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Sunday August 5, 2012

Selection not based on Pan-Asian looks, say local beauty pageant finalists

PETALING JAYA: It's about talent, confidence and ability to represent the country and not the colour of skin, say local beauty pageant finalists.

Miss World Malaysia 2011 finalist Jessica Fang, 23, said pageant selections are based on the contestants' Malaysian spirit rather than Pan-Asian looks.

“The crown goes to whoever can best portray significant knowledge of Malaysia, its culture and people.

“Contestants from white or mixed backgrounds may have a better command of English, giving them an edge over those who are less fluent and lack a Western accent.

“It is their right to take part in beauty pageants. They are capable of representing Malaysia if they can identify with local culture and are clear about their identity as Malaysians,” she said.

No one can define what a
Malaysian should look like.
Kimberley (Leggett) really
is capable of representing
the country.
- Sugeeta Chandran  No one can define what a Malaysian should look like. Kimberley (Leggett) really is capable of representing the country. - Sugeeta Chandran

US-based International Business Times (IBTimes) recently carried an article titled: “The Politics Of Beauty: Is Malaysia's Miss Universe Contestant Too White?”

Among other things, the writer wrote: “Caucasians do not make up one of Malaysia's dominant ethnic groups. Not by a long shot.

“That (Miss Universe Malaysia 2012 Kimberley) Leggett's heritage is 75% white raises interesting questions about Malaysian standards of beauty. Are Western norms changing the game?

Miss Universe Malaysia Organisation (Mumo) national director Andrea Fonseka responded to the article on Friday by saying that the writer should have defined the “Malaysian look” mentioned to justify it, adding there was only “Malaysian beauty”.

Miss Universe Malaysia 2012 finalist Sugeeta Chandran (pic), described Penangite Legget as “a true-blue Malaysian”.

“People say the best things in Malaysia can be found in Penang, and this is true for Kimberley.

“She is a friendly local girl who often uses lah' in conversations, and even talks in Bahasa Malaysia,” she said.

Sugeeta, 23, said she did not feel intimidated in the contest with Leggett despite murmurs among her friends that an Eurasian was likely to win.

“No one can define what a Malaysian should look like. Kimberley really is capable of representing the country,” she said.

Mass communication student K.J. Ong, 20, said contestants of mixed Eurasian parentage should not have their “Malaysianness” questioned just because they had Western parentage.

“It should not be an issue if they won fair and square.

“The purpose of the pageant is to select the best candidate to represent us,” she said, adding that the essence of beauty was reflected in one's confidence.

Magazine writer Patrick Loh, 23, said a contestant was beautiful regardless of race or skin colour, adding that winners should be picked on talent.

“It is important that she has lived long enough in this country to be a Malaysian in spirit and not just in name,” he said.

Trainer Webster Ku, 27, said that while Miss Universe contestants had to meet certain physical criteria, it was important that they also balanced it with an understanding of local culture.

“It is not about having darker skin or being raised in Malaysia, it's about living the Malaysian attitude.

“For me, what defines the Malaysian beauty is how her smile makes us want to smile back,” he said.

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