Winning MUS 2014 was ticket to her modelling career
Miss Universe Singapore 2014 Rathi Menon saw runway career take off after winning title
When Rathi Menon won the Miss Universe Singapore (MUS) crown in 2014, there appeared to be a renewed faith in Singapore's chances at the international pageant.
Netizens threw their support behind the leggy 1.75m-tall beauty, who silenced naysayers with her beauty and grace and was hailed as one of our most promising MUS winners in recent years.
The former pharmaceutical technician at Mount Pleasant Vet Centre told The New Paper: "I guess I was a fresh face and I also had a proper team preparing me for the competition.
"I had a stylist on board and even our national costume was made by a designer from Venezuela so everything was so well-planned, and I guess that's what got recognised.
"So for once, Singaporeans saw a change in that aspect and that's why they thought I could place (in the Top 5 at the Miss Universe contest).
WINNER: (Above) Rathi Menon when she took the Miss Universe Singapore title in 2014.
"But I wasn't really concerned about (getting a) placing. That was not my goal. I just wanted to represent Singapore well. I was really happy that I got that recognition and that people were really supportive and were rooting for me."
This year, Singapore's most prestigious pageant is back in a big way, with new presenter Singapore Turf Club and new imaging partner Canon Singapore on board.
For the first time, TNP will be MUS 2016's official media partner and co-organiser with the Miss Universe Singapore Organisation.
The winner will receive $10,000 in cash and a Canon camera worth $1,000.
Registration is now open to women aged 18 to 27. (See report, above.)
Miss Rathi, 25, took part "by chance", saying: "I chanced upon the advertisement and I thought, why not give it a try... (Even though) I didn't have any modelling experience, I just took it as a challenge."
To those thinking of joining MUS 2016, she had this piece of advice: "Don't think so much about it - it's not like you're making the decision to become a doctor or lawyer and investing six years into this."
After competing in the international pageant in Miami, Miss Rathi found she had a shortcut into the next phase of her career.
Winning MUS was "a direct ticket to modelling", she said, because she was immediately signed up by Upfront Models Singapore and she graced the covers of magazines like ELLE Singapore and Nylon Singapore.
But she wanted to aim higher, so she quit her job and moved to the fashion capital of Milan, Italy, in January, immersing herself in the modelling industry there for three months.
Miss Rathi, who is pursuing a part-time degree in human resource management at the Singapore Institute of Management and hopes to work as a human resource specialist, deferred one semester of school to go to Milan.
"It was awesome and I love the fashion industry there. There's a huge difference," said Rathi, who did mostly showroom modelling and fashion shows.
Although she is having fun and is creating long-lasting memories, she considers modelling to be "something on the side" only.
"This has been a good opportunity. I'm enjoying it, but...I do get restless when I'm not using my brain to work things out," she said.
Still, the exposure has helped her with self-improvement.
She said: "I've learnt that first impressions are everything. It's as simple as the way you dress and present yourself and talk to people.
"Wherever I go and whatever I do, people are watching, so it's important to carry myself well."