She lost hearing at the age of four
CHUI YEE SHIA
She is 80 per cent deaf in both ears, but that did not stop make-up artist Chui Yee Shia from joining the Miss Singapore Beauty Pageant 2013.
The 25-year-old lost her hearing and the ability to talk at the age of four after she had a high fever.
Her parents noticed that something was wrong when she would not respond to them but instead stared at them blankly when they asked her questions.
They hired a speech therapist to help her learn to speak again. Now, Miss Chui can talk and string together proper sentences, even though her articulation and pronunciation is not clear.
She also can hear properly with a small hearing aid in her ear that is not easily visible.
Miss Chui told The New Paper: "I joined this beauty pageant as I want to raise awareness about deaf people in Singapore. I feel that many people look down on the deaf and think that they aren't capable of anything.
"I want people to know that the deaf can also do their jobs well... and I hope to encourage employers to set up more training courses for their deaf employees."
Into its 25th year now, the Miss Singapore Beauty Pageant gives out five main titles - Miss Singapore Tourism Queen International, Miss Singapore Global Beauty Queen, Miss Singapore All Nations, Miss Singapore Friendship International and Singapore International Model Of The Year. The finals will be held on Aug 31.
Bullied in secondary school
Life has not been easy for Miss Chui, who was bullied in secondary school because of her hearing disability.
She attended the Canossian School For The Hearing Impaired (now renamed Canossian School) for her primary education before going to St. Anthony's Canossian Secondary School.
"My classmates... despised me and told me that I was stupid and useless and that I would not do well in my studies. They told me I would not be able to do anything that normal people can do because I was deaf," she said.
"I felt very hurt and inferior, and I would often cry and complain to my mum and ask her 'Why do I have to be deaf?' My secondary school years were a period of time that I want to forget and not ever go through again."
Miss Chui, who went on to earn a diploma in Professional Make-up Artistry from Cosmoprof International Academy, got her first and current full-time job through a friend's referral. Before that, she was a freelance model.
For her, working life is more enjoyable as people around her are more accommodating. She said: "I got my job as a make-up artist easily as all I had to do was to demonstrate my make-up and hairstyling skills and I managed to secure the job after 15 minutes."
Being able to get into the finals of Miss Singapore Beauty Pageant has been a huge encouragement for her, but she admitted she faced many challenges while preparing for the pageant.
She was unable to catch up with the rest of the contestants when they were rehearsing their dance steps for a flash mob performance on Orchard Road in early July,, and had to be at the rehearsal venue three hours beforehand to practise.
Even though the exposure in the Miss Singapore Beauty Pageant could potentially be a double-edged sword and set her up for more mockery, she's not anxious.
She said: "I am not worried as I am used to negative remarks. If there are any, I will ignore them and pretend nothing happened."
Born in China, but she wants S'pore crown
She may hail from China's Shandong province, but 24-year-old Andrea Che hopes to be a Singapore beauty queen.
The private banker, who came here on a Ministry Of Education scholarship at the age of 18 in 2007, graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Science (majoring in quantitative finance) from the National University of Singapore last year.
She became a Singapore permanent resident recently and is now applying for Singapore citizenship.
Even though she was born and bred in China, Miss Che claims she feels more like a Singaporean at heart.
She said in English: "I see China as my motherland, but Singapore as the place to which I have more attachment to. I feel that I belong here."
The 1.76m-tall long-haired beauty added: "Singapore has a very diverse culture, which sees people from different countries coming together and living in harmony.
I fit right in here, and I think I can be the one to represent Singapore on an international level."
Ms Angela Tay, director of ERM Singapore Marketing, which organises the pageant, said it is fine for a Singapore permanent resident to win the pageant, adding: "It is stated in the agreement signed with the finalists that they must continue to reside in Singapore for at least two years from the date of winning."
Miss Che said she used to be a tomboy before she came to Singapore. It was only after she stopped living here that she realised she had to dress up and look good in order to make an impression. Miss Che took part in the Miss Chinatown Singapore 2012 and Miss Earth Singapore 2013, but did not win.
Her love for Singapore extends to local men as well. Even though she has yet to date one since relocating here, Miss Che would like to have one as her boyfriend.
She sang praises of them, saying: "I get along well with Singaporean men due to our similar cultures. They are great, helpful, considerate, gentlemenly..."
She goes from one pageant to the next...
Barely three days after her last outing, 20-year-old Priyadharshni V. Sethuraj is back on the beauty pageant circuit again.
She was a finalist at the Miss World Singapore last Sunday and is also in the Top 20 of Miss Singapore Beauty Pageant 2013.
Besides that, she also participated in the Miss Singapore Beauty Pageant last year and is planning to join Miss Universe Singapore next year.
The 1.66m-tall pre-school teacher said: "I do feel exhausted, as I am going from one beauty contest to the next, but taking part in these different pageants allows me to learn many different things and improve myself.
"For example, my experience in Miss World Singapore taught me how to do a good catwalk, something that I can apply to this pageant."
Miss Priyadharshni has been interested in modelling since young and feels that taking part in pageants is a good way for her to break into the industry.
However, more exposure also means she has to deal with greater scrutiny - but that's not stopping her from following her passion.
Miss Priyadharshni said that she received flak online for wearing a bikini on stage during the Miss World Singapore contest.
"The netizens commented that I should be fully covered up because I am an Indian girl and should be more conservative, and they made nasty remarks.
But I am not affected. The swimwear segment is compulsory in every beauty pageant and I think it's fine as long as our dignity is preserved.
"Moreover, my parents are very supportive, telling me that life is short and I should pursue my dream."
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