Winning a beauty pageant has been her dream since she was a little girl.
Miss Charity Maru, also known as Charity Lu Lu Seng, finally tasted sweet victory on Wednesday night.
The 24-year-old freelance translator beat 13 other contestants to be crowned Miss World Singapore 2015 at the One Farrer Hotel & Spa.
But her joy was quickly tainted by criticism online that she is not the best person to represent Singapore at the international finals on Dec 19 in Sanya, China.
The debate started because Miss Maru, is a relatively new citizen: She received her pink IC only in 2007.
She was born in northern Myanmar to a Kachin family. The Kachin people are made up of ethnic groups who inhabit the northern Kachin State and neighbouring areas of China and India.
Miss Maru, who is proud of her Kachin roots, said she loves Singapore and does not see why she cannot have the best of both worlds in her pageant journey.
"One of my goals I set for myself should I win Miss World Singapore was to introduce my people to the world."
When asked what she meant by "my people", Miss Maru said she meant the Kachin.
"I believe that I am the first Kachin to take part in the Miss World Pageant.
"Also, now that I am Singaporean, I want to represent Singapore well at the finals by showing that charity, which is a big component of Miss World, should be a lifestyle choice instead of a one-off thing."
Some of her online detractors were adamant that should they support Miss Maru, they want her to identify only with being Singaporean when she takes to the world stage.
Wrote one netizen: "Charity is a Singapore citizen with a pink Singapore identity card.
"She is not representing Myanmar and therefore...she should be proud, and only be proud, to be a Singaporean."
On the flak she has received, Miss Maru told The New Paper: "I grew up here, this is my home and I'm proud to be a Singaporean. "I hope people would respect me just as a Singaporean."
CAME HERE AT 12
Miss Maru, who is 1.7m tall, was brought up by her grandmother and aunts in Myanmar as her parents came to Singapore to work when she was young.
Her father is a senior engineer and her retired mother was a nurse in Tan Tock Seng Hospital.
When she was 12, her parents brought her here to live with them.
The former student of Balestier Hill Primary School, Beatty Secondary School and Singapore Polytechnic has been volunteering for the last two years as a Sunday school teacher at Kachin Baptist Church (Singapore), where she enjoys being a youth leader.
Although she had, from the time she was young, yearned to be a beauty queen, she refused to join beauty pageants because most of them required participants to wear swimsuits.
Said Miss Maru: "So when I read that this year (for the first time in 63 years), Miss World was going to remove the swimsuit round from the international finals, it was a dream come true for me to join the local pageant, and then actually win it.
"I had joined it secretly and told my parents only on the morning of the (local) finals that I was a Miss World finalist."
As a nod to Miss World's chairman Julia Morley's decision to cut the swimsuit round, the organiser of Miss World Singapore, Mr Raymund Ooi, also turned the bikini segment this year into a casual wear segment.
Miss Maru is also more determined than ever to "improve" on herself as she wants to win a title at the competition.
For example, she will be working on her catwalk, which she feels is not up to standard.
The self-confessed sweat-hater, who weighs 56kg, also intends to do more toning exercises so that she will have a better physique.
From now to the competition, she will not eat dinner and will have her last meal every day at 4pm in order to keep her weight down.
She will also be working hard on her community project in Singapore, which will count for 40 per cent of her score in China. Said Miss Maru: "I am prepared to win something at the Miss World finals.
"I will do everything that I can to get it for Singapore."
This article was first published on October 23, 2015.
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