Indranee Rajah defending uncle with holey moley shirt

From ‘Indranee Rajah stands up for man mocked for hole in shirt’, 22 March 2014, article by Goh Chin Lian, ST

People still do not appreciate enough that their actions can have unintended consequences for others, especially on social media, said Senior Minister of State for Law and Education Indranee Rajah in a Facebook post on Saturday. The Tanjong Pagar GRC MP was defending a resident in her ward whose attire Miss Singapore Universe 2013 finalist Jesslyn Tan had mocked in a recent Facebook post.

Mr Koh Hee Huat, 55, was asleep in the MRT and wearing a T-shirt with a hole in it. Ms Tan, 25, posted a photograph of him on Wednesday with the caption: “Holey moley. Sibei trendy worzxxz.”

…”If anyone merits a boost, it is this quiet, hardworking, unassuming man. He may not be sibei trendy but he is definitely ‘SIBEI HO.'”

Before she took part in MSU, Jesslyn was a 2012 FHM model, and when asked what superpowers she would like to have in an interview segment, she replied that she wanted Wolverine’s healing powers. Not to mention razor sharp claws so that she can take a vicious swipe at innocent passengers on a train. She probably thinks it’s a better idea to have Invisible Woman’s powers now.

01102011_batman1

Jessyln’s intrusion of privacy and insensitivity is one thing, but as a MSU wannabe, poking fun at someone’s dress sense and suggesting that he can’t afford to buy new clothes is against the image of a compassionate, world-peace loving beauty queen that every contestant aspires towards. Imagine sending a representative like Jesslyn to help rebuild a school for impoverished kids, only for her to spend more time commenting on the kids’ shabby uniforms (or lack of) rather than do anything remotely charitable.  It also takes some serious cheek to comment on others’ outfits considering the kind of fashion abominations that MSUs have had to put on over the years. Oh, and THAT spelling. I can’t tell if ‘worzxxz’ is a typo or the language of an alien insectoid race.  She happens to be a Bachelor of Communication graduate too, maybe one who specialises in exotic languages.

MP Indranee was quick to come to Koh’s rescue, explaining why he wears ‘holey’ shirts to work and how he works his ass off till 3 am at Ye Shanghai Teochew Muay stall. Koh was apparently so affected by the post that he thought of quitting the job, and if an aspiring MSU can’t be bothered to come forward to apologise personally or even buy him some new shirts out of goodwill, then it’ll take an MP to soothe some nerves and offer protection. Thankfully for Jessyln, his salvation comes in form of Indranee, and not some furious kopitiam friends out for revenge who also happen to be Ah Long associates.

Or this guy.

This guy knows Teochew Muay Thai worzzxxzzz!

If I ever get verbally abused by Stompers for wearing ugly Crocs on the train, I doubt my MP would speak up for me, even if I threaten to kill myself because I got cyberbullied by a beauty queen. In fact, people get ruthlessly mocked for the way the dress all the time, the sloppy uni student, the aunty with a bucket on her head, the oversexy bareback with bra showing. Where were our MPs then?

There are many people like Koh out there, of course, sweating it out to earn a living and having to tolerate snobs like Jessyln Tan. They may not have holes in their clothing but have deeper holes in their pockets than most of us. If they weren’t sensationally victimised like Koh here on social media, would our MPs share real-life sob stories so readily with the rest of us outside of election rallies where such anecdotes are potential speech (and vote) winners?  You don’t need a beauty queen shooting her mouth off before you realise people like Koh exist and celebrate them for making sure we have porridge supper to eat at 3am. I’m also not sure if there’s an unintentional pun with Indranee describing Koh as ‘SIBEI HO’ following this ‘HOLE’ in a shirt saga. It sure was ‘SIBEI SUAY’ for Jessyln to get caught, though.

