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Sun, May 12, 2013
The New Paper
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More than a pretty face
by Charlene Chua

Amanda Leong must be home by 10pm, has never had a boyfriend and any guy she's interested in has to be screened by her parents first.

She's also 1.71m tall, beautiful, a talented Broadway singer wannabe and studying to become a lawyer.

The 18-year-old is one of the 10 Miss Singapore Universe (MSU) finalists this year, and give us hope that there are some standards to local beauty pageants after all.

Ms Ida Ong, owner of modelling agency/grooming college IMP International who lays claim to discovering Caldecott queens Fann Wong and Zoe Tay in the 80s, is suitably impressed with the contestants.

As the official grooming instructor for the MSU girls after a hiatus of more than 10 years from the pageant scene, she's confident that with her training - that involves quite a bit of reprimanding - Singapore may have a shot at the Miss Universe pageant taking place in Brazil on September 12.

The MSU finals will be heldon July 10. We profile the three hottest girls from this year's batch.

Shermine Tjoa 

Her biggest grouse is that people often mistake her for a "materialistic party girl" who is either Eurasian, Malay or Indian.

In truth, Shermine's rather exotic looks belie the fact that she considers herself a "pure Chinese" homebody who spends her free time watching TVand going to the library.

Her dream occupation? To be a kindergarten teacher.

If she wins MSU, her pet cause would be to help the impoverished children in Vietnam.

She said:"My heart goes out to them as they don't have enough to eat.

"In Singapore, 10-year-olds already have iPhones!"

The 22-year-old student is also currently working part-time as an actress and model to finance her own education which costs $20,000 a year at private educational institute Kaplan.

Shermine said: "My parents divorced five years ago and my mum works as a part-time curtain promoter so I've been paying for my own school fees since I was 17.

"I'm still very close to my dad (who's Indonesian Chinese), but I want to help my mum with the expenses."

She played bit roles in Channel 8 dramas for the last three years.

She will star alongside Fann Wong and Li Nanxing in the upcoming drama On The Fringe, in which she shares most scenes with actor Zhang Yaodong.

Valerie Lim

At 1.79m, she's the most striking contestant. Valerie, however, isn't a model.

She is a behaviour therapist who works with autistic children. She sees up to five kids between the ages of two and 16 daily.

Of her first job, which she has been enjoying for the past three years since graduating from the National University of Singapore, Valerie said she wouldn't give up what she's doing for the world.

She won Miss Earth Singapore in 2009 and made it to the top 16 (out of 90 contestants) at the international finals held in the Philippines.

Valerie, 25, said: "I volunteered during my university days to work with autistic kids and found it to be such a fulfilling job.

"They are so innocent but can't express themselves like we do. I want to be the one who gives them a voice."

Being proud of her height was only a recent occurrence: In primary school, the school nurses mistakenly thought she had gigantism.

Valerie, who counts hip-hop dance as one of her talents, said it's just genes: Mum is 1.72m and dad is 1.85m.

She recalled: "It was tough sticking out in the crowd when I was with my classmates then.

"I had to bend to hug and talk to them." She added: "I attract attention on the streets because I'm tall.

"Guys have come up to me and asked for my number, but I've said no."

Amanda Leong

When Amanda tells you that she's never had a boyfriend, the cynic won't believe it.

But the opinionated young woman explains that she's never been allowed to date as her parents are "very conservative".

MSU is her first pageant.

Amanda, who will be studying law and psychology at the Singapore Management University in August, told The New Paper she wants to make a difference for her gender.

She said: "In Asian society, I find that women aren't appreciated enough."

"When people ask me if it's possible for a woman to have both beauty and brains, I'll go, 'Is there a problem?'"

The brainy babe skipped her O levels to do a four-year Integrated Programme at the National Junior College.

Amanda said she comes from a family which prizes education. Her real estate agent mum and manager dad taught her that women should be "independent and strong".

That, and no late nights.

Her curfew is set at 10pm. She must seek her parents' permission if she wants to stay out till midnight.

Amanda revealed that she has only recently been allowed to date, but any potential suitors must be approved by her parents first.

She said: "A man whom my parents would like is someone who is smart, kind, taller than me and, of course, has to be nice to them." A shorter guy will be acceptable if he is confident.

Professing to love performing Broadway songs laced with a pop vibe, the choral singer has written her own compositions and uploaded them on YouTube.

Other videos online include Amanda doing covers of songs such as the Glee version of Journey's Don't Stop Believing and B.o.B's Airplanes.

[email protected]

This article was first published in The New Paper.

View more photos of the MSU finalists here:

Meet the 10 finalists of Miss Singapore Universe 2011


readers' comments
I urge the organising committee to be more stringent in their selection. No more 'Ms Riz Low'., pl. Thanks.
Posted by JUSTSPOREAN on Tue, 28 Jun 2011 at 04:34 AM
Are these the hottest we have? Can we forget about participating? I already know the results.
Posted by smickno on Tue, 28 Jun 2011 at 01:20 AM

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