Beauty and brains in Miss Singapore Universe pageant

The finalists in this year's Miss Singapore Universe pageant include (from left) online entrepreneur Patricia Eng, data analyst Hazel Tay, trainee lawyer Nikki Tay, model Pooja Gill and Temasek Polytechnic student Tanisha Lissa Khan.
The finalists in this year's Miss Singapore Universe pageant include (from left) online entrepreneur Patricia Eng, data analyst Hazel Tay, trainee lawyer Nikki Tay, model Pooja Gill and Temasek Polytechnic student Tanisha Lissa Khan.ST PHOTO: AZMI ATHNI

If online entrepreneur Patricia Eng had not taken part in this year's Miss Singapore Universe pageant, she would have missed the chance to do so for good.

At 27, she just meets the age requirement for the pageant for women from 18 to 27 years.

She is also the oldest of the 15 finalists unveiled yesterday.

"My family and friends had encouraged me to join previously, but I always thought I was not ready. My mother said that I'm of age and this is the last time I could try, so I decided to go for it," says Ms Eng, who designs and sells her own line of jewellery online.

This year also marks the first year that Singapore Press Holdings' The New Paper is co-organising the beauty pageant.

Mr Murali Subramaniam, deputy editor of The New Paper, says: "The competition is not just about picking the most beautiful contestant, but about finding someone who can represent the country with confidence and pride. With this exciting crop of finalists, I am sure we will find the right ambassador to represent Singapore."

He points out that changing the stigma that shrouds beauty pageants takes time.

"We can't do anything overnight to change perceptions or stereotypical thinking," he says, adding that the way to do so would be by "running the pageant properly and treating the contestants with respect".

Miss Universe Singapore 2016 will be crowned on Oct 16 at Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel.

The winner will receive a $10,000 cash prize, $24,000 of beauty and wellness services from Beaute Hub, up to $20,000 of dental aesthetic services from Orchard Scotts Dental and $9,000 of training sessions from Bodyburn Fitness Singapore.

She will also receive coverage in Singapore Press Holding's stable of titles including print, radio and magazines.

The 15 finalists include trainee lawyer Nikki Tay, 23, who tells The Straits Times that she has had aspirations of winning the Miss Universe Singapore contest even before she had dreams of becoming a lawyer in Primary 6.

"When I set my sights on something, I won't let it go. Joining this is like fulfilling a promise to myself," she says.

Citing Miss Singapore Universe 2002 Nuraliza Osman, who has a law degree, as her role model, she adds: "I wanted to join this pageant primarily because I wanted to eliminate certain stereotypes of beauty pageants."

Ms Nuraliza, 39, is now the national director of Miss Universe Singapore Organisation.

Another finalist this year is data analyst Hazel Tay, who chooses to ignore the negative comments about beauty pageant contestants.

Says the 25-year-old, who has a master's degree in financial mathematics from the University of Chicago: "Life is busy enough, there's no time to deal with negative comments."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 15, 2016, with the headline 'Beauty and brains in Miss Singapore Universe pageant'. Print Edition | Subscribe