Well, if you do drop by for supper at Mr Koh’s Bukit Merah stall (thanks to his MP’s free publicity), try to refrain from inspecting his shirt, or it’d look like people are flocking to Ye Shanghai just for a glimpse of the famous hole like it were national treasure rather than the Teochew Muay. Meanwhile, it’ll probably be a while before we see Jessyln participating in any kind of pageant whatsoever, nor should she even think of going into fashion consultancy. I’d also suggest that she think twice before appearing in public wearing ‘trendy’ ripped jeans, before someone goes up to her and says: Hey Jessyln! HOLE SAY BOH??

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Miss Singapore Universe’s big yellow fan costume

From ‘Where’s the wow factor?’ article by Cheryl Faith Wee, 18 Oct 2013, ST

UNDETERRED by two creations in previous years that drew much flak, fashion designer Riyan Haffys has unveiled his third national costume for Miss Universe Singapore. Ms Shi Lim, 25, this year’s title winner, will don a shimmery green mermaid dress, complete with faux orchids and a big yellow fan, at the 62nd Miss Universe pageant in Moscow on Nov 9.

Mr Riyan, 23, decided to use orchids and an eye-catching yellow decoration reminiscent of sun rays. “The sun rays represent how Singapore has grown from its humble beginnings to a vibrant city.”

…Mr Kenny Lim, 36, director and designer of home-grown fashion label Depression, says: “My first impression was, why does the national costume resemble a peacock? There are too many colours going on.”

…Some Singaporeans have mixed feelings too. Illustrator Sharon Yang, 23, cannot decide if the yellow fan looks more like an umbrella or a peacock’s feathers. “Without the thing at the back, I guess the dress is pretty acceptable. But we can come up with something more creative than this predictable design.”

She's walking on sunshine

She’s walking on sunshine

In 2009, MSU Rachel Kum wore a giant Vanda Miss Joachim orchid on her back, which made her look like a garden fairy. 2 years later Valerie Lim was strutting her stuff in what resembles a red curtain. Shi Lim’s stark citrus yellow accessory looks like she’s piggybacking a giant slab of lemon meringue pie. From the back, I can imagine she’d look like a stalk of magic mushroom.

The MSU contest is not known for its subtlety, and for a tiny nation that has been struggling to come up with something remotely representative of a national costume, it’s not good enough to simply put on a nice sparkling dress; you must heave something along with it just to handicap yourself, such that it’s not the beauty of the actual woman behind the dress that scores points with the judges, but the majestic weight that threatens to collapse on top of her as she parades on stage in front of a worldwide audience. Anything less than a fruit dress would make you feel naked in the costume segment of MSU.

All flares without the festivity, the yellow fan costume is a few alterations away from passing off as an attire for a frilled lizard mascot. But if you insist on sun-bursting flamboyance, why not go all the way with the peacock plumage, like what Miss Mexico put on in the 2012 contest, the kind of apparel that shamans would wear on their graduation ceremony.  It can also camouflage our soldiers better than the pixellated No. 4. A pity that she didn’t win because if you preen around in that, the swirl of colours would have a hypnotised the judges into giving her full marks.

Everyone wants to see her Peacock-cock-cock

This is admittedly an improvement over the Merlion costume, but  something wilder next year please, a costume inspired by our reputation as a foodie haven rather than the same boring orchids, like a giant crab shell with mermaid suit perhaps, the crab representing a famed local delicacy as well as a nod to our humble fishing village origins. At least the shell/mermaid combination makes more sense than a sun-fan that looks like a defence mechanism against predators.

Miss Singapore Universe a materialistic Barbie doll

From ‘Miss Singapore Universe denies getting boob job’, 16 Sept 2012, article by Charlene Chua, TNP

…The netizens have been working overtime. Some took pictures off her (Lynn Tan’s) Facebook account and posted it elsewhere online. A picture of Miss Tan in her new car – a gift from her British boyfriend – was re-posted on online forums after her win, with netizens calling her “materialistic”. On the HardwareZone forum alone, Miss Tan has also been accused of having had a “boob job”, a nose job and even being a former man.

…On ‘being materialistic’ (after posting a picture of herself in her Nissan GT-R) “I was thrilled as anybody would be to be given the opportunity to drive a nice, fast car (a gift from my boyfriend).”

