Contestants may not be S'porean enough, say netizens

Finalists of the Miss Singapore Beauty Pageant 2017 at the Talent and Fashion Show held at the OneKM Shopping Mall on July 8, 2017.
Finalists of the Miss Singapore Beauty Pageant 2017 at the Talent and Fashion Show held at the OneKM Shopping Mall on July 8, 2017. PHOTO: JOSEPH JUBAN

With six of the 19 finalists of the Miss Singapore Beauty Pageant 2017 being permanent residents (PRs), their looks were not the only thing that riled netizens, with many pointing out that the contestants may not be "Singaporean enough".

Mr Desmond Charles, 39, the founder of an artist management firm, said the contestants should be an accurate representation of Singapore's culture and diversity.

"A Singapore girl is essentially a 'rojak' girl, seeing that we are a melting pot of cultures today. It's not about having a specific look but, rather, having that gung-ho Singaporean personality," said Mr Charles. Rojak is a traditional fruit and vegetable salad dish whose name means mixture in colloquial Malay.

Doctoral student Hana Saemon, 31, said she felt PRs should not be representing Singapore on an international stage as "they will not likely hold the values and traits of a born-and- bred Singaporean".

The organiser of the pageant, ERM Singapore Marketing, said it takes special effort to ascertain that PRs are able to represent Singapore during the interview process.

Unlike the Miss Universe Singapore and Miss World Singapore pageants that allow only citizens to take part, Miss Singapore Beauty is open to PRs.


Etiquette consultancy Protocol Academy's founder and director Teo Ser Lee, who is also a former beauty queen, said it is unusual for a pageant to allow PRs to compete. "I'd prefer for Singapore to be represented on an international stage only by citizens. But if the international pageant (that the girls will go on to compete in) allows this, then so be it."

Ms Shirley Lim, 26, a consultant, said she does not mind PRs representing Singapore if they have stayed here for a long time.

Dr Ian Rowen, 37, an assistant professor in the department of sociology at Nanyang Technological University, said discussions about the Singaporean identity are to be expected but should be done with more tact.

"By global standards, the Singaporean national project is a very new one, which partly explains why it's been attended to with such meticulous care... and debates about its inclusions and exclusions, if conducted in a civil and rational manner, can be healthy," he said.

Ms Honey Tian, 25, a finalist who is a PR, said: "A beauty contest is not about your nationality or where you are from. It's to showcase different definitions of beauty."

Revathi Valluvar and Lee Si Xuan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 16, 2017, with the headline 'Contestants may not be S'porean enough, say netizens'. Print Edition | Subscribe