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A nod to beauty & brains

Sunday June 26, 2005

A nod to beauty & brains

Even though she didn’t win the Miss Universe title, her future employer was so proud of her that it took out full page ads in Malaysian newspapers to congratulate her fine showing. Impressed and intrigued, PHILIP GOLINGAI jumped at the chance to be flown by his favourite airline to meet aspiring pilot, Miss Thailand Chanaporn Rosjan. 

Chanaporn became Miss Thailand to promote her country. Here, she does her bit to support traditional crafts by wearing clothes made from material woven by her mother’s tribe.
IN her deep blue blouse and multi-coloured skirt made from fabric woven by the mountain tribes of northern Thailand, the stunning Chanaporn Rosjan looks out of place in the private pilot school in Bangkok.  

Her chic bohemian garb stands out among the uniforms of the cadet pilots. Even after she changes into her pilot cadet uniform – white shirt, black pants and black necktie – and ties up her long-flowing hair as required by the school regulations, she still grabs attention.  

Give her another 18 months and Chanaporn will be, arguably, the most beautiful pilot in the world.  

The Miss Thailand Universe 2005 is studying “aerodynamics, everything about airplanes and how to be a cadet pilot” and “collecting flight time” at the Bangkok Aviation Center (BAC). After she completes her training, she will possess a commercial pilot licence and become a pilot for Thai Air Asia, Thailand’s leading low fare airline.  

The 23-year-old holds a bachelor’s degree in electronics engineering from Sirinthorn International Institute of Technology, Thammasat University. 

Before becoming Miss Thailand Universe, she applied for the Thai AirAsia’s “The Dream Weaver of Becoming a Pilot” project in October 2004. And she was among the 40 selected out of the more than 3,000 applicants for the training course that is jointly conducted by Thai Air Asia and BAC. 

Chanaporn’s dream of becoming a pilot took flight when she was young. Maybe aviation is in the blood: her mother, Wanwipa, was a Thai Airways stewardess in the 1970s.  

“To me, pilots look so respectable and their ‘office’ is so unique. It’s a cockpit and you have a great view when you are in the sky and you feel like the king of the world,” she explains.  

Her dream was also fuelled by the desire to be the first Thai woman to be a jet pilot. 

“That was because airlines in Thailand did not allow women to become pilots then,” she says. 

But that changed a decade ago, when the first Thai woman pilot finally cracked the glass ceiling. 

She may not be the first anymore, but Chanaporn is still determined to fulfil her flying ambition. 

Wih her proud mum, Wanwipa.
Chanaporn, whose nickname is Nod, applied to join the national beauty pageant after she had been selected to be a cadet pilot and she had to wait two months before her training started. 

“The only reason I entered was because the Miss Universe pageant was going to be held in Thailand (on May 31 in Bangkok) and I wanted to show the spirit of a Thai girl who just wanted to be part of a great thing. 

“I wanted to promote my country, especially the south which had been devastated by the tsunami,” says the Bangkok native who was born on March 8, 1982. 

Sounds like a good reason to parade in a beauty pageant but I had to ask the question my feminist friends would never forgive me for not posing.  

I took a deep breath: “Isn’t a beauty pageant just a cattle show?” 

‘‘My runner-up is a doctor,” she answers with a sweet smile. “My second runner-up is a creative director doing successful commercials in Thailand. So the cliché does not work.” 

Winning the Miss Thailand Universe title will not steer Chanaporn away from her flight path to becoming a jet pilot. 

“I’m not looking for a career in the entertainment or modelling business because I know I’m more interested in being a pilot,” says the 171cm-tall beauty. 

“Most people who enter the pageant and then go into entertainment or modelling are really young. I’m 23, a university graduate and I’m about to have a steady career in flying.” 

Trainee pilot Chanaporn at the Bangkok Aviation Center.
Is being a glamorous beauty queen and working for a budget airline a good combination? 

Yes, she says. If she can do it, it will show future beauty queens that they too can be “strong enough to stand against the pressure which comes with the title.”  

What pressure? 

“To do what the media and public expect, which is just to be a beauty queen and not try to do anything for herself. By sticking to my decision to choose a job that I can do for years to come, I’m standing up for what I believe in,” she explains.  

Does she feel she let down Thais when she failed to win the Miss Universe pageant? 

“I felt sad that I wasn’t able to stand in front of my country as Miss Universe for them.” 

However, Chanaporn, who won the best costume award in the international pageant, adds philosophically, “There was nothing I could do. In this world there are two things – things that you can control and things that you can’t. 

“The judges decided and who knows what was going through their minds at that time. Everyone in the pageant was strikingly beautiful and everyone deserved to be Miss Universe because they were selected in their own national pageant to be the most beautiful girl of their country.” 

Now she may just be the most beautiful pilot in the world, I tell her. 

“Oh, well,” she says, giving the most beautiful smile, “beauty is a matter of opinion. It depends on the people who look at you. 

“To me, all women who break barriers (in any male dominated profession) with strength and determination are beautiful too.”