updated 2 Dec 2010, 10:22
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Mon, Sep 27, 2010
New Straits Times
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Malaysian beauty pageant organiser wants more exposure for talent

MALAYSIA - A walk through some of the private colleges and popular nightspots in town will reveal that Malaysia has no shortage of drop dead gorgeous women. Beauty and brains -- Malaysian girls have it all.

However, year after year, many pageant fans have given up on seeing our country reach the finals in the international arena.

Are beautiful Malaysian women shying away from pageants or are we not giving our girls enough support to push them forward?

Miss Universe Malaysia (MUM) 2010 national director, Miss Universe Malaysia 2004 and pageant head judge, Andrea Fonseka, says Malaysian pageant contestants have limitations due to culture and tradition.

"Asian, including Malaysian, contestants tend to be far less outgoing, perhaps it is our culture. When we were younger, we were told never to speak our minds or to praise ourselves, as it was seen as being vain and rude.

"Whereas, the foreign pageant contestants are proud of their country, their people and most of all, themselves. And why shouldn't they be? That pride translates to confidence, which translates to a more striking aura on stage."

MUM 2010 tagline "hip, urban, relevant and real" was aimed at attracting girls who are smart, fresh, down-to-earth, have leadership skills, a great sense of humour and possess the basic foundation of being a beauty queen.

"We spoke to them and learnt what they're about. There was a varied panel of judges who were all looking for something different. And when we could agree on a girl, it showed that she had the complete package of intelligence, looks, and the 'heart' of a beauty queen."

So, why are Malaysian contestants still falling short?

"We need support, and it needs to come first from the government. Why shouldn't we support our Malaysian representative, someone who can share the beauty of our fine nation with the world?

"We need to be able to spread the word that pageants can be a wonderful thing, which can open so many doors and change lives forever. It did for me. And I want as many capable Malaysian women to realise and experience the same.

"In many other countries, Miss Universe is seen as the final destination of all pageants -- all roads lead to Miss Universe. The girls enter as many other pageants as possible to get the experience before taking on the biggest pageant in the world.

"For example, it is not uncommon for winners of Miss World Jamaica to then enter Miss Universe Jamaica -- and win! Here, winners of former pageants are too afraid to take part in Miss Universe contest even though the experience itself would be worth it.

"I believe they are afraid of 'losing face'. Which is sad, because I can list so many former Miss World Malaysia who could possibly break into the Top Five at Miss Universe, or even take the crown!

"As head judge, I hope to bring passion and support, and I hope Malaysia joins me in supporting our girls on the international stage."

Fonseka says there are a few reasons that have caused the low placing of our girls in the international arena.

"One of which is that pageantry itself has been run into the ground by opportunistic people who try their hands at making a quick buck, or gaining access to beautiful women.

"The best pageants in the world are those run by people who have a true desire and passion for it.

"Secondly, the fatwa against Muslims joining pageants has narrowed down the pool of local beauties greatly.

"I'm not saying that non-Muslim women are not beautiful -- it's simple mathematics, that when you have less people to choose from, less talent will be found."

Muslims were denied participation in beauty pageants following the issuance of a fatwa in 1995 by the mufti of Selangor.

"But I have to say that we did well with this year's MUM, Nadine Ann Thomas. She, for the first time in a very long time, made everyone sit up and notice Malaysia at the Miss Universe pageant. Some online critics touted her to be a favourite!

"It didn't matter to me that she didn't crack Top 15, she did us proud. She raised the bar, and I hope with her as MUM, girls nationwide will be inspired to try their hand at embarking on an amazing journey."

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