Miss Universe S'pore winner wows crowd with fearless answer
Lasalle College of the Arts student Cheryl Chou wins Miss Universe Singapore
She never expected to take the crown or make it to the top five.
But Miss Universe Singapore finalist Cheryl Chou, 20, stole the hearts of the judges and the crowd at the pageant last night at Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel.
"I'm ecstatic," she told The New Paper, right after she beat 14 finalists to take the coveted crown at 10pm last night.
"I never expected any of this. It's just so surreal and I think it still hasn't totally sunk in yet," added the Lasalle College of the Arts student.
Tanisha Khan, 18, and Sonya Branson, 25,took the first and second runner-up titles respectively.
Tanisha, a student at Temasek Polytechnic, said: "I really didn't expect this so this is an amazing opportunity and I'm really grateful for The New Paper and Miss Universe Singapore for giving me this opportunity."
Sonya, a full-time model, also found it "super, super unexpected" as all the contestants had "brought their A-game".
She said: "They did much better than they did in the rehearsals.
"It's like they had all been hiding their secret weapons and brought it out tonight, so I didn't think I would get into the top five."
TNP PHOTO: PHYLLICIA WANG
As the winner of the Miss Universe Singapore 2016 title, Cheryl will represent this tiny red dot at the 66th Miss Universe pageant next year as she goes head-to-head with contestants from around the world for the Miss Universe crown succeeding 2015 Filipino winner, Pia Wurtzbach.
She also bags a cash prize of $10,000, beauty and wellness services from Beaute Hub worth $24,000, dental aesthetic services from Orchard Scotts Dental worth $20,000 and personal training and scheduled sessions worth $9,000 at Bodyburn Fitness Singapore.
Cheryl stole the show and wowed the crowd when she delivered her answer for the Top Five Question-and-Answer segment.
TNP PHOTO: PHYLLICIA WANG
The top five finalists Cheryl, Sonya, Tanisha, Joeypink Lai and Luisa Gan were asked what was the essence of a Singaporean woman.
With poise and elegance, Cheryl stood at the microphone and spoke of independence, confidence, bravery and being "unafraid of failure" because it is "important for growth".
Speaking to TNP after the pageant, Cheryl revealed that she turned up with no expectations except just "getting out there and doing (her) best".
"When they announced the top five, it all happened so quickly that I didn't even have time to look at my family to give them a little wink," she said with a laugh.
Cheryl's family, including her parents, aunts, uncles and best friend, sat in the crowd and kept their fingers crossed for her.
Cheryl's mother, Madam Carol Lee, 55, told TNP: "I'm just so, so proud of her."
When asked if there had been a sense of relief after the top five were revealed, Madam Lee said with a laugh: "No, the suspense actually became worse."
Cheryl's best friend, Miss Deborah Tan, 20, said: "I'm not surprised, actually.
"Cheryl is the kind of person who will do whatever it takes to achieve her goals once she sets her mind to it.
"I couldn't be more proud of her."
(Above, from left) First runner-up Tanisha Khan, winner Cheryl Chou and second runner-up Sonya Branson. TNP PHOTO: OH XING YEE
The finals started at about 7.30pm when the emcees, ONE FM 91.3 DJs Glenn Ong and The Flying Dutchman, introduced deputy editor of The New Paper, Mr Murali Subramaniam, and national director of the Miss Universe Singapore Organisation and former beauty queen, Ms Nuraliza Osman, to each give a speech.
Not long after, the 15 finalists took to the stage for the bikini segment and walked down the runway for the panel of seven judges and a 300-strong crowd of supporters and invited guests.
The judges watched the segments attentively as they attached scores to the finalists.
Judges Daniel Boey (left) and Nuraliza Osman. TNP PHOTO: PHYLLICIA WANG
Mr Simon Leong, senior vice-president of Singapore Turf Club, which is the presenter of the pageant, said: "I think (Cheryl) was very confident and when she came out, she really looked nice in the bikini that she was wearing and performed well.
"She showed a lot of poise and confidence."
It was a tough fight as the ladies brought their best to the finals, but judge Junita Simon was confident Cheryl would take the crown.
"She was my first choice, from the very beginning," the 38-year-old former supermodel said.
"She's obviously very beautiful. She's got a wonderful body. She's very confident on stage and she speaks very well - she answered her questions very well too so I'm very pleased.
"She's got the whole package."
She's very confident on stage and she speaks very well - she answered her questions very well too so I'm very pleased.
- Judge Junita Simon, who was on the seven-judge panel, which included fashion show director Daniel Boey and former beauty queen, Ms Nuraliza Osman.
When they announced the top five, it all happened so quickly that I didn't even have time to look at my family to give them a little wink.
- Miss Universe Singapore finalist Cheryl Chou
Miss Photogenic, sponsored by Canon:
Miss Sporty Chic, sponsored by BMW:
Miss Aspirational, sponsored by Beaute Hub:
Miss Bikini, sponsored by Bintan Lagoon Resort:
Turf Belle 2016, sponsored by Singapore Turf Club:
Miss Universe Singapore 2016: Calm before the storm
The question took her by surprise: If she could be any type of horse, what would she be?
But Shanice Hedger recovered quickly. Her answer: She would be a racehorse.
The 21-year-old Nanyang Technological University undergraduate explained: "I consider myself to be a very driven person, someone who's very passionate. When I'm given the opportunity, I'm very likely to jump forward and to take it straight away...
"I would be a racehorse, not to say because I'm 'kan chiong' (anxious in Hokkien), but I'm the kind who will sprint towards the end."
The judge who asked her the question, Mr Murali Subramaniam, the deputy editor of The New Paper, had asked Shanice how she was feeling.
She responded that she was feeling stressed.
Mr Murali then cheekily added: "This question will make you not stressed at all."
The 15 finalists of Miss Universe Singapore 2016 were each asked a random question by the panel of judges during the competition's pre-judging segment.
The pre-judging segment was meant to allow the contestants to showcase their personalities.
Although there was no point system, the contestants had the chance to make an impression on the judges.
It was held yesterday at the grand ballroom of the Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel, where the grand final was later held.
The panel of seven judges included Mr Simon Leong, senior vice-president of Singapore Turf Club, official presenter of Miss Universe Singapore 2016, and Ms Nuraliza Osman, the national director of the Miss Universe Singapore Organisation.
The pre-judging segment started at 6pm and ended 20 minutes later, an hour before the final began.
The girls strutted down the runway to pick the judge's name from a bowl. The selected judge would then proceed to ask the contestant a question.
The atmosphere at the pre-judging segment was relaxed and calm.
If there were any nerves, the girls did not show them, as they answered their questions smoothly.
Mr Federick Lee, one of the judges for the event, asked Sonya Branson, 25: "Your parents have taught you all your life, so what have you taught your parents?"
The full-time model with Basic Models Management replied: "The one thing that I have taught my parents would definitely be patience.
"My parents have gone through a lot - they had to take my meltdowns, my moods, and everything, especially during the length of this competition, because when I don't eat carbs (carbohydrates), I get very angry."
"I take my hat off to them because they suffered me through thick and thin, and they have been by my side and they have not thrown me outside the house even though I've been such a cranky girl recently," she added with a laugh.
I would be a racehorse, not to say because I'm 'kan chiong' (anxious in Hokkien), but I'm the kind who will sprint towards the end.
- Miss Universe Singapore finalist Shanice Hedger (below), when asked 'If you could be any type of horse, what would you be?'