On ‘looking like a Barbie doll‘: “That’s actually a compliment. I was lucky, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

…On being called ‘a Sarong Party Girl (SPG) for having a Caucasian boyfriend': “You can’t choose who you want to fall in love with or when or how. Love just happens.”

The MSU national costume is the traditional whipping boy for critics, but so are recycled insults about our Ms Universe looking too masculine or being an SPG. In addition, we have forum trolls ranting about her being a gold-digger and looking plastic fantastic like a Barbie Doll. In 2009, former MSU Rachel Kum ‘came clean’ about having breast enhancements, and such little surgical makeovers in the age of Botox and Lasik are so commonplace that it’s no big deal anymore. You don’t even need to be a natural-born ‘woman’ to participate in MSU in time to come. Lynn Tan can be a computer generated anime chick for all I care, and maybe in a couple of decades, once we get tired of pageants and the transgenders have squeezed out all the competition, the geek fandom’s dream of a ‘virtual’ beauty queen may well be a reality that’s not that cracked up to be anymore.

On Lynn’s ‘materialism’, my guess is as good as anyone’s. What’s certain, though, is that she loves flaunting her boyfriend’s expensive gifts on Facebook, with a photo album consisting of nothing except shoes, pendants and a Dior bag. What’s missing is the $300,000 black Nissan GTR. Well the guy can pamper her however he wishes if he thinks she’s worth it, though if one can get a woman a sportscar as a random present, the only thing that comes to mind for a wedding proposal is a 1 Carat diamond (at least) and a seaside Villa. Maybe a Hello Kitty helicopter too, so that she can fly over a lava-spurting volcano once again in it.

Some girls (and guys) have all the luck, and she does admit a preference for men with burning ambition in them (among other characteristics that you WON’T find in Singaporean men) and resemble ‘James Bond’. You can draw your own conclusions about her choice of mates, but she’s probably not old enough to see all the James Bond films where the charismatic spy acts like a total misogynist womaniser. If detractors continue to diss her for being fake and shallow, well, she can jolly well give them the Goldfinger. She’s Miss UNIVERSE, not Mother Theresa (though the latter was quoted in Lynn’s QnA). Little girls don’t look up to Ms Universes as role models anymore. They adore female vampires, archers, Pussy Riot and that submissive lust-stricken protagonist of Fifty Shades of Grey. Having an angmor boyfriend is nothing, though some ex-Ms Universes do tend to think the world of them.

I think Lynn stands a decent chance at the Grand Finals, though she’d have to do more than spout cliches from religious figures to win the hearts of judges. Swooning over a generous millionaire boyfriend is a strict no-no because judges tend to favour ‘strong, independent’ women, and so are cheesy jokes like what 2011’s contestant Valerie spewed for the whole world to see. And PRAY hard that the national costume doesn’t turn out a sick joke; a polymer gown with prints of SG 100-dollar notes and the face of Yusof Ishak all over it.

Eduardo Saverin likes Chilli crab

From ‘Facebook co-founder gives up US citizenship’, 13 May 2012, article in Sunday Times

Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin officially ‘defriended’ the United States last September, giving up his citizenship for the more tax-friendly residency status of Singapore. It is not known if the soon-to-be billionaire has taken up Singapore citizenship.

…Born in Brazil, Mr Saverin moved to the US in 1992 and became a citizen in 1998. In 2009, he relocated to Singapore. Explaining that decision, he told The Straits Times: ‘I got out of Changi Airport and was amazed by the line of trees and saw how clean and green Singapore was. Then I discovered the various entrepreneur programmes and the long list of government funding available for start-ups. I decided I must live here.’

Among his investments in Singapore is Anideo, a technology start-up that has created at least 10 applications for Apple’s iPhone and iPad. Last year, he also invested in Perx (www.getperx.com) a customer loyalty mobile app which has signed up big brands such as Popeyes and Dunkin Donuts.

