SINGAPORE - She was ill in the days leading up to the most important competition in her life.
In the past week, her temperature had hit 39 deg C and she battled body aches and a sore throat, all while rehearsing for The New Paper New Face 2013 finals.
But worry turned to relief on Thursday.
Noelle Woon was a picture of health as she was crowned.
Standing at 1.77m and weighing 65kg, the exotic and leggy African-Chinese beauty was a shoo-in for first place.
Noelle, who also took home the Miss Levi's title, walked away with a cool prize of $10,000 and a feature in local women's magazine Her World.
The 16-year-old CHIJ St. Theresa's Convent student was truly shocked at her win.
When her name was announced at the finals at Takashimaya Square Thursday night, her jaw dropped before she did a little jump of excitement.
"The first thought that ran through my head was 'Oh my God, Noelle is my name... I won'," she told The New Paper at the end of the two-hour event, presented by Subaru MotorImage and co-sponsored by Levi's and New Look.
She thought it was her happy-go-lucky nature and stage presence that gave her an edge over the other contestants.
After she was crowned, Noelle was immediately flanked by her family and friends, who had been cheering loudly for her throughout the competition.
"I knew she would win," her father, Mr Mohan Raj, 39, a business development manager, said before his wife interjected quickly with a playful "don't be obnoxious!"
Said Noelle's mother, Madam Sarah Woon, 37: "Days before the finals, we were practising her catwalk together.
She would walk along the corridor and I would film her and then give her comments."
The early childhood educator continued with pride: "I felt so relieved when she won. It was nerve-racking. We're really proud of her. My little girl is all grown up."
The first and second runners-up titles went to Jade Rasif and Tan Ying Yi respectively.
Jade, 19, a National University of Singapore psychology undergraduate, also took home the Miss Vivacious title - she had done a cute little dance of joy as she accepted her sash - and was also commended for Best Catwalk.
Meanwhile, 17-year-old Jurong Secondary School student Ying Yi was also Miss New Look Fashionista.
Miss Popularity went to 18-year-old Temasek Polytechnic retail management student Felecia Lie.
Earlier, the girls strutted down the catwalk thrice in various whimsical and colourful outfits.
They had their model faces on but ultimately, it was Noelle who captured the hearts of the six judges - New Face alumni Peggy Chang and Sophie Willocq, top beauty blogger Moonberry, TNP's entertainment editor Jeanmarie Tan, Her World editor Genevieve Jiang and executive director of Tan Chong International Glenn Tan.
Ms Jiang, 36, said: "(Noelle) was my top pick. She has confidence, the right attitude, which is reflected in her walk and I'm pretty sure she will have global appeal. She just has that X-factor."
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