New Face 2014: Backstage on the big night

New Face 2014: Backstage on the big night
The New Face finalists had to stick to a tight schedule during the grand final. But they still had time to help out friends and capture special moments.

It is surprisingly calm.

After weeks of preparation, the 20 The New Paper New Face finalists are in a room on the 13th floor of Ngee Ann City Tower B.

A small army of stylists work their magic on the girls' hair and make-up, getting them ready for their big moment.

It is still fun and games for some of them as chatter and laughter fill the air.

Of course, there is also the obligatory taking of selfies.

Nerves? No sign of them yet.

As soon as a contestant leaves the make-up chair, she goes off to find space - a lift lobby or wherever is clear of activity - to practise her catwalk.

But while the atmosphere is relaxed, there is still a tight schedule to stick to.

It is 5.30pm, and the last girl gets the final crimp to her hair.

Immediately, all 20 are ushered to the basement and onto the backstage area.

The nerves set in.

While she had been cool and composed upstairs, 14-year-old Iman Fandi Ahmad confesses: "I guess reality is sinking in. I'm suddenly feeling very nervous."

Even with the professional training she has had at home with mum Wendy Jacobs who is a former model, Iman has realised that the butterflies can still strike.

With an hour to go before the show, some girls try to peek through the white stage curtains to look at the audience before being pulled away by the dressers.

The waiting game seems to be getting to some of them. The chatter is down to a minimum but some contestants are looking decidedly angsty.

As the girls are getting changed, I hang out in front of the stage, watching the seats fill with guests and family members.

"Two minutes to start! Stand by!" shouts the stage manager to the dancers who are to open the show.

"It's finally here, it's showtime. I can't wait to start," exclaims Annmarie Pang, 22, while adjusting her dress.

The girls line up, waiting for the emcee's cue. First in line is 15-year-old Diya Prabhakar.

One by one they go up the steps and onto the sleek, white runway.

Showing true model behaviour, any apprehensive expressions on their faces immediately transform into beaming smiles the moment the spotlight hits them.

The crowd response is overwhelming. Cheers and applause even manage to drown out the loud background music.

But the journey has to end sometime.

After the winner is announced, the crowd disperses and for 19 girls, their Cinderella moment is over. They have to change out of their fancy dresses and back into their normal clothes.

There are no tears - apart from those of winner Diya - although some are clearly disappointed.

Some seem happy to finally get to decompress, while some are simply pleased to have taken part.

Many seem eager to go home and indulge in some of their favourite food they have been denying themselves the past few months.

It is the end of the journey, but an experience that will stay with them for a lifetime.

This article was first published on Oct 5, 2014.
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