Miss Universe Singapore gets makeover thanks to her A-team
With help from a team of professionals, Miss Universe S'pore 2015 gears up for finals in Las Vegas next month
Miss Lisa Marie White is counting down the days until she represents Singapore at the Miss Universe pageant in Las Vegas on Dec 20.
It has been two months since she was unveiled as this year's Miss Universe Singapore (MUS) at a Formula 1 after-party and catwalk show at Amber Lounge after going through a closed-door selection process.
Since then, the 22-year-old pageant newbie has gone straight to work to prepare for the competition of her life. She will leave for Las Vegas at the end of the month.
Backing Miss White is an A-list team who are set on grooming her into a possible top 15 finalist at the international finals.
They include MUS' new national director and 2002 winner Nuraliza Osman, who doubles as Miss White's mentor, Level fitness gym owner and former US army coach Alexander Salihin, who is her trainer, local couturier Frederick Lee, who designed her evening gowns and national costume, and former supermodel Hanis Hussey, her catwalk coach.
PHOTO: NG SOK ENG/BERRYHAPPY PHOTOGRAPHY
To build up her portfolio, Miss White posed in several exquisite gowns from Lee's Frederick Lee Couture collection at Singapore Polo Club for a photo shoot organised by the team last month. Her hair and make-up were done by Grego Oh.
Last week, she did another photo shoot, this time in swimwear by Silvian Imberg. The shoot was to build her confidence and give her experience for the swimsuit segment of the pageant. The make-up and styling was done by Mona Gill and Motives cosmetics
Miss White, who is of Malay-Kiwi descent, told The New Paper: "I'm fortunate to have such an amazing group of people behind me who just want the best for me and our country.
"Before the training, I would describe myself as 'skinny fat'. One of the biggest improvements so far is that I've become leaner.
PHOTO: NG SOK ENG/BERRYHAPPY PHOTOGRAPHY
"Attaining the 'perfect body' would have taken at least six months and I had only 1½ months' worth of training, but my body is definitely a lot better. The squats have also improved my posture.
"Mentally, I've learnt to be a lot stronger. I have always been quite sensitive so I've learnt to toughen up."
Working with MUS' adopted charity, Compassion Fund, which offers emotional and financial support to students from lower-income families, and making house visits to beneficiaries have also made her appreciate what she has "taken for granted".
But the 1.73m-tall freelance model and aspiring actress-host admitted that some days are tough.
PHOTO: NG SOK ENG/BERRYHAPPY PHOTOGRAPHY
"Recently, I had a little 'breakdown' because everything got to me. I felt so much pressure to look good and be perfect when perfection is unrealistic. I have to be the best version of myself 24/7.
"It's super stressful, but I was probably just overthinking it. I told myself that I can do it and I should make the most of the experience, which I am grateful for."
On top of that, Miss White continues to battle hurtful comments from detractors on social media who slam her for being an unworthy representative of Singapore.
"It can be quite upsetting that even my own countrymen are not supportive, yet I get nice comments from people in Indonesia," said Miss White.
"I've learnt not to let the criticism affect me and to stop reading these comments. What is more important is the support that I do get."
Asked about her chances in the competition, she said: "If I don't make it to the Top 15, I'm still grateful to all the people who have helped me and this learning experience."
Read about this year's Miss Universe Singapore national costume, designed by Frederick Lee, in The New Paper tomorrow.
Lee makes her feel like a million bucks
BEAUTY QUEEN: Miss Lisa Marie White, with couturier Frederick Lee, in one of the gowns she may take to Las Vegas. PHOTO COURTESY OF FREDERICK LEE
Every Cinderella needs a fairy godmother and luckily for Miss Lisa Marie White, she has local couturier Frederick Lee to thank for his magic touch.
Lee, 45, is providing her with a selection of evening gowns, both custom-made and ready-made from his Frederick Lee Couture collection, for next month's Miss Universe international finals.
