Miss Universe Singapore 2004: 'Any fearless woman should join'
Sandy Chua says pageant was an eye-opener
When she was young, she had it all planned out - she would achieve something significant before turning 20 and have three children by 30.
And Miss Universe Singapore 2004 winner Sandy Chua, now 31, did just that.
At 19, the then National University of Singapore undergraduate thought taking part in Singapore's most prestigious beauty pageant "would be a good idea to meet like-minded girls".
"In university, I studied mechanical engineering and most of my classmates and friends were guys," said Ms Chua, who admitted that some of her closest friends to this day are women she met through Miss Universe Singapore.
"I took part purely for the experience. I never had the mindset that I would win. Not even when it came down to the final two," she recalled.
This year, Miss Universe Singapore is back in a big way, with new presenter Singapore Turf Club and new imaging partner Canon Singapore on board.
And for the first time, The New Paper will be Miss Universe Singapore 2016's official media partner and co-organiser, alongside the Miss Universe Singapore Organisation.
The winner will receive a $10,000 cash prize, and registration is now open to women aged 18 to 27.
Ms Chua's fondest memory of the competition?
Miss Universe Singapore 2004 first runner-up Marilyn Tan, winner Sandy Chua and second runner-up Joan Seah. TNP FILE PHOTO
"When I took part, the pageant was still televised. We had to change out of our swimsuits into our evening gowns during the commercial breaks, which were like three minutes long, so one dresser was assigned to two contestants.
"After the Top 10 was announced, my friend didn't make it while I had, so she told our dresser to focus on me to make me look my best.
"Although it seems like such a little thing, that's such a fond memory because it was so gracious and generous of her. While everyone else wanted to look their best on national TV, she took a step back for me," said Ms Chua, an engineer who's also working on a food and beverage project with a friend.
The mother of three children aged four to nine said winning meant more than just a title to her.
PHOTO COURTESY OF SANDY CHUA
During her reign, where she attended various charity events and galas, she realised she had "a purpose to do more for the less fortunate".
She said: "I was a very sheltered 19-year-old one minute and the next, I was exposed to so much, getting flown across the world to take part in an international pageant. It really made me re-evaluate my life and open my eyes to that world at such a young age.
"It taught me humility. I have a lot of gratitude.
"The competition also made me realise that in life, nothing is definite. Much like a competition, in life, there are wins and there are losses."
So what does she have to say to those thinking of joining Miss Universe Singapore 2016?
She said: "If not now, then when? It is definitely the most prestigious pageant around, with a meaningful cause as well.
"Any fearless woman should join. For any woman, good looks should only be the icing on the cake. You can be so much more."