I want to study law and medicine.' We don't have that culture, like in South America or India, where families who are well off and educated are proud if their daughters take part in a beauty pageant," she said.

"Beauty pageants can be done in a very classy way and it can help you in your career. It's serious business," Kavita added. "Andrea has tried to do that. She's tried to portray Miss Universe Malaysia in a very positive light by getting the winner involved in charity work. She's done a great job."

Joining Andrea and Kavita on the selection panel for Miss Universe Malaysia 2013 are Miss Universe Malaysia 2010 Nadine Ann Thomas, TV host Ben Ibrahim and runway coach Benjamin Toong.

"Kavita knows what it's like to be on the big stage," said Andrea, explaining their roles. "Nadine is there to provide emotional support to the girls. Benjamin will provide advice on fashion, style, the catwalk and photo shoots. And Ben is the male voice of reason."

The party of five and the 17 finalists vying for the title are also the cast for the five-part TV show The Next Miss Universe Malaysia. The first episode will broadcast on Sunday 11th November on 8TV. The final live event judging happens on 10th December at Setia City Convention Centre in Shah Alam.

The winner—who replaces Kimberley Leggett—along with the top three runners-up will receive a full scholarship for any enrolment at the Limkokwing University Of Creative Technology. The other four finalists will receive a half scholarship.

"This will take them further than any other pageant," said Andrea. "This pageant is done not only to crown the winners, but to enrich and change their lives."

The 28-year-old is heading for her own life-changing experience after her final hurrah. She'll focus on starting a family with her Australian husband, lawyer Paul Dewar, who lives in Perth. They've been in a long-distance marriage since 2010—and for the record, Andrea also holds a law degree from the University Of Singapore.

And though she's waving goodbye to MUMO, this won't the last time they'll see her. "We're looking very carefully for the next national director," she said, without naming any candidates. "But I will still be consulting and guiding whoever succeeds me."


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