He is also the man behind her national costume.
Last year's Miss Universe Singapore winner Rathi Menon donned a glitzy, star-spangled gold bodysuit with matching thigh-high boots and sported a giant crescent and stars on her back. It was designed by Spanish-Venezuelan celebrity designer Alejandro Fajardo, who has created outfits for US singer Jennifer Lopez.
This was partly why Lee, who has designed evening gowns for past MUS winners like Nuraliza Osman in 2002, agreed to come on board again this year.
"Do we really need a foreign designer to design our very own national costume? It's very sad. It bothered me because nothing about the costume screamed 'Singapore'," he told The New Paper.
He agreed to sponsor Miss White's pageant gowns after she impressed him with her confidence and positivity when they met last month.
"She's very down-to-earth and beautiful, a pleasant person with good character who makes people around her feel at ease," he said.
One of Miss White's evening gown options is a white dress that took over 300 hours to make. Hand-sewn with Swarovski crystals, it costs about $9,000.
Miss White gushed: "He's like a haute couture fairy godmother, his outfits make me feel like a princess. They are very royal and elegant.
"These are gowns that I probably wouldn't even afford, let alone wear, had it not been for this competition.
"I feel like a million bucks when I put his gowns on. I feel like Miss Universe."
No rendang, prata for now
HOT: Miss Lisa Marie White in a swimwear photo shoot last week. PHOTO: GREG INSTYLE PHOTOGRAPHY
To achieve a tip-top physique, Miss Lisa Marie White has been training under the guidance of local trainer Alexander Salihin, who owns fitness gym Level.
For five days a week, she goes through a combination of hour-long strength and conditioning sessions, as well as high intensity interval training that sees her nailing kettle bell swings, squats with weights, leg presses and other gruelling exercises.
Mr Salihin, 35, told TNP: "Nuraliza (a former Miss Universe Singapore winner and Miss White's mentor) approached me with a goal based on the image of past Miss Universe contestants from around the world who have achieved their physique from training for a long time.
"We needed a more realistic and measurable goal.
"In my view, it was for Lisa to not be just a pretty face. She needs to be strong and athletic."
He said that Miss White has made "good, noticeable progress". She lost about 6cm off her hips within a month.
Declining to reveal her current weight, Miss White said: "It was difficult for me to go from running once a month to training almost every day. Every session was intense and I struggled."
Miss White also had to forgo her Malay mum's delicious cooking, which includes Malay, Japanese and Western cuisine, and stick to a diet.
For example, she eats scrambled eggs made from egg whites for breakfast and chicken salad for lunch. She cuts back on the carbs, staying away from even brown bread and quinoa.
"I can't wait to eat prata, carrot cake and rendang once I'm back. Some days, I have just a small spoonful of her homemade dishes to satisfy the craving and then grit my teeth and watch my family eat," she admitted.
Miss White is also undergoing weekly catwalk training sessions with former supermodel Hanis Hussey, 50.
Hanis was the first Singaporean model on the catwalks of Paris, Milan and Tokyo and she has modelled for brands like Givenchy and Dior.
"I saw Lisa's potential from the beginning. She is smart and witty, has a pleasant personality... She is like a sponge and soaks up knowledge rather quickly," Hanis told TNP in an e-mail interview.
Although Miss White has catwalked before, she never realised how much improvement she needed.
"Hanis made it look so easy, but there are so many things that makes a perfect catwalk like posture, swaying your hips a certain way and twisting your back foot. The first few times, I did it until my back hurt," she said.
On coming on board to groom Miss White for Miss Universe, Hanis told TNP: "Nuraliza and I discussed our ideas and had the same passion for wanting to bring this pageant back to its prestigious standard.
"It has lost its glory for many years and many young girls were told by their parents to stay away from such pageants, but Singapore has many beautiful, promising girls... who just need mentoring and cultivation so they fly the Singapore flag high.
"We will have a winner soon."