updated 15 Oct 2013, 11:28
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Tue, Jul 30, 2013
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Showing flesh needs a thick skin
by Benita Aw Yeong

Miss Megan Long has a long-term boyfriend, but seldom admits it.

As a race queen, being single and available increases her appeal, explains the 23-year-old.

The petite undergraduate often evades questions about her romantic status, or supplies coy answers to men who want to get to know her.

"It's quite common for them to ask for my number, or ask us race queens out for a meal or movie. "I always tell them that I'll give it (the number) to them after work, but I won't say I have a boyfriend," she says.

Race queens like her are paid between $20 and $35 an hour to wear sexy outfits at events.

She has to attend auditions or castings, which she gets referred to by agents who take a cut of her pay to land her jobs.

Miss Long, who claims she has never failed to be selected in the 20 castings she attended, says: "All the girls are keen to find out who's attending which casting to size up the competition. Once we get there, everyone's checking everyone else out."

The most important thing is to look good and be able to hold a casual conversation with anyone, says the soft-spoken woman, who takes part in five to 12 events every month.

Miss Long's first foray into the industry began a few years ago as a liquor ambassador. She now has a long list of events on her resume, including IT road shows and car events.

She also freelances at clubs, where she is paid to mingle with guests.

It's good money for something relatively "brainless", concedes the psychology major at the James Cook University campus here.

Meeting lecherous men is part of the job, but she has never been propositioned for sex, she says.

"There was, however, a weird man who walked very close to a booth my friend and I were at, and he grabbed her butt," she recounts.

"My friend didn't react much and decided to let it go, but if it were me, I would definitely pursue the matter."

Miss Long avoids body contact and tactfully states her discomfort if men are getting too touchy.

Her boyfriend doesn't mind, she insists. "He's been quite supportive and he's quite confident of himself," she says with a smile.

Vanity is a key quality for succeeding in this industry.

Indeed, Miss Long met this reporter in an ice-cream cafe wearing pupil-enlarging contact lenses and false eyelashes.

She cannot remember the last time she went without them. Aside from having a pretty face, maintaining a fine figure, particularly a flat tummy, is also paramount.

Asked if she adheres to a strict exercise and diet regimen, she looks surprised.

"Most of us just have one meal the day before the event. To maintain their figure, I've heard of people soaking cotton pads with orange juice and eating them to feel full, but I don't know anyone who does that," she says.

The job's biggest misconception? That it doesn't take skill. She concedes that it may not be the most intellectual job, but it certainly requires effort.

Aside from doing online research on how Japanese race queens strut their stuff, she also spends hours in front of the mirror practising how to pose.

Having a thick skin is also important in this line, as models like her often receive flak.

Miss Long, who clinched first place at the recent Cats Race Queen pageant organised by Singapore Press Holdings' Cats Classified division, says she was criticised online for taking part in the competition for the second time.

"People left comments online asking me to 'wake up my idea', and questioned why I was taking part again despite not winning last year," she says.

While she dreams of furthering her psychology studies and working as a professional in the field, Miss Long is happy for the extra pocket money that modelling brings.

But she does have a line she will not cross: Wearing lingerie and bikinis, especially for photo shoots.

Most recently, she turned down a half-day shoot with a renowned lingerie brand,.

"They were going to pay me $1,500! But I don't want people to Google search my name in future, and see photos of me in underwear or bikinis pop up.

"It won't look too good for me if I go on to become a psychologist," she says.

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