Ugly duckling, beauty queen

Every beauty queen claims she was once an ugly duckling.

But Jody Liu says she had it really bad. While in secondary school, boys would try to pluck the hair on her arms.

Not only did the boys tease her, Liu's pretty and popular sister, who is two years her senior, told her "not to approach her and her friends while at school".

"It's not that we never talked at all. It was just that when we were in school, she never wanted to be seen with me," Liu said, her eyes welling up.

"But our relationship is better now. Both of us have matured."

Yes, she had acne, was shy and had few friends.

But now, Liu, 23, is an international beauty queen.

She is the first Singaporean to bring back a crown from the Miss Global 2013 international pageant. The finals were held last month in Montego Bay, Jamaica.

And it wasn't just a subsidiary tiara either, but the big one.

"I was shocked when I won the international title.

"Even my family was like 'Huh? You really won?'" she told The New Paper last week.

"But they were happy for me. It's just, who would have thought that I would take the crown at the international pageant? It's just surreal.

"My sister helped in the voting process for the local pageant all the way from Melbourne (where she lives) through the mobile app (Miss SG Global), but she was just as surprised."

She insisted that the shocked expression on stage when the host announced the winner was real. Really.

And that the ugly duckling to beautiful swan story is real too.

Liu was Singapore's first representative to the Miss Global 2013 competition. How's that for beginner's luck?

She beat 31 other contestants, including first runner-up Miss Uganda, Sylvia Namutebi, and second runner-up, Miss Bahamas, Lashanda Wildgoose.

Liu, who is 1.7m tall and weighs 52kg, said: "My biggest challenge in any pageant is the Q & A segment. You never know what the question will be. Everyone is looking at you and you have only 30 seconds of answer time, and it is this segment that determines the winner.

"It can be very stressful and nerve-racking."

A world peace question, perhaps? Not quite.

Asked what her legacy would be if she were to leave one, she stumbled on her words but got there after a minute and the half, and even cited Confucius in the midst.

"If I were to leave a legacy, it would be to place emphasis on the importance of caring for our environment," she said.App voting

To get to the international event, Liu had to fight off 35 other applicants in the preliminary rounds here and face off against eight finalists at the Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel in August. Liu was chosen to represent Singapore.

"Initially, based on app voting, I was fifth a few days before the local finals. That's when I turned to my sister and asked her to spread the word. Much to my surprise, I was first on the day of the finals and was eventually chosen to represent Singapore," she said.

The local winner was chosen based on Facebook likes (30 per cent of score), app voting (30 per cent of score) and a panel of eight judges (40 per cent of score).

Liu is no stranger to beauty pageants.

She said: "I decided to join beauty pageants to try and not be an introvert any more.

"I always kept to myself and I wanted to do something about that."

After graduating from Curtin University in Perth with a degree in marketing and management in 2010, Liu applied to join Miss Earth Singapore and eventually placed second.

"When I was called back for an audition after I handed in my application, they told me to bring a bikini along.

"I was so awkward about it and I couldn't walk in heels because I never wore them much.

"I used to own flats, sandals and slippers, but not heels," she said.

Last year, she was a Top 14 finalist in the Miss Singapore Universe contest.

It was her trainer and choreographer at that pageant, Ms Vanessa Tan, who encouraged her to join Miss Singapore Global. Ms Tan, who brought the Miss Global franchise to Singapore, reckoned that Liu "had great potential".

Though she can now be called a beauty queen, with an international title, Liu said she will not flaunt it in front of those who bullied her. "There is no point showing off. It was in the past and I pulled through those times.

"I know who my true friends are now, and what matters is that I did it for myself and I'm happy."

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