Forget the cars, here's the race queen

SINGAPORE - Bikini competitions and pole-dancing contests at car shows?

Been there, done that.

So what else is there to draw eyeballs?

A beauty pageant, of course.

At the popular motoring exhibition, Super Import Nights (SIN) held from May 25 to 27, organiser Three Angles Production held the inaugural Miss SIN 2012 pageant.

This is the fourth Super Import Nights since it began in 2007.

More than 60 girls turned up for the audition and 18 were selected for the finals.

Although the eventual winner, Melody Low, 19, has never modelled at car shows before, she's now signing up to be a race queen - just one of many young women who are increasingly keen to take up such gigs.

The full-time freelance model, who will be auditioning for an upcoming car show, told The New Paper: "It seems like a simple and fun job because you just stand there, be pretty and let people take your photos.

"I also get to meet many people, including the other race queens, some of whom are friends."

She joined the pageant to increase her profile.

Mr Simon Foo, director of event and production company Three Angles Production, said he included the pageant as a highlight in the three-day exhibition. He also wants to unearth new faces to become race queens because he hopes to take the exhibition overseas.

He has been approached to take Super Import Nights to Malaysia and the Philippines, and if it works out, he wants to take Miss Low and some of the Miss SIN 2012 finalists to be race queens at shows there.

Mr Foo feels the car show modelling industry is becoming a legitimate subset of the modelling business.

"It is more well-known and respectable now because the models are always present at car shows. That's why more girls want to be car show models now," he said.

The contestants were judged in four areas - choice of outfits, showmanship and stage presence, X-factor and how they worked the crowd.

Apart from Miss SIN 2012, there's also an upcoming pageant for local race queens - the first-ever X-mini Formula Drift Race Queen 2012.

One winner will be crowned at each of the four legs of the series in Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia. The Singapore leg will be held on June 30 and July 1.

Voting for the three race queen contestants will start on Monday on the X-mini Facebook page, and the one with the most "likes" wins.

SingTel will also be organising the Grid Girls competition for the fifth year running in the coming months for the Singapore Grand Prix. The winners will get the chance to be at the starting grid on race day.

According to Mr Foo, the demand for local race queens has increased over the years because it's more expensive to bring in foreign race queens from countries like the US.

Exhibitors doubled the number of local models from 30 in the past to 60 for the recent Super Import Nights.

Mr Foo added that the rates for local race queens have increased 25 per cent since his last Super Import Nights show in 2009.

Local race queen and full-time freelance model Danielle Leong, 27, said her rate has indeed increased slightly over the last three years.

Neither Mr Foo nor Miss Leong wanted to reveal the rates.

But Miss Leong, who has been in the industry for seven years, said the increasing competition from young girls looking for exposure has begun to bite.

She explained: "A lot of girls want to be race queens because they feel it's glamorous to look pretty and have their photos taken.

"So, some local models do not charge anything because they want the fame and recognition they can get from doing a car show.

"Thankfully, my current client for Super Import Night (Westlake Performance Tyres) pays me well because of my experience."

Miss Hannah Lau, 24, who has modelled at car shows for five years, added: "We (experienced models) cannot be compared to (the free models). You get what you pay for. Clients will try to lower my rates but if we can't agree on a rate I'm comfortable with, I'll walk away.

"At a big car show like Super Import Nights, we can go for casting calls for different clients and compare the rates each client offers and choose the best."

She said she earns more than $1,000 for a three-day car show.

Miss Leong admitted the job is easy because one only needs to look her best and smile.

This, despite the fact that she ends up with aching legs after standing in killer heels the whole day.

She also skips lunch and takes very small snacks to avoid sporting a tummy in her midriff-baring uniform.

The job is not without its hazards.

Miss Leong, who has done at least one car show a year for the last seven years, told The New Paper: "At a car show about four years ago, some photographers who had become our friends spotted a man taking upskirt photos of me and five other race queens.

"They pinned him down while the organiser called the police. It was such a big commotion. Although all of us wore shorts underneath our skirts, some of the girls were unhappy."

The man was later charged, Miss Leong said, but they reached a settlement out of court.

Miss Lau added that it's common to have men ask her for her contact number.

Job hazards

Another risk they face is that some men do get "touchy-feely" while having photos taken with the models, said Miss Lau, a freelancer who will start her career as a financial adviser later this month.

"Sometimes, people put their arms on our waist or buttocks,"said Miss Lau.

But she feels race queens have to manage the situation courteously.

"Models who have some experience in this line will know how to excuse themselves from the situation."

Miss Low, Miss Leong and Miss Lau do not mind the typical race queen uniform of a midriff top and short skirt. Miss Leong likens it to a cosplay outfit, while Miss Lau finds it comfortable, with Miss Low saying that it's not that revealing.

However, as there are only one or two big car shows a year here, the trio agree that it's impossible to survive on just the takings from the race queen jobs.

So Miss Leong and Miss Lau also model at corporate events and product launches.

Mr Foo said that local race queens have improved after watching and learning from the foreign race queens hired for Super Import Nights.

Where once local girls were stiff and unnatural, now they are not so conservative and also communicate with the visitors to check if the photos turn out well.

But Angel Chua, 37, a booker from modelling agency Jeffrey Chung Models, feels there's still room for improvement.

She had modelled at car shows for 12 years, including two years at the Macau Grand Prix, but stopped two years ago.

She said: "Local girls are a bit shy. They stand there... and give a sexy look but their body is rigid. (The posing) is all on their face only.

"On the other hand, the foreign race queens are very daring, posing with their facial expressions and bodies at the same."

This article was first published in The New Paper.

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