Beauty in diversity

Adeline Liong

While Sarawak is already well-known as the Land of the Hornbills, it would not be surprising if those present at the Miss Unity Sarawak 2019 grand final wished that Sarawak should also be known as the Land of Beauties.

The phrase “beauty in diversity” came to mind when I think about the recent Miss Unity Sarawak 2019.

The 18 finalists have diverse backgrounds and many have mixed heritage. Most of them are Bidayuhs while the rest are Chinese-Iban, Chinese-Melanau, Iban-Bugis, Chinese-Kelabit, Malay-Iban, an Iban and a Chinese.

While Sarawak is already well-known as the Land of the Hornbills, it would not be surprising if those present at the Miss Unity Sarawak 2019 grand final wished that Sarawak should also be known as the Land of Beauties.

Not only were the most beautiful girls selected but also the smartest. It was indeed a contest of beauty and brains! The 18 finalists were selected based on their personality, looks and educational background with at least a pass in the Malaysian Certificate of Education (SPM).

I took an interest in the grand final of the contest held at Riverside Majestic Hotel last Friday night because it was organised by a familiar face, Alaric Soh, who was synonymous with Miss Cheongsam Sarawak for many years.

I guess organising beauty contests is in Soh’s blood. It seems like it because he is still at it after so many years.

On last Friday’s event, Soh insisted that it was a pageant with a difference. Besides creating an awareness of inner beauty, it was aimed at enhancing self-confidence among women in Sarawak. Height, he explained, was not a criterion as the girls would not be sent to any international pageants.

During the grand finale, the contestants went through a few rounds, namely, self-introduction, fashion by top designers, evening wear and a Q&A session.

The finalists also underwent lessons on grooming, communication and speaking skills, social etiquette, makeup, manicure and catwalk.

Allyssa Amanda, 20, a Bidayuh pursuing a degree in English for Professional Communication won the Miss Unity Sarawak 2019. She went home with RM3,000. First runner-up was Saniarisa Pesile, 21, also a Bidayuh; she went home with RM2,000.

The remaining winners in the top five were Jessica John, 24, of Iban and Bidayuh descent, Cheryl Syahmina Toh, 21, of Chinese Melanau descent and Shannon Michael, 19, a Bidayuh. Each took home RM500.

(File) The winner of Miss Unity Sarawak 2019 Allyssa Amanda (centre) flanked by (from left) Top 5 Shannon Michael, Runner-Up Saniarisa Pesile, Top 5 Jessica John and Top 5 Cheryl Syahmina Toh Yen Yuen.

At the grand finale, many of the girls looked different from the first day they joined the contest. Many were transformed beyond recognition. Their transformation reminded me of the changes Cinderella underwent with the help of her Fairy Godmother.

The fairies in the case of the Miss Unity finalists were the makeup artists, hairstylists, the image consultant and of course, the pageant organiser.

Did you vote on the results of the contest?  If I had voted, I would have lost all my money because many of the finalists looked very fresh-faced and naive in the first photos released by the organiser.

Looking at the top five winners after the contest, I think height and vital statistics still played an important role in determining the top winners. I can’t help noticing the first prize winner had the height as well as the figure.

Correct makeup and clothes can indeed transform a simple girl into a seductress and beauty queen, as proven in the case of the Miss Unity Sarawak finalists.

The prizes offered to the top winners were not much. However, since many of the girls are students, the cash prizes will definitely come in handy for various purposes.

But the experiences they underwent as finalists in the pageant are invaluable and will last them a lifetime. By now, they will know how to apply makeup properly; know what clothes to wear to look good, and know how to catwalk.

Recognition, personal development, communication skills, confidence and learning to handle stress, pressure and disappointments in life are the benefits of joining a beauty pageant.

For some, the beauty pageant will be their first and last. For others, it will not be their last.

For those who want to experience more beauty contests, they can try competing in the Miss World, Miss Universe, Miss International and Miss Earth. I wish them luck!

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