Short in stature, but not on performance
S'pore contestant, 1.6m tall, makes it to Top 30 of Miss World finals. -TNP
Eyebrows were raised when Miss Karisa Sukamto won the Miss Singapore World 2012 title in June.
Beautiful and charming as she was, people were surprised at her controversial victory because she stands at just 1.6m .
Indeed, she was the shortest contestant at the Miss World 2012 international finals held in China two weeks ago .
Other petite beauty queens in the competition included Miss Canada Tara Teng (1.63m), Miss US Virgin Islands Taiesa Lashley (1.63m), Miss Malta Daniela Darmanin (1.64m) and Miss Guyana Arti Cameron (1.65m).
But our representative certainly did not come up short - she did Singapore proud by placing in the Top 30 out of 116 contestants from all over the world.
Traditionally, beauty queens have been revered for their stereotypical leggy stature - past winners of Miss Singapore World include 1.75m-tall Faraliza Tan (2008), 1.74m-tall Colleen Francisca (2006) and dethroned 2009 winner Ris Low, who is 1.72m.
Born in the US to a Singaporean father and Indonesian mother, Miss Sukamto became a Singapore citizen when she was a child and has lived here ever since.
At the Miss World 2012 finals, the 19-year-old student, who is on a break from studying at King's College in London, also cracked the Top 10 for the media section and the Top 24 for the sports section.
Miss World contestants had to compete in many categories - such as top model and beauty with a purpose - and accumulate points which would determine if they qualified as finalists.
For example, for the sports category, Miss Sukamto had to compete in a sprint and she came in second, after the long-legged Miss Jamaica, who is 1.77m tall.
Miss Sukamto told The New Paper: "Everyone was especially surprised as Jamaica had done very well at the recent Olympics. And her legs are like up to here (pointing at her own torso).
"I don't feel that height should limit a person or determine what she can or cannot do. I certainly didn't let that affect me and I gave my best at the finals.
"Miss Mongolia was like, 'Karisa, if you had legs as long as hers, you would definitely have won!'."
The dance enthusiast added that there was no discrimination against shorter contestants like herself at the competition.
Initially, she had had reservations about how she was going to measure up to her taller rivals, but her worries were unfounded when she arrived in China for the contest as no one there made it an issue.
Miss Sukamto said she aced the media category by putting her entire Miss World journey online on Facebook.
With her lovely pictures and well-written comments, she had made sure that she updated her account every day and that had impressed the judges.
In the end, China's Yu Wenxia took home the crown, while Miss Wales and Miss Australia came in second and third respectively.
Miss Sukamto, who shared a room with Miss Yu, smiled as she recalled how the two of them became good friends.
Her Mandarin may not be fluent, but that didn't stop her from having lots of fun with Miss Yu, whom she described as a sweetheart.
In turn, Miss Yu - whois 1.78m tall and can sing very well - called her "my xiao ke ai" (Mandarin for my little cutie).
Said Miss Sukamto: "Wenxia totally deserved to win as she's so talented, beautiful and nice.
"As I shared the same room as her, it was eerie when I found out that she had the habit of sleeping with her eyes open.
"There was one night when she was lying in bed with a mask on her face and I started talking to her.
"I kept calling her name and I freaked out when I realised she was sleeping, so I prayed and tried to go to sleep.
"When I told her (about the incident), she was very good-natured about it and said she knew that already (as other people had told her)!"
Miss Sukamto said she was upset when she read articles that suggested Miss Yu had won because Miss World 2012 was held in the latter's home country.
She said: "In her defence, I think she would have won no matter where the finals was held."
This was a sentiment also shared by Miss Canada World 2012 Tara Teng, whose father Terry is Chinese Singaporean and mother Lori of European descent.
She was in Singapore with her parents for the first time to visit the country and Miss Sukamto whom she befriended during the pageant.
Miss Teng, like Miss Sukamto, is petite.
The 24-year-old, who works to combat human trafficking issues like prostitution and slavery in Canada, told TNP: "As for the height issue, I have never let it bother me as the Miss World pageant has always been more about big hearts than big stature."
She was asked to join the local pageant as the organisers felt she was a strong candidate due to her vocation and good looks.
Although Miss Teng enjoys local food like prawn mee very much, it is nothing new for her as her father had made sure she grew up in an extremely Singaporean household in Vancouver.
Mr Teng, a 51-year-old safety officer, had moved to Canada with his family in the 70s, where he met his wife at university.
As a result, Miss Teng, who was home-schooled till shewas 15, can speak some Cantonese, Malay and Mandarin, and has a Chinese name.
Said Mrs Teng, a 53-year-old businesswoman: "Tara has never been insecure about her height as she knows all the good qualities she possesses and is confident about that.
"We have taught her to love herself and she eats what she wants (without worrying about dieting to be thin)."
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