School bully once asked her: 'Why didn't you die?'
Bullied in school for being 'fat' and 'ugly', freelance model wins Miss Photogenic title
In primary and secondary school, she suffered in silence as a victim of bullying.
It was worse in secondary school - schoolmates called her "fat", "ugly" and "head lice".
They also threw spitballs at her, stuck their feet out to trip her and put chewing gum in her hair.
Once, when she returned to school after she emerged largely unscathed from a car accident, a classmate asked her: "Why didn't you die?"
All because Miss Farelynn Syazwani Mohamed Farah, who then suffered from a severe case of eczema, was a chubby teen who weighed nearly 80kg and struggled to fit in.
As a result, her studies suffered and she resorted to cutting herself for eight months. She cried often and even had suicidal thoughts.
Now a freelance model, the bubbly 22-year-old has been rebuilding her confidence by participating in pageants and taking on modelling assignments in the past two years.
She was named runner-up in the inaugural Miss Singapore Malays International last month and also bagged the Miss Photogenic title.
In July, she will fly to Los Angeles to take part in talent event iPOP!, which showcases emerging global talent in fields like acting, modelling and singing in front of leading agents, managers and casting directors.
Miss Farelynn, who was among 15 Singaporeans shortlisted for iPOP! after an audition in March, told The New Paper that her goal is to use the exposure to motivate women of all shapes and sizes to chase their dreams.
"Instead of dwelling on my past, I feel I am able to help others who are in the position I once was," she said.
"Modelling has allowed me to regain my confidence, so I want to use my voice to empower and inspire others."
Madam Sabrina Samri, one of the event directors of Miss Singapore Malays International, told TNP that Miss Farelynn stood out because she is cheery and hard-working.
"One of the judges told me they loved looking at photos of Farelynn as she looks good from all angles," she said.
"She is always willing to ask questions to keep improving."
Miss Farelynn, who now weighs 58kg, said her turning point came after leaving secondary school in 2009, when she decided to improve her health and fitness.
She watched her diet and did cardio workouts several times a week.
The pastry and baking diploma holder from Shatec shed about 10kg.
Last month, she stepped up her regimen to prepare for iPOP!
She hired a personal trainer and now exercises four times a week, with her workout sessions including body toning, resistance exercises and zumba.
Miss Farelynn, who works in the hospitality sector, might not fit the typical commercial model or pageant contestant prototype - she calls herself "curvy" and dons a hijab.
"I look at it as my advantage in the upcoming competition," she said.
"I want people to see this fashionable, poised and classy Muslim woman rocking the runway without having to bare her skin."
For Miss Farelynn, her darkest days are behind her and it is thanks to the support of her family, her close friends and her boyfriend of three years that she is able to recover from her traumatic past.
Her best friend of nine years, registered nurse Charmaine Aguilando, has seen Miss Farelynn at her lowest point and was there when she needed a listening ear.
Miss Aguilando, a 23-year-old Singapore permanent resident, said: "Farelynn used to have low self-esteem and would keep questioning what's wrong with her.
"I couldn't understand it because to me, she was perfectly fine.
"I cannot emphasise enough how proud I am of her because she could have easily buried her past, but she chose to tell her story."
Miss Farelynn said that in the last few years, some of the bullies sent her Facebook messages to apologise and she forgave them.
Choosing to take something positive from her experience, she said that being bullied taught her that it is all right to be different and stand out.
"My motto is: Be your own kind of beautiful," said Miss Farelynn.
"Shape and size don't matter, what matters is the person you want to be.
"When I walk on stage, I want people to feel my presence, confidence and aura."
Modelling has allowed me to regain my confidence, so I want to use my voice to empower and inspire others.
- Miss Farelynn Syazwani Mohamed Farah