'I compared myself with picture-perfect girls': Miss Universe Singapore finalist and national footballer on overcoming body dysmorphia

PHOTO: Instagram/lilaatan

She's a finalist of one of the most prominent beauty pageants, but 18-year-old Lila Tan says it's been a rough road to self-acceptance for her.

The Miss Universe Singapore (MUS) 2021 finalist, who also happens to be a national footballer, tells AsiaOne over a recent email interview that growing up, her insecurities included her "athletic thick thighs" and "wide waist".

"I remember comparing myself with picture-perfect girls on social media, thinking I wasn't beautiful enough because my body didn't look a certain way," says the French-Chinese Singaporean.

But she credits healthy eating, as well as her modelling agency Misc. Management, for helping her overcome her body dysmorphia.

While the modelling industry has long had a bad rep for encouraging unhealthy body image, Lila says her experience has been nothing but positive.

Through her modelling journey, she's grown to be more confident of her curves, she says.

"I'm slowly learning to appreciate my body for what it provides me with and what it can do for me."

Besides making waves in the modelling industry, the multi-talented teen is also a star on the field.

The national midfielder is among the 23 players named for the upcoming Asian Football Confederation Women's Asian Cup qualifiers, the Football Association of Singapore announced recently.

🇸🇬🦁 𝟐𝟑 𝐩𝐥𝐚𝐲𝐞𝐫𝐬 have been named for the upcoming AFC Women’s Asian Cup Qualifiers! #ONESTRONG More details ➡️ bit.ly/LionessesWACQ

Posted by Football Association of Singapore on Tuesday, September 7, 2021

And come Sept 17, Lila will be one of eight finalists taking the stage at virtual fashion festival The Front Row and competing for the MUS crown.

When asked how she handles it all, the teen shares that a typical day for her is packed with spontaneous fashion shoots, training, and power naps.

Even though it's hectic, Lila says the pageant experience has been invaluable.

"I think what's most memorable about days like this are the interactions I have with the seven other contestants. I met such intriguing, funny, empowering girls in this competition."

kimberlylim@asiaone.com