…Mr Saverin, who likes chilli crab, has kept a low public profile, although he is a much sought-after speaker at entrepreneurship seminars in Singapore. He has also put money into two start-ups in the US – multimedia Web search service Qwiki, and online payment technology firm Jumio.

Saverin’ Succotash!

So where in Singapore is Eduardo Saverin? According to other sources, one of the world’s richest 30-something is living it up in exclusive clubs like Filter, hobnobbing with the elite and supermodels in his luxury penthouse, drives a Bentley, and is a sponsor for ex Miss Singapore Rachel Kum’s cosmetics line Rachel K, all elements of a typical billionaire-tycoon playboy lifestyle that the ST has chosen to omit, instead giving us the impression that he may be found tucking into chilli crab at Long Beach seafood, maybe hanging out with the local uncles drinking Tiger beer in a pair of flip-flops.

If you’re not the sort who clubs at fancy parties or don’t even own a dinner jacket or appreciate fast cars and champagne, you may want to hang around the Sail@Marina Bay if want to catch a glimpse of Saverin. According to the New Straits Times, Saverin has reportedly been dwelling in the ‘tallest residential building’ in Singapore. Put two and two together from this pitch to expats and you’ve got Mr Popularity’s address. In 2008, Indian billionaire turned Singapore citizen Dr Bhupendra Kumar Modi bought a Sail penthouse unit for $15 million, which netted the seller, another Indian-turned-Singaporean tycoon Dr Sudhir Gupta a $6 million profit. Treating property like trading cards is common practice among the ultra-rich, while many of our own locals struggle to even maintain one, and can only gaze up at this steel mega-tycoon playground complex in awe, waiting for them to excrete some small change as we pander to them like gods.  We used to fly kites at Marina Bay, now it’s a Beverly Hills-like showcase for high-flying foreigners. Dr Modi did live in the ACTUAL Beverly Hills, in fact.

Saverin isn’t the only foreigner renouncing a US citizenship to make Singapore his home. Investment guru Jim Rogers moved here in 2007 so that his children could learn Chinese. Gongfu superstar Jet Li has done it too, having given the Americans films like THE ONE and ROMEO MUST DIE, is now residing in a $20 million bungalow in Bukit Timah, and is officially a Singapore citizen as of 2011, despite not working his chops in the movie scene here. Neither has anyone heard from Gong Li since her conversion and subsequent divorce either. We’re known to warm up easily to rich foreigners (some people would call that rich-people poaching), despite the fact that Saverin has left America for good and can easily do the same to Singapore if things don’t go down well as planned with the start-ups that he’s busy funding. Unlike other billionaires who have made it big in Singapore, Saverin is somewhat special. He’s young, Brazilian, fresh-faced, has an interesting job, co-owns Facebook for God’s sake, and may be perceived as an eligible bachelor, though his marital status remains unknown (Rachel Kum insists that they’re good friends who club at Butter Factory once in a while). The words ‘tycoon’ and ‘magnate’ which summon images of grey-haired paunchy men doesn’t apply. Saverin is too cool for that, or even descriptions that end with ‘-preneur’.  Years from now, our kids will think of Saverin when quizzed about famous tech-wizards from Singapore. No one will remember who Sim Wong Hoo is.

Some Americans feel cheated and betrayed by Saverin’s seeming ‘tax evasion’, that he ‘owes’ America for being where he is today.  This billionaire ‘tax dodger’ has 1.4 million ‘subscribers’ on Facebook currently, the same number of people Jesus Christ would have if he had Facebook then. They’re probably many more ‘friends’ in line waiting, like peasants in a king’s court grovelling for a new fence to keep the goats from escaping. If you want to have a foreigner friend in high places (literally) like Saverin, it would also be worthwhile checking out a library book on Meterology, a topic that Saverin is a self-professed fan of. To say his rise is ‘meteoric’ is an understatement, and like a ‘hurricane’ he has swept Singapore off her maiden feet. Let’s just hope he doesn’t change his mind about us like the ‘weather’. Someone once described Singapore as ‘Disneyland with the Death Penalty‘. I think we all know who’s living in Snow White’s castle then.

