updated 26 Sep 2013, 02:03
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Fri, Aug 02, 2013
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Beauty with a cause
by Charlene Chua

She may be the rainbow after a thunderstorm. Miss Maria-Anna Zenieris' win at the Miss World Singapore (MWS) 2013 finals on Sunday night was received with thunderous applause. Even guests of other finalists cheered her on.

The United World College graduate had risen above her competition by remaining pristine amid the controversy that has surrounded this year's pageant.

She is even donating a large part of her $3,000 prize money to Boys' Town, which she has volunteered with for a year.

Scandals that had plagued the pageant involved allegations of vice, slander and votebuying.

A finalist could buy a table of 10 seats for $2,500 at the finals.

The audience's vote contributed to 20 per cent of a contestant's final score.

Apart from Miss Zenieris, the other top five finalists - Miss Elizabeth Houghton (runner-up), Miss Rachel Leng (second runner-up), Miss Krizzia Sayson and Miss Teri Chua - had also bought tables at the finals for their supporters.

Miss Houghton and Miss Chua bought two tables, Miss Leng bought one table and Miss Sayson bought five seats at one table.

On the vote-buying allegations, Miss Zenieris, 18, told The New Paper: "There were 33 tables in all and I had just one for my family.

"If these accusations were true, then the girls who had bought more than one table would have won instead.

"I have told the girls to focus on what's most important and that is enjoying the journey.

"I didn't win because I had a table at the finals, I won because I put in a lot of effort and just worked hard."

Born to a Greek dad and a Singaporean- Chinese mum, the babe has already shown a potential to do well in the Miss World international finals that will be held in Jakarta, Indonesia, in September.

According to event organiser Edmund Ooi of Asia Music People, what had blown the judges away was Miss Zenieris' talent video, which wasn't shown at the finals.

The trained opera singer sang Josh Groban's You Raise Me Up, and delivered it pitch-perfect.

The multi-talented beauty queen is also a ballet, jazz and hip-hop dancer who also excels at belly-dancing.

Miss Zenieris made the decision to be a vegetarian when she was 13, after learning that animals reared for consumption weren't always slaughtered in humane fashion.

She gave up her favourite chicken rice and said she hasn't strayed from her conviction since.

Miss Zenieris is the only vegetarian in her family, which consists of her parents and older brother who is currently serving NS.

She said: "It wasn't easy at first, because it was a hassle when we went out to eat.

"But looking on the bright side, nowadays I just look at the menu and I don't have to decide because I know what I'm having (the vegetarian option).

"It has become a part of me, such that I forget that I'm vegetarian."

Working for the needy

Her goal is to work for the United Nations as a counsellor for war-torn and other disaster areas stuck by famine and poverty.

Having spent a large part of her childhood in Ghana as her dad had been posted there for work, she grew up doing charity work for the needy there.

She said that she was greatly influenced by her mum's - Mrs Yvonne Zenieris - love for charity.

Mrs Zenieris, a 55-year-old housewife, was a Miss World Singapore contestant back in 1979, reaching the top five that year.

Of her daughter, she said: "I'm really proud of her because she is an amazing girl who has the strength to do anything that she sets her mind to.

"I told her that it didn't matter if she didn't win because she's already mummy's winner."

On herself not winning MWS three decades ago, she added, with a laugh: "I'm very happy because Maria took back the crown for me."

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