updated 3 Feb 2012, 14:52
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Fri, Jan 27, 2012
The New Paper
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Beauty contestant finds lost dad after getting flamed
by Bryna Sim

SHE made local and overseas headlines during an Asian beauty pageant when she initially wrote two out of four Chinese characters for a greeting, Happy New Year, incorrectly.

The mistakes by Singapore's representative to the Miss Asia Pageant, held recently in Hong Kong, ignited a firestorm on the Internet.

But Miss Jodi Mohd Nizam Lee, 27, a Singapore permanent resident who was born in Sabah, Malaysia, calls it a blessing in disguise because it led to her finding her long-lost father.

Miss Lee and her Chinese Singaporean mother relocated to Singapore from Sabah when she was a year old, after her parents divorced. She has not seen her dad since.

Said Miss Lee: "With a few strokes of my pen, I received publicity. Although unintended, it was a stroke of genius."

Full name

In the flurry of media reports following the incident, most had carried her name as Jodi Lee. But one - Shin Min Daily News - carried her full name.

Her full name was then carried in the Malaysian newspapers' subsequent reports on her, she said.

This was what caught the attention of her father, businessman Mohd Nizam Lee Kong Tet, 67, who lives in Sabah. He alerted his son in Sabah, insurance agent Nizman Lee, 40, to get in touch with Miss Lee.

Mr Nizman Lee is Miss Lee's stepbrother from her father's first marriage. She is the only child born to her mother and the older Mr Lee, she said.

Miss Lee said her stepbrother added her on Facebook in the first week of this month while the pageant was still going on, but she didn't think much of his name initially.

She said many people had added her on Facebook following the wrongly-written greeting incident, and besides, her stepbrother had not revealed who he was then.

Said Miss Lee: "But my mother suspected from his name that Nizman was my stepbrother."

Her mother spoke to her about this on Jan 7 but she dismissed it initially as she was busy with the pageant.

Two days later, Mr Nizman Lee sent her a message on Facebook, which revealed who he was.

He wrote: "My dad Nizam Lee has been searching for you all these years...I don't know how you would react to this message..."

He signed off the message as Nizman Mohd Nizam Lee.

In a phone interview with The New Paper on Friday, Mr Nizman Lee said his father had tried, unsuccessfully, to locate mother and daughter after they returned to Singapore.

"All these years, my father thought that Jodi was lost, and that she was gone. But now that he knows her whereabouts, he's so excited," he said.

Miss Lee, too, considered looking for her father but said she didn't know where to start.

"I have limited information on him. But the recent media publicity saved me the trouble of having to search," she said.

She replied to the Facebook message the same day, asking her stepbrother to convey her "well wishes and thoughts" to her father.

Since then, her stepbrother's comments can be seen on her Facebook wall. They included messages of encouragement during the pageant period.

Miss Lee, who has a marketing degree from a private school, told The New Paper she was eliminated during the first round of the pageant's final last Thursday.

Pageant journey

But she said: "I didn't mind being kicked out. I joined for the process, not for the tiara.

Anyway, I got what I wanted from this whole pageant journey. I found my father."

Although she has yet to speak with him, her stepbrother has been updating the older Mr Lee constantly about her.

In a Facebook conversation with her stepbrother, she learnt that the older Mr Lee was "like a kid" when he viewed her pictures.

The episode also brought father and son together.

When asked about this, her stepbrother told The New Paper that his father never used to call him daily, much less care about the happenings on Facebook.

He said: "But since knowing about Jodi, he calls me every day and asks me for her latest updates on Facebook."

It doesn't matter to them that Miss Lee didn't win the pageant.

Said her stepbrother: "The fact that we have reunited is worth more than a million bucks."

With the pageant behind her, Miss Lee says her plans are to "settle down, get married and start a family".

But before that, she hopes to meet her stepbrother and father in Sabah later this week if they are available.

Sounding excited, she said: "I've not spoken to my dad yet, but when I see him, I will. I don't know where to start but I would like to start off being friends with him. It's been so long. Do I call him dad, or Mr Lee?"

This article was first published in The New Paper.

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