My Thoughts as Miss Singapore Supranational 2020/21

Event Photographer Turned Pageant Queen — Shifting from behind the lens to in front of one

I was the photographer for the Miss Singapore 2018 Pageant. I remember a couple of people at the gala dinner asking me why I wasn’t getting ready for the show, mistaking me as one of the contestants.

I laughed — the girls were in swimwear and 6 inch heels, I was in a tee, jeans and sneakers. I never thought I was model material — I’ve always been more comfortable behind the camera rather than in front of one anyway.

Here’s one of the shots I took back then:

September 2020 — I’m back from New York, out of college, building a travel-tech product, and kickstarting a career at Google. I was somehow convinced to give the pageant a shot by Eileen, my college friend who was crowned Miss Singapore in 2018 after hearing her story.

One of the biggest doubts I had other than being able to juggle multiple responsibilities, was whether representing Singapore for Miss Supranational would be a career limiting move as a female founder — would investors or employers take me seriously, or think I’m a bimbo? People have certain perceptions and opinions towards certain things. They also associate a lot, to make it easier for them to understand the world. They frame the world in a certain way based on their own experiences and knowledge.

If you work at FAANG, you’re probably an intellectual. If you’re unemployed, you’re probably not that great (at whatever you’re doing). Granted, these are fair associations, but they are may not be the complete and whole truth.

I have come to realize that these things don’t matter — if people want to understand you, they would put in the effort to.

It hasn’t the easiest journey, but has been an interesting one. Here are some of my biggest takeaways:

We Are Never Enough, Until We Feel We Are

While there is no one-size-fits-all model to what a pageant queen should look like, society has a a certain perception and expectation of how they should look like. Even if they don’t explicitly list expectations down (eg. ideal weight), when you stand amongst the other girls who are tall and seemingly flawless looking, you impose those expectations on yourself.

People love to scrutinize and compare, but at the end of the day, we are our harshest critiques.

I used to complain about being tall (at 5'8, I’m taller than the average Singaporean man — though I do get fresher air when I take the train). After I joined the competition, I met girls who were 5'10. Must be tough (considering the additional 6 inch heels we add on).

My biggest challenge was smiling with my teeth. (Try dig up a photo of me grinning. It will be a journey — I can’t even find one myself.) I used to get bullied as a kid for having a gap between my two front teeth, and for having a gummy smile. Curling my lips into a tiny smile became my default. Then, people started to remind me of the gap-toothed models who took the world by storm.

What I learnt: Everyone has their own insecurities — being a queen is about how well you own them. Smiling at myself in the mirror (with teeth, of course) became a daily routine for me. Every girl on stage, as beautiful as they look, still feel like they are full of imperfections — then again, that makes us the unique people each of us are.

Create Your Own Definition of Beauty

Everyone has different definitions of beauty. Trends change. Eyebrows were the big thing, then dense lashes. Fit and curvy models rose in popularity, over skinny ones. Physical attributes are the first thing people notice about you, but a lasting impression is created after they have interacted with you or heard you speak. Care less about how people define beauty and more about what you feel it means to you.

What I Learnt: People remember how you make them feel — whether you interact with them on a persona level, or they came across something you said or wrote. So — think different, speak well, stay healthy and be kind. Create timeless beauty defined on your own terms.

Look Good, Feel Good

My bronzer user to doubled up as my eyeshadow, and my lipstick as my blusher. False lashes?The biggest nightmare. By the end of the 15 minutes of trying to stick them on, I’d be left with glue-covered fingers.

After two weeks of watching Youtube videos, I somehow managed to pull together a photoshoot-ready look without burning my own fingers while curling my hair- not bad, I gotta say. It pays to spend a little time experimenting what colors make you glow, and which hairstyle compliments you.

Looking your best also means feeling your best — for me, that meant cutting my alcohol and bubble tea, heading to bed at 11pm (like a grandma) and waking up at 5am for a morning sweat.

The good thing about these lifestyle shifts during the weeks leading up to pageant also meant building healthier habits and routines which I continued to maintain even after the pageant ended. (I’m now a grandma, but it’s great)

What I Learnt: Looking physically more put-together helps your mental state too — incorporating the healthier routines helped me perform better at work and boosted my mood too. As much as people say otherwise, aesthetics and looks do matter (whether it is for yourself or for others).

Next Up: Poland

I’ll be heading to Poland in August this year to compete for Miss Supranational 2021 — while I’m still feel far from ready and overwhelmed with the other things I’ve been hacking away at, but I’m sure it’ll be a pretty interesting experience. Will probably have another brainfart after it ends!

Thanks for Reading!

Connect with me here: LinkedIn

My Life In A Webpage: Website

Daily brain vomits: https://t.me/rachielearns

www.knottedbrains.com | googler. founder @thegulliverapp. product owner. photographer. creative consultant. pasta fanatic & occasional nerd.

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