Miss Singapore “Pan-Asian” World?

Elizabeth Soh
Elizabeth Soh
Singapore Showbiz

Five MSW finalists - From left : Jaime Lim, Michelle Koh, Nicole Olsen, Farah Jaffar and Sarah Noble (Yahoo! Photo / Deborah Choo)

Local organizers of Miss Singapore World 2012 have come under fire after one of its pageant co-ordinators allegedly revealed that contestants with "Pan-Asian" looks are favoured to win.

According to The New Paper, a "spokesman" from organizer Limelite Productions told their reporter that they planned to send a representative with pan-Asian looks as part of their strategy this year.

"In the past, we sent girls who were really tall, really fair, had really dark hair, and who answered questions well. But the formula hasn't worked." he is reported to have said.

The "spokesman" allegedly claimed that the organizers were planning to enhance the girls' Caucasian-Asian features by tanning their skin, dyeing their hair a lighter colour, and making them wear light-coloured contact lenses.

The controversial criteria drew mixed reactions from the Singaporean public, with most expressing anger and calling it discriminatory.

"I think its a deplorable decision taken by organizers," said accounts manager Jayslee Tan, 41. "Miss Singapore World is supposed to represent Singapore, not some kind of ideal of what Singaporean girls should be. If she does not look like any Singaporean girl I meet or know of, how can she represent the country?"

"This is exactly the kind of thing that encourages poor self image amongst girls." said housewife Regina Lee, 42, who has two teenaged daughters. "We are Asian, not Caucasian, and we have our own kind of beauty. I don't see the need to conform to Western standards."

Limelite Production's director, Mr Raymond Ooi, has since responded to the report by clarifying that one of the pageant co-ordinators had misinterpreted a "Pan-Asian theme" suggested during selection discussions.

"Someone had suggested that we use the theme "Pan-Asia" to add more colour and represent that there are many different ethnicities here in Singapore - not that we were looking for a Pan-Asian face. We do not discriminate or promote a specific race." Mr Ooi told Yahoo! Singapore.

His company's Facebook page also posted a statement to its 'supporters' -

"Selection of the contestants/winner will still be selected based on "Beauty with a Purpose" which the winner has to be compassionate, beautiful and intelligent. Every contestant stands an equal chance in this competition and we sincerely apologized for any misunderstanding caused."

However, most Singaporeans Yahoo! spoke to were unconvinced by the statement, especially since three out of the five girls unofficially singled out as "hot favourites" by the organisers were pan-Asian or of mixed ancestry.

Kaplan student Nicole Olsen, 24, has a Swedish-Portuguese father and Chinese mother, while Singapore Polytechnic student Sarah Noble, 17, is British-Malay-Chinese.

Republic Polytechnic student Farah Jaffar, 20, is a tongue-twisting Malay-Indonesian-Dutch-Chinese.

"What on earth is a Pan-Asia theme? Its obvious that he is just trying to smooth the situation over after being exposed," said housewife Denise Rodrigues, 42. "The least the company should do is to make transparent the selection process. It's poor public relations."

Others said that it was an open secret that pageants preferred pan-Asian contestants and Limelite was just unlucky to have been outed.

"You can say its discrimination, but the criteria does give Singapore a better chance at doing well at the Miss World competition. Pan-Asian looks would be exotic to the judges." said real estate agent Chew Hanlong, 29.

He pointed out that the Miss Singapore Universe 2000 Eunice Olsen was one of the few who had lasting international appeal, appearing in American magazine Esquire as Singapore's Sexiest Woman 2010.

What do you think? Do pan-Asian faces have a better chance at international fame?