updated 11 Nov 2011, 16:47
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Thu, Nov 10, 2011
The Star/ANN
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Flaunt it and shine
by Grace Chen

IT took a fair bit of coaxing to get girls to join this beauty pageant, mainly because they didn't believe they had the potential to be beauty queens. Most were afraid of being heckled on stage and being subjected to humiliation. It also didn't help that the pageant winner will be crowned Jumbo Queen.

In this beauty contest, participants must weigh at least 80kg - and it's open to all women regardless of their age and marital status.

"If you look around at beauty pageants like Miss Malaysia, they only accept thin girls. What about the ones who are more generously endowed? Shouldn't they be given a chance to do the catwalk and to show off that they are beautiful and talented as well?" said Sungei Wang Plaza's senior manager of promotions and public relations Lim Kok Kheng.

He was inspired to organise the beauty pageant for plus-sized girls from a beauty contest he saw while holidaying in Thailand.

"That beauty contest was held to highlight the plight of elephants and the girls had to mirror the grace of the animals," recounted Lim, who immediately saw the pageant's crowd puller potential.

The first Jumbo Queen pageant, held in 2007, only attracted 20 applicants. When it was held again in 2010, it attracted more than 40 aspirants. This year, 30 joined the pageant.

Lim and his colleagues are committed to making the pageant a success, and they are always on the look out for potential contestants.

Purnisha Premchand, 31, who runs an online plus-sized clothes business called Curve Queenz, initially approached Sungei Wang with the intention of becoming a wardrobe sponsor for the beauty pageant. Instead, she was persuaded to participate in the pageant.

"I saw it as a good way to market Curve Queenz," said Purnisha.

There were participants who recognised the opportunity for recognition that the pageant offered. The experience must not have been all bad as Nor Intan Julyana Yahaya, 33, who calls herself Pretty Diamond, has been trying her luck for the title since 2007.

Despite its title, pageant contestants are judged not on their weight, but on poise, grooming and personality which amount to 90 per cent of the overall marks. The remaining 10 per cent of the score is from crowd support, which tests the participants' ability to market themselves. During the finals, the supporters cheered on the participants complete with a frenzy of colourful pom-poms, banners and whistles.

The reigning Miss Jumbo Yoong Swee Moon was happy she won because she wanted to debunk the notion that fat people are inactive. The basketball player and sports-mad make-up artist wowed the crowd with a cartwheel at the finals, and walked away with the crown.

Some people are fascinated by the pageant for its novelty appeal. But there are others who were supporting the participants because they saw a chance to change society's treatment of those who do not conform to beauty stereotypes.

For the longest time, only thin girls could become air stewardesses or actresses. Even if plus-sized made it in the entertainment industry, it was always in the comedy genre.

But not all big girls are content to take things lying down; some joined the contest to prove that they are beautiful.

Mandy Ong, 33, who was first runner-up in last year's pageant, recalls how she would always receive compliments about her Barbie doll looks, but they always came with the put down "but you are too big ..."

"Since so many people think fat women are ugly, I took matters into my own hands by joining this pageant. I knew that if I could stand up in front of the crowd and let my inner beauty shine through, I would have proven a point," she says.

Another participant, Siti Zuraida Edham, 35, was in a defiant mood.

"You can call me fat if you want. What do I care?" said the housekeeper who tips the scale at 121kg.

Another contestant Zamzarina Ahmad wanted the public to be more sensitive to the feelings of those who are overweight. Growing up, she was teased mercilessly for being fat.

The 30-year-old assistant director, who weighs 119 kg, says that because of the taunts, she became withdrawn. Maturity and family support helped her come to terms with her size.

"No matter what size you are, you must learn how to be comfortable with yourself. Be confident, be brave and most of all, take care of your appearance," says Zamzarina.

The contestants also shared that they faced misconceptions that they are fat because they had let themselves go, or were too lazy to manage their weight. They are seen as weak-willed because they could not control their tendency to overeat.

Many do not realise that obesity can also be caused by genetics, hormonal imbalance and health problems.

Ong revealed that she started gaining weight seven years ago, on an average of eight kilos per year, due to job stress and eating irregularly.

Chin Swee Heang, the oldest contestant at 45, attributed her weight gain to a botched up operation. Even today, the mother of three has to undergo annual adjustment procedures to realign her intestines.

But the finalists this year are determined to not dwell on the downside of being called fat. "There is no point in getting angry," said Goh Yea Min, 29, this year's third runner-up.

"The crucial thing is to shed this perception that obesity is a barrier to having a good social life," said Ong Kay Li, who weighs 95kg.

Yong who won the crown this year believes in the good life.

"As the Chinese say, the ability to enjoy one's food is to experience what prosperity is about, so I am not going to feel guilty about being a foodie," said Yoong, who weighs 94kg.

There were those who tried to lose weight. Lee Hui Leng, 33, last year's second runner-up, reveals that she had lost 35kg once.

"I ate nothing but apples for three months but I regained the weight after two years," recounted Lee who trimmed down from 120kg to 85kg.

The onus is on them to stop wallowing in self pity, added Lee.

She took charge of her social life by joining the Young Malaysians Movement, an organisation aimed at promoting national unity and integration, eight years ago.

"I learned how to be a confident public speaker and performer," said Lee who loves dancing.

Another contestant Theresa Chin, 39, said that being overweight is no excuse for not enjoying life.

"I've climbed Mount Kinabalu twice. So my friends call me 'Dunlop Pillow' but I see this as a compliment because it means I am a cuddly and warm person," she said.

Purnisha, who works as an HR executive, said she did not face discrimination at her workplace due to her weight because it's her job performance that mattered most. "In the end, it's about proving your worth through diligence and wisdom. For all that is said about fat people being this and that, I feel that most times, the discrimination is in one's own mind," said Purnitha.

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readers' comments
Over 100kg is really not pretty and healthy :(
Posted by mystrawberry on Thu, 10 Nov 2011 at 20:27 PM

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