And yeah I’ll be in a whole new tax bracket/ We in recession, but let me take a crack at it/I’ll probably take whatever’s left and just split it up/ So everybody that I love can have a couple bucks       – ‘Billionaire’, Bruno Mars/Travie McCoy

Transsexuals in Miss Universe Singapore

From ‘Beauty contests’, 28 April 2012, ST Forum

(MR ACE KINDRED CHEONG): ‘Transgender participants should not be allowed to participate in beauty pageants meant for women (‘Miss Universe Singapore: Could the next one be originally male?'; Wednesday). They will have an advantage over biological women as some, if not all, will have undergone cosmetic surgery. Instead, why not have beauty pageants meant solely for transgender participants?

Transsexualism has been discussed rather openly in Singapore since the early 80’s, where attempts have been made to distinguish the terms ‘transvestite’ from ‘transsexual’, as well as define the colloquial ‘ah kuas’, the latter often used interchangeably between a transsexual, an ‘effeminate’ man or  ‘sissy’ or a ‘male prostitute’, yet SBC deemed it ‘appropriate‘ for use in drama serials.’Transgender’ was coined as recently as the 1990’s, as in LGBT, a term that may be preferred when addressing the community as a whole as it seems to take the ‘surgical knife’ undertones off ‘transsexual’, though both are still commonly used in the media today. ‘Ladyboy’ and ‘bapok’, however, have become derogatory, though ‘bapok’ in Malay literally means ‘effeminate’ (like the equally offensive catch-all that is ‘ah kua’), while ‘Tranny’ and ‘shemale’ are reserved for porn genres. When it comes to transsexualism, even quotation marks can be highly offensive, as in ‘woman’, ‘sister’ or ‘queen’ to describe transwomen (men who became women).  The Malaysian press has even hidden the full word behind an acronym, TS.

Even the same act of ‘going under the knife’ has been euphemised over the years. Today it’s called SRS or ‘sex reassignment surgery ‘, when we used to call it a ‘sex change operation’. The Miss Canada Universe who started it all, Jenna Talackova, herself underwent ‘GENDER reassignment surgery’, the term ‘assignment’ making the procedure as innocuous as amending one’s birth certificate. Like most behavioral deviations, transsexualism has also become medicalised;  if you’re born a man and feel like a woman you have a ‘gender identity disorder (GID)’, which implies that ‘feeling like a woman’ when you’re a man is a form of ‘sickness’. The term ‘intersex’ has been proposed as the ‘third gender’ for official purposes, though being ‘intersexed’ could also refer to a sex development disorder in which one was born with ‘ambiguous’ genitalia i.e hermaphrodites, a term used to describe flowers and worms other than human beings.  Hermaphrodites, other than getting embroiled in sporting arena controversies, also have their own problems dealing with transsexual beauty contestants who were born 100% male.

Allowing transsexuals in pageants puts judges in a spot, even if it may well boost up ratings. You don’t want to appear to cast a sympathy vote nor do you want the LGBT community to complain about discrimination if their representative fails to even make the top 15. Cosmetic surgery also may not give that desired edge over female participants (unless the writer was thinking of shocking beauties like Thailand’s Nong Poy below). But perhaps this is more a victory for ‘medical science’ than anything else. Or rather medical science AND make-up. But wait a minute, since when was Miss Universe JUST about LOOKS (or femininity for that matter) anyway? Didn’t ‘masculine’ Tania Lim take the crown in 2010?

For every Nong Poy...

...There's this.

There are already transgender Miss Universe-ish pageants as we speak, such as the Miss International Queen pageant (which allows transvestites as well), not to be confused with Miss Tourism Queen, Miss Global Beauty Queen and Miss QUEEN OF THE WORLD. Still, this is a vast improvement from our stigmatisation of transsexuals in the 80’s, when they were barred from such contests because it was seen as an ‘embarrassment’ and  a ‘big joke to organisers’. It would be a while before we see transsexuals or transvestites in high-flying positions such as doctors, lawyers or politicians (though some may be closest cross-dressers…there’s a difference!), but pitting them in competition against natural-born females could be symbolic of this social ‘inclusiveness’ that the PAP has been bragging about, even if the platform is as superficial as a beauty contest, or in the promotion of ‘cabaret’ shows (Does that mean our pageants need to be R18 as well?)

