Miss Singapore Beauty Pageant 2017 finalists' photo draws flak online

This picture of the finalists in the Miss Singapore Beauty Pageant 2017 was taken at a talent and fashion showcase last Saturday. The women are due to have makeovers over subsequent weeks as part of the contest. PHOTO: JOSEPH JUBAN

An unofficial photo of the finalists in a local beauty pageant has brought out the ugly side of some netizens.

Comments on the 19 finalists for the Miss Singapore Beauty Pageant 2017 range from their looks being "ugly" and "not pretty enough", to questioning if they even look "Singaporean".

The organiser of the pageant, ERM Singapore Marketing, confirmed that six of the finalists are permanent residents, with three originating from China and three from Malaysia. A spokesman said the pageant is open to both Singaporeans and Singapore PRs from 17 years old.

Finalist Nur Amelina, 21, did not understand why their countries of birth are a point of contention.

She said: "As long as they are Singaporeans or residents, they are allowed to join the competition. So I don't see why they can't represent Singapore."

Of the Singaporeans, one was born in Myanmar and another two were born in China, said the spokesman. China-born finalist Honey Tian, 25, has been in Singapore since she was eight. She said it should not matter where contestants were originally from.

She added: "A lot of us (PRs) have been here for a really long time and we love this country. We are proud to represent Singapore."

The pageant will yield four winners under different titles who will go on to represent Singapore internationally under each title.

The four titles are: Miss Singapore Tourism Queen, Miss Singapore Chinatown, Miss Singapore Global Beauty Queen and Miss Grand Singapore.

Miss Singapore Global Beauty Queen 2016 winner Priscilla Martin said while she cannot recall PRs taking part last year, she does not think Singaporeans should be close-minded.

She said: "Singapore is so diverse, and Singaporeans need to be more understanding of that."

Many netizens also questioned the legitimacy of the event, but the organiser said the pageant has been running for 29 years with its winners going on to represent Singapore globally.

Contestants will have makeovers over subsequent weeks as part of the contest, and the pageant organiser said the picture circulating online was taken before the makeovers.

The photo was taken when the women were doing a talent and fashion showcase at OneKM mall in Katong last Saturday.

Unlike this pageant, the Miss Universe Singapore and Miss Tourism Global Singapore pageants are open only to citizens.

The Miss Singapore Beauty Pageant had about 60 applications and finalists were chosen by a committee of former pageant winners.

Contestants from other pageants have faced harsh criticism too.

Ms Shi Lim, 28, was repeatedly called "too short" and "too fat" when she vied for the Miss Universe Singapore title in 2013, which she won.

The Miss Singapore Beauty Pageant will hold its finals on Aug 25. Finalist Tricia Koh, 24, said she was affected by the online vitriol.

The financial adviser added: "Honestly, it was very upsetting, especially for all of the girls.

"But at the end of the day, we can't stop people from saying or posting certain things."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 13, 2017, with the headline Miss Singapore Beauty Pageant 2017 finalists' photo draws flak online. Subscribe