Friday the 13th Beauties
Friday, June 13, will forever remain bitter-sweet day in the history of the Miss Malaysia Petite Pageant. A competition which pits the beauty, intelligence, grace and style of "small" ladies (contestants must be below 5’5" or 165cm), the pageant held at Holiday Villa Subang did, in many ways live up to the promise of a "grand and glamorous event".
As far as beauty pageants go, praise must go to Miss Malaysia Petite organizers, Aspendoz Event Management Sdn. Bhd., for staging a professional show. However, their decision to retain Raymond Goh as their emcee, after his cringing effort last year, remains a mystery.
Really, he was irrelevant to the proceedings, what with him babbling about how "……you can almost feel the still air on stage." Huh? Thankfully, his failed jokes and blunders didn’t detract from the fact that the 13 girls vying for the title, did put tremendous effort into the show.
The three preliminary rounds -sports wear, swimwear and evening wear – were over in a flash. The girls worked hard on their choreography and presented themselves well. The concept of the evening wear section was particularly novel. Each contestant comes on stage with a mask to the tune of The Phantom of the Opera, which had a great effect. The music perfectly complemented the need for elegance and most of the girls delivered. In fact, the soundtrack for the night was pretty cool, although the melancholic Theme from the Godfather somehow wasn’t the appropriate tune to use when announcing the winners.
The five finalists for the night were Staphanie Chin, Catherine Cheah, Noni Mohamad, Amy Lui and Fahyu Hanim. And they faced the dreaded interview round next. this round should be the yardstick in any beauty contest. No country wants a dumb, albeit beautiful women, to represent it at the international competition.
Contestant No. 1 Staphanie scored highest during the interview. To the question "What do you think is the biggest problem in Malaysia today?", she replied confidently, "The lack of love, violence and child abuse. I feel pity for those infants with no sins. Which is why everybody has to try and have a loving heart." A well thought of response and it come as a big surprise, when the result were announced and she didn’t feature in the top three.
Twenty-year-old Amy Lui emerged the eventual champion. She also impressed during the interview with her natural confidence and good command of English. Her response to the question of "Where do you see yourself in 10 years?" demonstrated determination, ambition and drive when she replied, "Probably as a manageress of a top company as well as a good wife and mother." She won RM6,000.00 in cash plus a host of assorted prizes and the chance to represent Malaysia at the Miss Petite International Final in Houston, Texas, USA in July. However, her sweet victory was marred by a sensational turn of events when the pageant was over.
On a night which should have been most memorable for the first-time beauty pageant contestant, her victory was over shadow by the arrest of the first and second runners-up, Fahyu Hanim, 18, and Noni Mohamad, 19, and another contestant, 23 years old Sharina Shaari, by the Selangor Religious Department. Coincidentally, June 13 also happens to be the Birthday of Fahyu.
The Immediate reasons given were that the girls has broken the Syariah Law and on the next day, the girl was charged under Section 31 of the Syariah Crimes Enactment Selangor 1995 (EJS) which stipulates that Muslim women are not allowed to take part in a beauty contest, and under Section 2 of the same Enactment for being indecently dressed. In the end, the girls were allowed bail of RM2,500.00 and were scheduled to be tried in the Syariah Court on July 1 for the first offence and July 2 for the second. Should they be found guilty, the girls could face a maximum fine of RM4,000.00 or three years’ jail or both.
Admittedly, this twist to the tale cames rather unexpectedly as Sean Chia, the event director, said, "Of course, we didn’t anticipate this. After all, we had many Miss Malaysia who are Malays. And we did not receive any directives or guidelines from the Religious Department on this issue."
The arrests have send beauty pageant organizers scrambling to find quick solution, if there actually is one. Apparently, there had been no other such incidents in other States’ finals.
On the same weekend, two other pageants were going on in Kuala Lumpur with Malay contestants taking part and yet they didn’t come under fire from the KL Religious Department. Also, many past Muslim beauty queen are now celebrities in their own right and serve to inspire younger girls to aim for bigger and better things.
So, Sean aims to understand the problem by uniting all pageant organizers to find out from the Religions Department just what the guidelines for beauty pageant are. Until they get some concrete answers to question such as "Are Muslim women allowed to joint pageants?", "Is the Syariah Law same in every State?" and "What about fashion shows, dances, etc?", Sean said that Aspendoz will still hold the titles for Fahyu and Noni. "After all, they haven’t broken any criminal laws."
Article by Eugene Ng, Day & Night Magazine dated July 6, 1997