Audiences are suckers for underdogs, and since the Miss Universe franchise here needs saving, a transgender Miss Universe Singapore hopeful could very well be a Beautiful Boxer in the making. But first, we’ll have to lift the bar on transsexuals into certain clubs, and that includes Ladies’ Night, to show that we really mean it. Still, it’s hard not to be hypocritical when advocating equality for transsexuals as a heterosexual man. Some would rather be seen in public with an openly gay man than a transsexual, and I for one have reservations about getting a hot oil massage from either.

Ms Singapore Universe: Mice live on moon cheese

From ‘Cheeky or cheesy?’, 10 Sept 2011, article by Kwok Kar Peng in TNP and ‘Is this S’pore’s national costume or rojak’?, 10 Sept 2011, Stomp.

Miss Singapore Universe 2011 Valerie Lim has left netizens agog with her unusual replies to the three questions that were posed to all 89 contestants this year for the Miss Universe pageant’s official online Q&A video interview.

When asked if Lim believes in life on other planets, the 26-year-old said rather jokingly: “I know the moon is not a planet, but I think it’s made of cheese, and so mice live on cheese.” She paused momentarily before adding with a giggle: “The moon cheese!”

Miss Singapore Universe Valerie Lim wasn’t the only Asian contestant who gave quirky replies. Miss Thailand, for example, said the animal she would like to be is ‘plankton’.

Still, English is not the first language of these beauty queens, so something may have got lost in translation.

It’s a bewildering response upon first viewing, but compare Valerie Lim’s answer to the rest of the Miss Universe hopefuls and you’ll realise that this tongue-in-cheek faux pas is a deliberate and bold juxtaposition of an endearing pun and whimsical cliche, delivered with unusually cool confidence and self-effacing child-like humour. Though naysayers would slam this as bimbo playacting and astronomy fans would beg to differ on the actual composition of our satellite, Valerie’s playful answer, if taken the right way by the pageant judges, clearly distinguishes her from the other finalists, who were taking the obvious, but dull, scientific approach and speculating on the probability of aliens using whatever rudimentary knowledge they have about astrobiology and alien invasion movies. Some, like Miss Great Britain, grossly and disappointingly underestimated the expanse of space by using the baseline of  ‘solar system’ instead of the more likely ‘galaxy’ or ‘universe’ when explaining the probability of extraterrestrial life (By the way, she also would like to be a caterpillar. Eew). To be exact, the actual lunar cliche specifies that the moon be made of GREEN cheese, and has been in use, astonishingly,  since the late 1800’s (Thoroughfares, Straits Times Overland Journal, 13 Dec 1879).

If Valerie doesn’t score points on accuracy, surely she deserves credit for saying something unexpected and choosing to steer away from blind speculation and countering one cliche with a cuter one. But maybe this question wasn’t really a test about how many times one has read Carl Sagan’s Cosmos or seen the movie ‘Contact’, but how stylishly one can pull off a somewhat existential poser without sounding like a wannabe astrophysicist. Other than the fact that Valerie could pass off as a nursery school teacher who could trick little kids into believing Jupiter is a really a giant orange, her diction is assuredly cosmopolitan and polished, with only the surprising Malaysian and Indonesian contestants to beat. Couple her unsettling spontaneity with a sense of parody with regard to perceptions of pageant sexualisation and it’s possible that we have a high-scoring MSU in the making.  It would be tragic, however, if she were let down by the perennial bugbear of all MSU contests to date: The national costume segment.

(On Miss Singapore Universe’s costume, Stomp): …”This outfit deliberately combines different styles into a mish-mash of styles and cultures, but I can’t help but feel that it’s all been forced together somehow. “The colours and styles all end up looking ‘rojak’ to me, like someone just tried his or her best to blend it all together.

