No more natural-born beauties?

Starting next year, what you see may not necessarily be what you get in the Miss Universe Singapore beauty pageant.

The contest, which will be into its 13th year in 2013, will see a major change in the rule books, with transgender participants being allowed to take part alongside natural-born women.

The decision to open the contest to transgender people came after Jenna Talackova, a participant in this year's Miss Universe Canada, was disqualified after organisers found out that she had been born a man and had undergone sex re-assignment surgery four years before the contest.

This resulted in a backlash from the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) community, and the rules were changed to allow transgender participants, starting next year. The New Paper first reported this in April.

That Talackova was able to hide the fact that she had undergone transgender surgery until the finals of the beauty pageant raises the question: How many contestants have been able to hide past operations while taking part in the contest?

Transgender people aside, natural-born women who have gone through extensive plastic surgery may also have an unfair advantage over others.

Ms Penelope Pang, the managing director of Warner Artistes, one of the supporting companies of Miss Universe Singapore, said there are checks.

Aside from providing the pageant with several entertainers, Ms Pang is also one of its organisers.

"We always verify the gender of a participant by looking at their IC, and also get the girls to complete an application form," she said.

When it comes to plastic surgery, verification gets a bit trickier. But this is not an issue, as there is no official rule that disallows participants who have undergone such surgeries.

"We don't have a process of checking whether a participant has gone through plastic surgery, and it is not a question that we normally ask the girls.

"It is not an issue and doesn't affect the outcome at all," she said.

As a precaution, however, the organisers have started to ask participants in recent years if they have had plastic surgery.

"In the past, the press have found out that some contestants had undergone plastic surgery from reading their blogs. Because of that I think it's good if we know in advance," said Ms Pang.

This article was first published in The New Paper.

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