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Saturday April 16, 2011

Supermodel Dayang Nur Atikah is 'blind as a bat'

Believe it or not, winner of the Ford Models Supermodel of the World Search Malaysia, Dayang Nur Atikah Karim is “blind as a bat”, had a habit of sloping her shoulders to one side and was once called gelap (dark).

WHEN Dayang Nur Atikah Karim emerged as winner of the Ford Models Supermodel of the World Search Malaysia 2011 last Sunday at the Sepang International Circuit, the crowd was not in the least bit surprised.

Or at least they were pleasantly surprised to have been spot on.

You see, when MC Bernie Chin waved the winners’ list and asked, “Who do you think is the winner?”, the cameras scanned the crowd with their placards and clappers, and zoomed in on a girl carrying a banner of the insurance company Etiqa. As if on cue, the crowd chanted, “Atiqah.” (The way her name was spelled for the competition.)

Atikah getting a peck from first runner-up Gabrielle Boudville (left) and Karen Lugun.

Atikah, though, was such a bundle of nerves that evening, she didn’t hear what the crowd was chanting.

“I thought I would be second or first runner-up. I did well on stage and felt confident. When my name was not called for the second or first runner-up position, I felt disappointed. I never dreamt that it would be me!” recalls Atikah.

“Everything was a blur and I felt like I was in a dream. I only knew it was real when the RM100,000 Mouawad diamond pendant was placed on my neck. The diamond pendant is one of the prizes. It felt so cold so I knew I couldn’t be dreaming!” she grins.

Born and bred in Kota Kinabalu, Atikah stands at 175cm, weighs 50kg and is all of 18.

When asked if her age was a stumbling block, she replies nonchalantly, “No, my age is an advantage as I am fresh, eager to learn and enthusiastic about everything. I have no baggage and am happy to obey instructions from choreographers, unlike some older models who think they know everything.”

I ask if having tanned skin was a liability, and quick as a flash, she asserts, “An asset.”

“Every skin colour is nice. This is my natural skin colour given to me by God, so I’m grateful. I have learned to be confident with what I have. When growing up, I never felt beautiful as I was much darker because I played netball. I was considered hitam (dark) so I was self-conscious, but at 16 I began to appreciate myself.”

Atikah, who has turned up for our meeting without a shred of make-up and in owlish glasses, says, “I’m blind as a bat.”

She looks around Stylo Academy’s conference room and laughs, “Only two of us. Normally there would be a chaperone during such interviews as I am new in handling people like you. But they told me they were throwing me into the lion’s den with you, and if I survived this, I should survive New York!”

Atiqah says her mother is a finance officer and her father a retired contractor. She has two brothers and a younger sister. I ask if there will be a rash of beauty titles from her family anytime soon. Surprisingly, Atikah is brutally frank in her assessment.

“I am the third child. My younger sister is too fat and my eldest brother is ordinary-looking, but my second brother Saifuddin is very handsome and tall at 180cm.”

I wonder aloud if the “Dayang” in her name denotes aristocracy but Atiqah says no.

“It simply means that I am Bajau Brunei or from Brunei, as I am half-Bruneian and half-Sabahan. My eldest brother has ‘Awang’ in front of his name while I have ‘Dayang’ but our other siblings don’t have anything in front of their names. My parents just alternated our names so we have two Malaysian and two Bruneian names!” she explains.

Atikah says she has loved modelling since Form Four.

“I was 168cm at 15. By 16, I had reached my present height. I hope I can still grow as my dream is to be 180cm tall. I shall think positive as I have three more years to go since girls are said to stop growing at 21.

“I like modelling and fashion, and I get to enjoy both working as a model. My dream was to model for Alexander McQueen but it’s too late now. I have just finished my SPM and was planning to study multimedia and design when I heard about the Ford Models Supermodel of the World Malaysia contest on Facebook. They held the audition at Sutera Harbour Hotel, which was convenient for me, as it was in Kota Kinabalu.

“I never expected to win. I took part for the experience and fun. I never liked beauty pageants and have no wish to be Miss Malaysia. All I wanted was be a model. I auditioned to see how far I could go. If nothing happened, no problem! I only felt I could be second or first runner-up on the finals night.”

There were 24 semi-finalists in the competition, and eight were from Sabah. All the semi-finalists underwent six days of gruelling tests before they were whittled down to 12.

“We had the time of our lives as we trained daily at Stylo Academy for a month. I really learned a lot through the John Robert Powers system. We learned voice control, posture, deportment, catwalk, fashion sense, make-up, diet, healthcare and public speaking.

“I loved everything and looked forward to our daily classes from 10am to 8pm. We had two rest days which I used to go shopping. No clubbing for me! Working with professional, full-time models during the Stylo shows at Chin Woo Stadium was out of this world.”

Her mother, sister and second brother were at the Sepang International Circuit to witness her win.

“My father and eldest brother were in Jakarta. They told me they were pleasantly shocked when my name was announced. But they didn’t cry, or maybe they did, but when we met, we just hugged and jumped up and down,” Atikah reveals.

The finals for the Ford Supermodel of the World 2011 will be held on July 14 in New York. This time around, Atikah is more upbeat about her chances.

“I will do my best to bring home the title. If not, I hope to be in the Top 5 . . . or maybe the Top 3!” says Atikah who received a modelling contract worth RM100,000 with F&F. As for the RM100,000 diamond pendant from Mouawad, she says she will treasure and wear it on her wedding day.

Will she ever sell it?

“No, I will never do such a thing,” she grimaces.

What are her plans next year after her reign as Malaysia’s Ford Supermodel is over?

“I hope to continue modelling. If not, there is always the university waiting for me!” she smiles.

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Eastern promise

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