“Some people have even said it looked like a carpet or curtain. Unfortunately, though I am behind Valerie a hundred percent, I have to agree.

This has bits of Miss China, India and Saudi Arabia mixed in it, which was probably the intention of the designer to weave our multicultural heritage in one costume. Well, you’ve got to admit it’s at least better than our Merlion disaster and last year’s silver bore. Good luck, Valerie.

Postscript: Miss Angola won the title, while Miss Phillipines and Miss China were the two Asians making up the top 5. I guess hoping for a once in a blue MOON event (Miss Singapore in Top 10) is too much to ask for.

Kebaya for beauty pageants instead of swimsuits

From ‘Beauty queens and too much skin’, 6 Aug 2011, Mailbag, Life!

(Musliha Ajmain Janssen):…I would not presume to know whose idea it was to include the swimsuit in the beauty pagents but from what I have learnt, it is more than just about showing off one’s best figure.

In Europe, particularly in Scandinavia and Northern Europe where the climate is usually cold, women do not get a lot of chances to wear a swimsuit. When the seasons change and they do get the chance, it is a very big deal, which is why they call it the ‘swimsuit season’. Furthermore, most of them do not have easy access to the beach.

Women there also vary in body shapes (Italian and Spanish women are known to be more curvaceous) which makes watching the competition a lot of more interesting compared to Singapore, where most of the contestants are naturally thin.

Singapore’s climate enables swimsuit wear at any time of the day…so I fail to understand the point of the swimsuit category other than to merely follow the beauty pageant formula…For example, a kebaya would be a good way for the contestants to show off their figures…A kebaya shows off as much, if not more, than a swimsuit does.

This fuss over swimsuits and sexism comes in the wake of organisers of Miss S’pore World 2011 proposing to remove this category altogether, which would surely spell the downfall of the beauty pageant as we know it. Nothing but words being minced around here, with the writer’s final argument being self-defeating because instead of focusing on talent and intelligence as would be the typical stance of feminist swimsuit naysayers, she recommends instead body hugging kebayas as an excuse to ‘show off as much, if not more’ than a normal swimsuit does, though I fail to see how this is possible unless you’re talking about transparent kebayas.

Well to each his own, and call it sexist if you will, but what all men want to see is a teasing flesh parade, not SIA stewardesses on a catwalk. Bikinis are simple and almost anyone with a stunning figure will look good in it, but choose the wrong kebaya and you risk looking like a Nyonya grandmother. What’s left unspoken here, and in fact everywhere else,  is that bikinis don’t just signal figure or complexion, it is also a dead giveaway of bust size, something that kebayas can easily  conceal, or enhance. And no one can deny the harsh fact that being well-endowed does help in the overall scoring for this segment, and hence overall chance of success.

It’s also baffling to say swimsuit contests are unnecessary because Singaporean women get to wear these at any time of the day, as if it were office attire. This is Singapore, Ms Janssen, not Club Med. A woman looking good in a bikini on a beach is as rare a find as one who dazzles in a kebaya on the streets. But the horrible truth is this, men don’t gawk at women in just bikinis anymore. With the internet and Photoshop, nothing is left to the male imagination. We’re not interested in women putting on a sexy show for the sake of it. We’re interested in the context in which their sexiness is presented. A paparazzi shot of an otherwise conservative actress in swimwear intrigues us, whether or not she has a good figure.  But line up smiling bikini-clad women in a contest and asking of a selection like wares at a slave market and you’ve lost our attention.

Although removing the swimsuit category, or anything hinting at nudity from beauty pageants, may encourage more smart, talented, even chubby women otherwise averse to exposing their bodies to sign up for Miss Universe and the like, what’s the point if no one’s interested?  From a purely commercial perspective then, swimsuit contests are a necessary evil, if only for the minority of men who haven’t yet discovered the internet or prefer to snap shots of Miss World in the flesh at shopping malls.

Swimsuit contests in 1954

1965

Still in one piece in 1988

2010

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