The Wincci Code

Law graduate crowned Miss World Malaysia 2008

Beauty pageants are hard work but the experience has been priceless for Soo Wincci.

IT’S tough work, all these beauty pageants. Just ask Soo Wincci (pronounced win see).

Being drop-dead beautiful is not enough, the newly-crowned Miss World Malaysia 2008 will tell you from experience.

“I think what set me apart, among other things, were my qualifications, confidence, experience, talent and sheer hard work,” says Soo, 23, on the morning after winning the crown last Saturday.

Soo Wincci: ‘I have always come insecond or third, never the winner. Finally, Ican sit on that chair with the crown on myhead and wave to everyone!’ – Photo byLOW LAY PHON / The Star

It’s tough competing with a bevy of hopefuls whose lifelong dream is to be a beauty queen, or who are just as intelligent, qualified and beautiful as you are.

Still, what upped the ante in this year’s pageant is the change in concept: 30% of the score was based on SMS and online voting, while the remaining 70% depended on the judges.

Surely 30% would not account for much? After all, this is not a popularity contest. On the other hand, it could help make up for the judges’ scores.

“No, this pageant is far more challenging,” insists the Selangor-born Soo. “The marks between the contestants were so close.”

Soo knows what she’s talking about, having been in enough pageants to compare the results.

She was a finalist in 2004 at the age of 18, back when the pageant was still known as Miss Malaysia/World, at the suggestion of a modelling agency. This year, she participated on the encouragement of her friends and mother.

“I also wanted to come back this year because I believed in what the pageant stood for. So, I sent in my application on a Friday and they called me the following day for an audition,” she says, adding that she also represented the country in the Miss Intercontinental 2004 pageant in China. Locally, she has been the first runner-up in Miss Chinatown 2005 and second runner-up in Miss Oriental World 2004.

“I’ve always come in second or third, never the winner. Finally, I can sit on that chair with the crown on my head and wave to everyone!” she says with a mischievous grin.

The beauty queen has always been the busy bee, juggling between vocal, dance (hip hop) and composing lessons – all this on top of studying for her law degree at the University of Reading, which she has now completed, and currently pursuing her Master in Business Administration with the University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, under a twinning programme with Segi University College.

“I love singing and composing, and have been taking lessons since I was 16. I have a great passion for music and performing on stage,” says Soo, who plays the piano and guitar, and who has competed in various talent competitions.

Incidentally, it was her original composition entitled Hope, which she dedicated to the children of the world and performed at the Miss World Malaysia 2008 pageant, that won her the new subsidiary title of Miss Talented.

She hopes to use her talents for the benefit of the Start Foundation, the pageant’s chosen beneficiary which advocates equal opportunities for underprivileged children to grow to their full potential through the arts.

Quite predictably, her decision to join Miss World Malaysia – though approved by her mother – met with some resistance from her father.

“Dad was concerned that I wasn’t able to manage my time, or concentrate on my studies. I had too many things going on at the same time,” explains Soo, whose parents founded and manage a garment manufacturing business.

“But I convinced him. I knew I could do it. It’s all about confidence in yourself,” she says.

Despite her hectic schedule, Soo is pleased that she had given this and other pageants a shot.

“It has enlightened me in a big way, particularly my IQ and EQ. Even back in my first pageants at 18, I realised that they open doors to potential networking, good opportunities and were an avenue to showcase your talents. It’s a training ground, a platform for me to learn how to groom myself – a priceless experience,” she shares, with a bright smile.

Determined and ambitious

It’s really refreshing to see that there are no airs about Soo. Her gestures and expressions are natural and she speaks sincerely.

And, as the conversation progresses, it becomes increasingly clear that there is more to her than meets the eye: this is a woman with many feathers in her cap and who is determined not to let time slip by without taking the fullest advantage.

“I know I’m young, but there’s no time to waste where attaining knowledge and experience is concerned,” she explains.

“I am thankful that I am brainy enough, but I admit that I do get tired and sometimes depressed because I am doing so many things. My family initially had doubts about me handling so many things at one time.

“I’m definitely ambitious, but that’s because I like to learn new things,” she admits, adding that she had always wanted to be a chemical engineer, but switched courses during her A-levels because she enjoyed public speaking and because a law degree opened up more doors to other industries.

“Besides, my father is growing older, and my academic qualifications will equip me when I eventually help with the family business.”

But Soo also keeps her full and hectic life in order through determination and discipline – which she also applies to other aspects of life such as her diet (she doesn’t eat rice, and loves Japanese food and bread), health and beauty.

“When I was younger, I was always fat and teased in school. Now to keep fit and maintain my weight, I hit the gym twice a week and count my calories,” says Soo.

Her skincare regime is far more rigorous.

“I drink lots of water and eat lots of fruits and I use a facial mask almost every day. I spend about 15 minutes applying creams on my face alone – in the day, I apply about seven creams, and at night, about 10 different creams.”

She chuckles at the disbelief on my face, then deadpans: “I’ve been a vain pot from young. I used to clip my nose with a clothes peg so it’d remain sharp, and hit the flesh under my chin to get rid of the double chin. Hey, it works!”

Still, one has to forgive a girl for wanting to take care of herself. Perhaps it was this determination that the judges saw during the pageant.

“Perhaps ... but it was also hard work,” she insists.

Yet underneath all that determination and ambition is a T-shirt-and-jeans girl next door who loves dresses, the colour blue, desserts, food-hunting and window-shopping with her gal pals.

There is also a deep-rooted love for her homeland.

“I was offered the Bar when I finished my law degree in England, but I chose to do my CLP here instead. I intend to work here, where my heart is,” she says.

Come Sept 6, Soo will take with her to the Miss World 2008 pageant in Ukraine, her qualifications, talents, experience, ambitions and a profound love for her country. What more could you ask of a beautiful Malaysian ambassador?

Fact File

Name: Soo Wincci

Age: 23

Weight: 53kg

Religion: Buddhist

Height: 170cm

Vital stats: 31-25-37

Status: Single, but attached

Favourite colour: Blue

Favourite food: Japanese food and bread

Loves: Singing, composing, dancing, desserts

Countries she has travelled to: Britain, France, The Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Korea, Hong Kong, Thailand, China, Australia, Spain, Greece.