Beauty queen and football referee

Miss World Singapore Dalreena Poonam Gill Ganesan is a "vainpot", says her mother, housewife Sheela Ganesan Raj Gill, 41.

The beauty queen agrees.

"It's true. My mum once cut my hair short. I didn't like that and wore a long-haired wig for my fifth birthday that year," recalls the 20-year-old. "I used to 'steal' my mum's and aunties' make-up when I was five or six years old and put on lipstick and eyeshadow."

But, rather unexpectedly, she is also the youngest of only three qualified female football referees in Singapore and has been officiating football matches in schools since she was 17 years old.

In this respect, she takes after her father, Mr Ganesan Maniam, 50.

He inspired her to take up refereeing, which she saw as his "lifelong" passion as he progressed from being an assistant referee to his current job as a fitness trainer for Federation Internationale de Football Association (Fifa), where he trains referees in Singapore and around the world, and monitors their fitness.

Also seemingly in contrast to her beauty queen status is her career choice - she plans to start work in the Singapore Police Force after the Miss World finals in London next month.

"I've always wanted to join the army, air force or navy because my cousins and close friends are working there. But you don't get much interaction with the community and the best choice for me is the police force," says Ms Gill, an only child.

She is doing a part-time diploma course in counselling studies. "My friends said, 'Are you sure? You're so vain.' But my dad encouraged me to try."

Mr Ganesan says his 1.72m-tall daughter is suitable for police work: "The police hold a very respected position and she has the height and fitness for it."

Mrs Ganesan adds: "It's going to serve the nation and I'm supportive of her career."

You took part in Miss Singapore India last year, coming in third, and in Model Search this year, coming in second. How did you become interested in joining pageants?

Ms Gill: It started when I was prom queen in St. Margaret's Secondary School in 2011. Some of my seniors, classmates and even teachers encouraged me to go on.

Mrs Ganesan: We are happy about her entering pageants and have supported her throughout.

You have many pets at home. Have you always been a family of animal lovers?

Ms Gill: Yes. We have three dogs, three birds, four hamsters and one chinchilla.

Mr Ganesan: One room in our Jurong flat is for the pets. Dalreena used to ask me to take her to pet shops, where she would sometimes spend hours playing with the animals. Most Sundays, when she was 10 to 12 years old, we covered most of the pet shops in Singapore.

Mrs Ganesan: All of us love animals, I used to have hamsters as a child, like Dalreena did.

What is your parenting style like?

Mr Ganesan: Discipline comes first. For example, from primary school, she had to sleep early and wake up early. If you have no discipline, you cannot progress in life.

Mrs Ganesan: We are more like friends. We even quarrel sometimes.

Ms Gill: We don't agree, for example, on how to keep the house clean. She would spoil me with toys and games when I was younger. I have more than 50 soft toys, which I still keep.

What are your views on caning?

Mrs Ganesan: No caning, I love her so much. She was a good child, well behaved.

Mr Ganesan: That's the last thing I wanted to do. It's an old-school method, caning doesn't work anymore. Generally, I talked to her, for example, about letting us know where she was. After a late show, she would call to say she was taking a taxi home.

Ms Gill: I'll still tell them where I am going. It's their way of showing they care.

Who are you closer to, your mother or your father?

Ms Gill: I'm close to both of them, though I go to my dad more for advice relating to studies or career. Apart from that, I talk to my mum about anything under the sun.

As an only child, have you wanted siblings?

Ms Gill: No, I wouldn't like that. When I was younger, they asked me that. I didn't like it if they paid attention to my cousins, I'd get a bit irritated. I wanted attention for myself. I wasn't lonely or bored as I had my cousins to play with.

Mrs Ganesan: I was diagnosed with kidney failure when Dalreena was a year old. We couldn't celebrate her first birthday because I was in hospital. I couldn't have any more children with my illness. I have had to go for kidney dialysis for the past 19 years.

I am happy to have her as my only child. I've always wanted to give her the best of everything.

What are your family values?

Mr Ganesan: Punctuality and discipline are important. If you want to be a referee, you must be punctual.

Mrs Ganesan: I wanted Dalreena to dress well and be neat and presentable from young.

Ms Gill: She always thinks people judge you on your looks. But I have a different perspective - people will judge you on your achievements.

If the parent-child roles were reversed, what would you have done differently?

Mr Ganesan: No change, because my family brought me up the same way.

Mrs Ganesan: Nothing, she would be the best parent.

Ms Gill: Nothing. I can tell them anything, that's the good thing, even about relationships.

They've been quite supportive. They said, if you can balance having a relationship with your studies, it's fine. I've been seeing my boyfriend for more than a year.

This article was first published on Nov 16, 2014. Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to for more stories.