Thursday June 4, 2009
The charming and positively lovely, Miss Malaysia
By S. INDRAMALAR
Charm and positive thinking wins the title for Miss Malaysia/Universe 2009.
OF COURSE, she’s beautiful. To comment on that would simply be pointing out the obvious, given the fact that Joannabelle Ng Li Vun is the newly crowned Miss Malaysia/Universe 2009. However, the most striking thing about Ng is not her beauty nor her unusual name, but her friendly disposition and the curious mix of naiveté and confidence that she exudes, which is both disarming and refreshing.
Right off the bat, she makes it clear that she loves being a model and now, a beauty queen, more than anything.
“I am happy, of course. It’s like a dream come true. I mean, isn’t it every girl’s dream to become a beauty queen? I have photos of myself dressed up really nicely, with red nail polish and lipstick, posing for the camera. I was three years old then! Can you imagine that?” laughs the 20-year-old from Penampang, Sabah, who won RM50,000 and a berth in next month’s Miss Universe pageant in The Bahamas.
She also won two subsidiary titles during the Malaysian pageant – “Audience Favourite” and “Miss Friendship”.
“My mother trained me to sing on stage when I was just three and a year later, I danced the Hawaiian hula at a show. I guess you could say I’ve been preparing for this role (as beauty queen) for a very long time.”
Despite maintaining a positive attitude throughout the competition, the reality of winning took some time to set in. When her name was called out, Ng didn’t respond immediately. “I couldn’t hear what the MC (master of ceremonies) was saying so when they announced my name, I really didn’t know what was going on. It was not like I was putting on an act pretending to be surprised. It was only after someone congratulated me that I realised I had won. Honestly, I went numb for a moment,” recalls the 172.5cm model.
The first people she wanted to share the news with was her family back in Sabah, whom Ng credits for her win. “I could not call my parents straightaway as the pageant finished really late. But when I called my Mum the next morning and told her the news, she screamed and shouted the news to my father! They are really happy and since they live in a really small town, the news travelled very fast. My mum said she was treated like a superstar as all our neighbours came over to see her,” adds Ng.
Her family, she explains, is her biggest source of pride and joy.
“I come from a very simple and poor family. My father is a mechanic and my mother (of Chinese and Indian descent), a housewife. She tends a small chicken farm and vegetable patch outside our home. Sometimes, she sells egg and beef rolls and other foodstuff at the market.
“I am not embarrassed about my family at all. I am really proud of them and where I’m from. Why shouldn’t I be? They are the reason for who I am today. My parents have always encouraged me to fulfill my dreams because they don’t want me to have a hard life and struggle like they did. I love them very much and can’t wait to go back to spend time at home,” says Ng, who has an 18-year-old sister and two younger brothers aged 14 and eight.
The week leading up to the pageant was gruelling. But despite a jam-packed schedule and barely enough sleep, Ng says she enjoyed the time spent with the 17 other finalists.
“We were competing with each other but we got along well. They are all beautiful and intelligent, and they too, are winners in my eyes,” exclaims Ng. “And, there were no catfights although some people would like to think there were!” she clarifies.
The contestants had the help of a groomer who made sure the girls looked after themselves and did not over-eat!
“Our groomer Peter Lum was really vigilant. We’d all be sitting around watching TV and he would just observe us. He’d watch what we did and what we ate. Once, I ate a piece of chocolate cake and boy, did I get a scolding! He was very strict but it’s only because he wanted us to look our best. I lost 3kg in just one week.
“It was hard work but it paid off in the end,” she says.
Ng was just 16 when she participated in her first pageant – the Sabah Top Model Search – five years ago. Though she was the youngest competitor, Ng proved age was no barrier and emerged the winner.
“I was a little intimidated by the other contestants who were all older and more experienced than I was. But I was the tallest and won. That gave me a lot of confidence,” she shares.
After winning the competition, Ng worked as a part-time model in Sabah while completing her secondary education. When she was 18, she signed on with Simones Models in Kuala Lumpur and began her career as a full-time model. Among some of her achievements are becoming a finalist in the Seventeen magazine Cover Girl Search and being one of FHM magazine’s Top 10 Girls Next Door.
It wasn’t all bright lights and fancy clothes though. A year ago, Ng had an accident that left her with second degree burns on her face and neck. “It was really painful and at first, I was really upset. Can you imagine how awful it is for a girl to have burns on her face? I was in the hospital for a couple of weeks and looked like a mummy as my face was all bandaged up.
“My family and friends came to see me every day, and helped me to look at the situation positively. I made sure I ate, slept and rested well, and when the doctors took off the bandages they were really surprised that I had healed so well.
“I think my positive attitude helped. Believe it or not, the accident gave me more confidence as I knew I could handle a lot more than I thought I was capable of,” she says.
Ng is a firm believer in the power of positive affirmation. She has read The Secret (by Rhonda Byrne) and watched the movie.
She holds firmly to the belief that positive thoughts can manifest themselves in different ways.
“For this competition, I created a dream vision board where I pasted pictures of past Miss Malaysia and Miss Universe winners and looked at it everyday. As can you see, I won! It works, I tell you. You just have to believe in it,” she says triumphantly.
Despite her win, Ng has no delusions. She realises that she has a lot of work to do before leaving for the Miss Universe pageant.
“I have a lot to learn. I will be representing Malaysia and this is not a responsibility I take lightly.
“My English is not very good, and I need to continue my English lessons so that I can speak fluently and express myself better.
“Also, I am naturally very expressive when I talk, and often use gestures and touch people when I speak to them. I need to learn to control myself and carry myself with poise and elegance.
“But I am not going to go overboard and be pretentious. Although I am taking English classes at the British Council (in Kuala Lumpur), I certainly won’t have a British accent. I am Malaysian so I will speak Manglish, that’s who I am!” states the candid beauty.
Is she nervous about competing with beauties from all over the world?
“Of course, I am but I will try my best. But I’m not going to be too stressed out about it. I’m going to look at it as a chance to meet new people, make new friends and learn new things.”
Ng doesn’t have to look far for a role model. Her aim is to become just like Malaysian top model Amber Chia, also from Sabah.
“She is my role model. She is not just a model, she has become a brand. When you think of modelling in Malaysia, you think of Amber Chia. I hope I can be as successful and make myself ‘a brand’ too,” she says.
“I am confident about myself and the way I look, and like the feeling of being on stage in front of an audience.”
She is, however, realistic enough to know that she needs something to fall back on and plans to enrol in a diploma course once she returns from The Bahamas.
“I could not pursue tertiary education before this because my family couldn’t afford to pay for my education. Even a diploma course costs a lot. Now, with the help of the pageant organisers, I can actually go to college,” says Ng, who plans to either study design or business.
For the moment though, she is focussed on competing. No matter how Ng fares in the Miss Universe pageant, there is little doubt that she will be her charming self and that’s perfectly fine.
coordination: Julia Leong, MIFA
Outfit: Tangs at Pavilion, Kuala Lumpur
Hair: Sean Wyn, Esprit Salon by Miko
Make-up: Taymie Chin, ExpressionMaster
Tiara and jewellery: Tracy Ong, Elegance Club
Location: The Royale Chulan, Kuala Lumpur