Year of the Indian beauties

It has been quite a year for the Indian community in Singapore. Indian beauty has been celebrated locally, with the winners of two prestigious pageants and a modelling competition being Indians.

In August, 23-year-old Rathi Menon was crowned Miss Universe Singapore 2014. The following month saw the coronation of Miss Dalreena Poonam Gill, 20, as Miss World Singapore 2014. In October, the title of The New Paper New Face 2014 went to 15-year-old Diya Prabhakar.

Such a trifecta is unprecedented in a country as multiracial as Singapore.


At 15, Diya Prabhakar has already racked up quite a resume: She has done eight years of ballet and completed the intermediate stage, has two years of modelling experience, and is now the winner of The New Paper New Face 2014.

She is also taking her O levels this year.

In an interview with tabla!, she admitted that it does get overwhelming at times. Her secret? Keeping a schedule and prioritising her work.

She tries to finish up her schoolwork whenever she has time, since castings often crop up at the last minute.

In Singapore's exam-oriented society, Diya is taking an unconventional route in modelling while studying.

Her parents, Mr A. Prabhakar, a 48-year-old director of a restaurant, and Mrs Asha Prabhakar, a 46-year-old housewife, have had their judgment called into question.

While they appreciate the concern, "as parents, we want to support Diya no matter what she chooses to do. We make our decisions based on what makes her happy and what is good for her", Mrs Prabhakar said.

For the most part, their friends are very supportive, and share their pride in what Diya has achieved in the industry at such a young age.

While it was industry insiders who encouraged her to take part in the competition, it was with her parents' support that she knew she could manage both the competition and her studies, especially since this is her O-level year.

Her parents regularly ferry her back and forth between school, photo shoots and modelling sessions, and her mother accompanied her during rehearsals for the competition.

Diya's big break came during a family vacation to Bangalore two years ago. She was at a fashion show at a mall when Indian fashion guru Prasad Bidapa spotted her.

He called her to his office the next day so he could see her walk - the day after that she was modelling on stage.

With her experience in modelling and in competitions, she found that The New Paper New Face competition was very different from being on the runway.

"In modelling, we have to be very professional, but in pageants, we get time to bond and joke around," she told tabla!, adding, "I loved making so many new friends!"

The teenager felt that modelling gave her an advantage, as she was not too nervous when she was on stage. "I'm used to an audience watching me, but for a new girl, it would have been quite daunting," she said.

Her eight years of ballet also provided invaluable experience. It taught her perseverance and poise, for which she was lauded by the judges.

Having completed the intermediate level, she has stopped ballet, but shared that she is thinking about joining a keep fit class after her O levels as a fun way to stay fit.


At 20, she is the youngest of only three female football referees in Singapore and referees at school football games. She is determined to be a qualified FIFA referee. She wants to build a career with the Singapore Police Force.

She is also Miss World Singapore 2014.

One would suppose it was only natural to assume that Miss Dalreena Poonam Gill is a tomboy. Miss Gill, though, is a self-professed "vainpot", and has been so since young.

She remembers how, at the age of two, she would not stop crying when her aunts did not allow her to go into a salon. She only stopped when they put her on a chair in the salon.

Vanity aside, she has wanted to be a football referee for as long as she can remember.

Her father M. Ganesan, who trains those who want to be FIFA referees, sparked the young beauty queen's desire to be a referee. He is a retired referee, and when she was young, she would watch his matches.

She remembers being "in awe of the referee's ability to bring justice to the match", she said in an interview with The New Paper. Her favourite part of being a football referee is making quick, accurate judgments.

Her varied interests did not come as a surprise to her family. Mr Ganesan told tabla!: "I remember her telling us in her teenage days that she wanted to be Miss Singapore. From young, we've known what she has in mind. She has always wanted to do this and we have supported her in all her decisions."

Her two passions sometimes clash, though. She explained to tabla!: "Being a beauty pageant winner, I have to take care of my skin really well. However, sometimes that is really tough as I am under the sun a lot during trainings and refereeing."

She deals with this by applying creams, and tries to be careful about her diet, which will help her skin to be more radiant.

Of course, it is not always the case that pageantry and football clash. She shared with tabla! that she has to keep fit for both the Miss World finals and her football referee training - even though training gets harder the higher the level of certification.

It is not necessarily a chore for the sports enthusiast, who enjoys playing basketball, netball, swimming and bowling with her family in her spare time.

In the meantime, Miss Gill is busy preparing for the Miss World finals, taking place in London at the end of the year. Then there is referee training, her part-time job in customer service and her diploma in counselling studies.

It sounds like a lot for a young woman to handle, but she does not mind.

"By the time I get home, I'm exhausted. But it feels good to be productive," she told The New Paper, and added: "I don't mind struggling now so that I won't regret it later in life."


Since winning the title of Miss Universe Singapore, Miss Rathi Menon has been at the receiving end of many a congratulatory message, be it in public or on her Facebook.

She told The New Paper: "It's a bit overwhelming and at the same time it makes me warm and fuzzy inside when people I don't know congratulate me."

The beauty queen works as a pharmacy technician at Mount Pleasant Vet Centre and is also pursuing a part-time degree in Human Resource Management, but her passion lies in motorbikes.

Her interest in them started when she was a little girl. "I used to see my sister taking bike lessons and I found it so cool," she told tabla! in an earlier interview.

She rides a 400cc Honda Super Four, but her dream bike is the 1,340cc Suzuki Hayabusa. It is a big bike, weighing in at 250kg when it is fully fuelled, but Miss Menon explained to The New Paper that she "loves big, powerful motorcycles because it takes skill and courage to control them".

She admitted that her Super Four fell on her third day of owning it. There were people watching her, but she was determined to pick the bike up on her own - and managed to lift it in one go.

It is with this determined attitude that she is approaching the Miss Universe pageant, which takes place in Doral-Miami on Jan 25 next year.

Though she knows that the competition will be intense, she is excited and honoured to represent Singapore on an international stage, and is set on doing her best and making Singapore proud.

She also added: "I am looking forward to meeting the other participants, learn more about the cultures of the other girls, and I hope to make some good friends there."

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