Beauty with braces smiles her way to Miss Singapore title
Despite sporting braces, Miss Hashiena Ayub is one of the big winners at the Miss Singapore Beauty Pageant 2015
It was impossible to tell offstage, but Miss Singapore Beauty Pageant finalist Miss Hashiena Ayub was sporting grey braces at the finals on Saturday at Orchid Country Club.
The 22-year-old freelance speech and drama teacher and part-time English and psychology undergrad at SIM University went on to surprise the audience by winning Miss Singapore Global Queen 2015 - one of the three major titles of the night.
"I hesitated to enter the pageant at first, and I was not confident of my chances because of my braces," Miss Hashiena told The New Paper after the event.
"But my mother encouraged me to call the organisers to find out if I could still apply. To my surprise, they said yes, and added that even past winners had worn braces so it was not an issue.
"During the interview, one of the organisers said she liked my confidence and even told me she could see me going straight to the finals."
Miss Hashiena added: "I wasn't expecting to win, because halfway through the pageant, I realised I was one of the 23 finalists who hadn't won any subsidiary awards.
"I started to feel disheartened, and even texted my sister that I didn't think I had done very well in the competition. She responded by telling me to remain confident and keep smiling.
"It turned out to be good advice, because I made it to the top 10 afterwards."
Miss Hashiena has been wearing braces for the past year to correct a minor misalignment in the bottom row of her teeth.
She will continue wearing them for another eight months, and they will be removed in time for her to represent Singapore at the international Global Beauty Queen pageant in South Korea next October.
"In the meantime, I'll continue working on my fitness. I've been working out more since joining the competition and been more careful to eat clean and watch my diet."
Miss Singapore Beauty Pageant has been known for crowning unconventional beauty queens in past years.
One of its previous winners, Miss Singapore International Model of the Year 2013 Andrea Che, also donned braces before her international competition.
And in the same year, Miss Chui Yee Shia, who has 80 per cent hearing loss in both ears, ending up winning Miss Singapore Friendship International.
"Despite their differences, these contestants still had equal chances of competing in the international pageant afterwards," a spokesman for ERM Singapore, which organises Miss Singapore Beauty Pageant, told TNP.
Another Miss Singapore Beauty Pageant title-holder was technology entrepreneur Jojo Tan, who was crowned Miss Singapore Tourism Queen.
"I wanted to show people that beauty queens aren't just (stereotypes); we can have beauty, brains and a heart," said Miss Tan who turned 25 yesterday. She is the co-owner of Instagram marketing company Shopwith.
"Winning and getting to represent Singapore internationally (at the Miss Tourism Queen International pageant in China) is one of the best (birthday) gifts I've had in my life."
She also took home the subsidiary titles of Miss Bikini Babe, Miss Elegance and Miss Motoworld.
Another big winner was Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts student Vanessa Tiara Tay, 18, who won Miss Singapore Chinatown and will go on to compete at Hong Kong's TVB channel's Miss Chinese International.
She also won the subsidiary titles Miss Vintage Studio, Miss Kira Singapore and Miss Beautiful Smile 2015.
From 'fat swan' to beauty queen
BLOSSOMED: Miss Singapore Beauty Pageant 2015 second runner-up Vanessa Tan (above) used to weigh 53kg when she was 12 (below). TNP PHOTO: CHOO CHWEE HUA
It's hard to imagine, but Miss Vanessa Tan, the svelte second runner-up of Miss Singapore Beauty Pageant 2015, was once bullied for being overweight.
"I was in the TAF (Trim and Fit) club in primary school and was called a 'fat swan' in ballet class, to the point that I stopped doing ballet," the 20-year-old Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts student, who majors in arts management and performing arts, recalled.
Recess was also a "nightmare" because she would get criticised for eating. So she would skip meals and hide at the stairways to avoid her persecutors.
"Later, I would starve myself in an attempt to diet, and I even began to self-harm, cutting my wrists to cut the fats away from my body."
It was her traumatic experience with bullying and struggling with self-esteem that led her to choose the Singapore Children's Society as her pageant platform, and pledge to help bullies and victims alike.
"Bullying is not a show of strength, but weakness. Bullies need help too... (in) dealing with their own insecurities."
At her heaviest, Miss Tan weighed 53kg in primary school when most of her schoolmates were between 30kg and 40kg.
Now, she's 45kg and attributes her new fit body to a love for working out.
"My weight went up and down since I was 12. But nine months ago, I decided I needed to get healthy and tone up because I wanted to look and feel better, and rock trendy clothes like crop tops.
"So I began working out and eating healthier food, like chicken breast."
Miss Tan added that her father was not encouraging when she first joined the pageant.
"He said Singapore girls would throw stones at me... But when my story about overcoming bullying appeared in Shin Min Daily News, my dad changed his mind as he saw how this was a positive experience for me."
Unfortunately, Miss Tan's experiences with bullying continued in the pageant, as a fellow contestant bad-mouthed her over her height - at 1.57m, Miss Tan was the shortest contestant.
"She told the other contestants and me to my face that I had no chance of winning because of my height, and that I was only brought in to fill the quota for contestants."
But Miss Tan bore no ill will towards the contestant, who did not make it to the finals.
"My friends in the competition stood by me and sympathised with me. I was discouraged at first, but I still believed that petite girls could be crowned."
It was ironic that the formerly obese Miss Tan also won the Miss Fitness subsidiary title, in addition to Miss Beauty with a Heart.
"During my Q&A segment, as I was talking about my commitment to anti-bullying, I had a flashback to my past, of how I used to be bullied in my younger days," said Miss Tan. "It made me realise how far I have come since then."
She added that her height made her the perfect candidate to represent Singapore.
"Singapore and I are both small, but we still manage to outshine others. We may be small, but we are definitely not weak."