Pageant competitions often serve as a platform to advocate on social issues. Pageants often produce influencers of the decade — those who are not afraid to voice out against social issues and those who continue to inspire the lives of others for the better good.
Beauty with brains and hearts of gold
Miss and Mrs Queen of the World International Malaysia 2020 is all about women empowerment, gender equality, anti-bullying and mental illness. With that in mind, the pageant’s state director Dr Deborah Chong handpicked six candidates to represent Sarawak in the pageant.
According to Deborah, some of the participants were selected for their experiences battling through challenges related to the issues. “This serves as an inspiration and also to add a sense of authenticity to their stories.”
Held at the Promenade Hotel in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, the national-level competition was held for four days starting from February 4. The coronation night was held on February 8.
A total of 24 participants from Sabah and Sarawak competed for the crowns. There were two categories in contention, the Mrs and Miss Queen of the World International Malaysia 2020. Sarawakian Grace Toh was chosen as the winner of Mrs Queen of the World International Malaysia 2020, while Siti Nooraimie emerged as the second runner-up. In another category, Joanna Martin placed as the second runner-up for the Miss Queen of the World International Malaysia 2020.
When interviewed by the New Sarawak Tribune, Grace Toh, who is very active in organising events related to women empowerment, hopes to be a good queen during her reign. “I also hope that I can continue to inspire and motivate people, including myself, to be better versions of themselves.”
The medical scientist said that throughout the pageant, she had a hard time juggling her personal goals and life commitments. However, she always believed that she can achieve anything if she put her heart and mind to it.
Apart from winning the title of Mrs Queen of the World International Malaysia 2020, and Queen of Universe 2020, Grace also won the Best in Advocacy, Best in Evening Gown, Most Popular by Social Media and also the People’s Choice awards.
Also in the Mrs category was Siti Nooraimie Ahli — a mother of an eight-month-old baby, and a three-year-old toddler. As a single mother, Siti believes that there is no obstacle that she cannot beat. “Never look down on your own determination and abilities, you never know the things you can do if you put your heart in to achieve something.”
At the age 22, juggling between work and taking care of her children, Siti still pushes herself to join pageants. “I want to prove that despite the challenges of being a single mother, I can still achieve what I wish for.”
Siti was also awarded the Peace Ambassador 2020 award. “I never expected to win as I feel like I am still lacking in self-confidence. Nevertheless, I give it my best and with the help of Dr Deborah, I managed to lose weight for the competition.”
Another super mama on board — divorcee, Nority Bujeng, 43, managed to impress the judges during the coronation night with her touching life story. The judges awarded her the Queen of Inspiration, a title that was made just for her on that night.
Stumbled with hardships, Nority is a mother to a 16-year-old autistic boy. She disclosed that she was divorced when her son was only three. “It took me six years to get back on my feet, and to gain back my confidence and my spirit after my ex-husband left me.”
In 2018, Nority shared that due to having a stressful life from issues surrounding her, and also from her son who suffered as a victim of bullying, she was suddenly attacked by a brainstem stroke. Hospitalised for two months, Nority said that the stroke gave her permanent side effects as well as causing her to be under lifelong medications.
“Despite the setback, I am thankful, blessed and lucky to have survived the stroke. I would also like to take this opportunity to create awareness on strokes, not only because it is a health issue, but also to point out that stress is the main cause.”
Nority believes that the pageant is the best platform for women to inspire others. “I hope I can inspire more people with my life story, and be an example of overcoming hardships in raising an autistic boy as a single mother.”
She is also a firm believer of what does not kill you, makes you stronger, and what does not break you, will make you better. “Keep walking, no matter how hard life can be, keep moving no matter how much pain you carry now. Wipe your tears, keep your chin up, straighten your crown, and move forward like a queen you are!”
Meanwhile, 35-year-old Diana Alin believes that taking care of your inner self will translate into beauty. “The crown doesn’t make you a queen, your heart does.”
Diana regularly joined pageants since 2009, and on the coronation night of Mrs Queen Of The World International Malaysia 2020, she was awarded with the Best Beautiful Body subsidiary title.
When asked on the hardships that she faced during pageant week, Diana said that it was the lack of sleep and a packed schedule. However, the part-time model was glad that she joined, “It teaches us life skills, the value of education, self-love, kindness and the importance of helping others.”
The youngest among all representatives, 17-year-old Bonnie Tan had joined numerous pageant competitions since last year. Recently, she was chosen to represent the state in the Miss Queen of the World International Malaysia 2020.
On coronation night, she was awarded the subsidiary titles of Best Beautiful Body and Most Popular on Social Media. Bonnie stresses that we are never too young or too old to have dreams and to chase them. “We must always have faith and believe in ourself, and never give up.”
Bonnie, still a student, revealed that she joined the pageant to vie for the crown and sash as it is what makes pageants fun. “It is an honour to be able to join and the memories will last a lifetime.” She also shared that by joining pageants, she learned to develop her social skills which will be helpful for her future career.
Another student joining the Miss Queen of the World International Malaysia 2020 was Joanna Martin. Joanna admits that this was the first time she had joined a beauty pageant. She emerged as the second runner-up for Miss Queen of the World International Malaysia and was also awarded the Miss Photogenic subsidiary title.
“The best things in life don’t come easy. Don’t give up when things get rough,” said Joanna.
Even though she is currently an engineering student, Joanna hopes that she could work as an air stewardess to travel the world and to get to know foreign countries and their cultures.
She also sees her future in fashion, hoping to produce styles that are different from the rest.