Valerie Lim has "beauty" in her blood.
The Miss Universe Singapore (MUS) 2011 winner took part in the competition after prompting from her mother, who had joined the same pageant in 1981 and won a spot in the Top 15.
Lim started her own pageant journey when she was crowned Miss Earth Singapore in 2009. Two years later, she took part in MUS.
She recalled how, over four months, the organisers trained and groomed the contestants for the finals, which was a closed-door event at the Shangri-La Hotel.
Lim, 31, told The New Paper: "Through those months spent together, we grew so close. Many people have the misconception that pageant girls are really catty, but no, everyone was super nice.
"I shared with them what I learnt from Miss Earth and everyone worked together to help each other out, even with walks and poses."
This year, Singapore's most prestigious pageant is back in a big way, with new presenter Singapore Turf Club and new imaging partner Canon Singapore on board.
And for the first time, The New Paper will be MUS 2016's official media partner and co-organiser alongside the Miss Universe Singapore Organisation.
The winner will receive a $10,000 cash prize and a Canon camera worth $1,000. Registration is now open to women aged 18 to 27.
Lim, who married a Taiwanese-American businessman last year, said: "In previous years, when it was televised, a lot of the girls had more opportunities to go into the media industry. In my case, it still opened a lot of doors for me, so I'm not complaining."
Through the connections she made during her pageant days, Lim is now pursuing her passion for fashion.
After graduating from the National University of Singapore with an honours degree in psychology, she worked as a senior behaviour therapist at Autism Partnership.
Following the international pageant in Sao Paulo, Brazil, she spent the next two years as a social media and image consultant while also blogging and modelling.
During modelling stints in the Philippines, she met several designers, whom she works closely with today.
Last November, she moved to Manila and has since started Fashion Exchange International, a fashion and brand management platform for ASEAN designers.
MUS, she said, taught her valuable lessons.
She said: "When it comes to pageants, you have to have a lot of discipline.
"Also, putting yourself out there and being vulnerable really helps thicken your skin... and (improve) yourself.
"Be open-minded and don't be afraid of changing and learning new things."
This article was first published on July 23, 2016.
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