updated 26 Jan 2013, 21:16
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Sun, Jan 20, 2013
The Straits Times Urban
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She joined pageant on a dare
by Joyce Chua

Ms Marion Nicole Teo, 45, Miss Universe Singapore 1987

She joined the pageant on a dare but Ms Marion Nicole Teo went on to be crowned Miss Universe Singapore in 1987.

It is hard to imagine the poised and immaculately groomed image consultant to be anything but ladylike, but the 45-year-old recalls: "I was very tomboyish during my school days and seldom wore a dress. Back in Marymount Convent, I used to play the role of the boyfriend in our school plays."

Then, while studying in Anglo-Chinese Junior College, she was approached by a talent scout on the streets one day to be a model.

"Some of my friends thought it was funny and they dared me to join the Miss Universe Singapore pageant after my A levels. So I did and I won."

That year, the international pageant was held, for the first and only time in its history, in Singapore.

While that meant she was not able to travel, there were benefits to being at home.

"I was initially disappointed at not being able to travel, but I later saw the value of being able to know every contestant as the representative of the host country. I also got to meet and chat with my family when I was stressed. Also, my designer could come alter my gown as I had lost weight before the finals," she says.

To date, she is one of only two Miss Universe Singapore winners to make it to the top 10 - she came in ninth.

In 1983, Ms Kathie Lee Lee Beng took eighth place, the best showing by a Singapore contestant in the pageant so far.

In response to critics who said she did well only because the pageant was hosted here, Ms Teo says candidly: "At times, I do think I got into the top 10 because I represented the host country."

Then she adds: "But I also believe my confidence and personality helped. Not every representative of the host country has made it to the top 10."

Ms Teo, who graduated from the National University of Singapore in 1991 with an honours degree in biochemistry, went on to establish a career as an image trainer.

She joined the Service Quality (SQ) Centre, a service training and consultancy set up by Singapore Airlines and the then National Productivity Board, as an image trainer. She conducted workshops on customer service and was later promoted to customer service manager.

In 1988, she set up her own image consultancy, The Leading Image.

The divorced mother of two sons, now aged 15 and 17, says: "After the birth of my two sons, I decided to set up an image and etiquette consultancy as it gave me time to volunteer at their schools as well as at the church I go to."

But she saw the need to further develop her skills and training programmes, so she closed her company at the end of 2011 to focus on attaining certification as a trained image consultant.

She joined Peak Performers, a home-grown training and image consultancy, as a senior consultant in June last year.

Her work involves conducting courses on business and networking etiquette.

When the topic of her divorce comes up, she keeps her composure but declines to talk about her ex-husband or their marriage.

"After my divorce about 10 years ago, I had a lot of self-doubt and felt I was not good enough as a wife, mother or woman. Although I projected an image of confidence, inside I was not really happy or satisfied with my life. So I got involved in charity work and helped others to make myself feel better."

She credits Dr Granville D'Souza, managing director of EQ Asia and also a life coach, for helping her through that rough patch.

"He helped me understand how some of my beliefs were limiting my ability to be happy and true to myself," she says.

Now, she keeps her spirits up by saying positive affirmations aloud to herself when she does her daily skincare routine in front of a mirror.

"When I find myself being negative or in a self-pitying mode, I remind myself that I am a capable and good person and that I love and accept myself just as I am," she says with a beatific smile.

How has winning the pageant helped you?

It gave me more confidence to start my image consultancy, to stand up in front of an audience and talk.

These days, as an image trainer, I conduct workshops and classes for groups as big as 200 people.

Also, I learnt how to groom myself and present myself better.

What is one common misconception people have of beauty queens?

People think that we are divas but I've been told I'm a very down-to-earth person.

People are also surprised to know of my biochemistry degree as they cannot link it to my being a beauty queen.

But I wouldn't say people have doubted me or that I've been hurt by any comments about my abilities. Being a beauty queen is actually a good ice-breaker.

What would you like to be remembered for?

As a source of love and happiness to others.

What do you fear most about ageing?

Sometimes, I do fear the effects of ageing.

I look at myself and regret not taking better care of my skin when I was younger.

I suffered from acne and never really bothered about my face.

Then, I remember that there are other more important things, such as being happy, and I get over it.

Like a good wine, we mature and become better with age. I have a great role model - my mother, who has always managed to look young; people always think we're sisters.

I think it is her positive attitude and love for life that keep her young.

As a beauty queen, what is the best beauty tip you have to offer?

Discipline, along with positivity, is the key to keeping young.

I cleanse and moisturise my skin twice a day and I use an eye cream before I go to sleep.

Once a week, I also apply a facial mask. My products are from Hormeta, a Swiss brand that my beautician carries.

I also use a hand cream, body lotion and body scrub.

Ultimately, you should love and accept yourself for who you are because when you feel good, you will look good. Eat balanced meals, drink lots of water and exercise regularly.

I keep fit by brisk-walking in the park and lifting light weights at home at least two to three times a week for about 45 to 60 minutes each session.

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Ms Marion Nicole Teo, 45, Miss Universe Singapore 1987
Dr Cheryl Marie Cordeiro, 37, Miss Universe Singapore 1999
Ms Eunice Olsen, 35, Miss Universe Singapore 2000
Ms Jaime Teo, 36, Miss Universe Singapore 2001
Ms Nuraliza Osman, 36, Miss Universe Singapore 2002
Ms Jessica Tan, 29, Miss Universe Singapore 2007
Ms Rachel Kum, 27, Miss Universe Singapore 2009
Ms Valerie Lim, 27, Miss Universe Singapore 2011
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