I'm super excited to present my third guest on Tea with Queens, Eileen Feng! As mentioned in my previous TeaWithQueens, the MSPI (Miss Singapore Pageant International) recruitment is currently underway, so if you're interested, you can sign up here, or visit the MSPI (Miss Singapore Pageant International) Facebook page to find out more.
First off, let me introduce you to Ms Singapore International 2018, Ms Eileen Feng. Eileen has always had an interest in joining a pageant, but decided against it due to the prejudice and stigma that came with it. That changed when she decided to sign up for MSPI, hoping that it would allow her to make some positive changes in her life. Needless to say, she took away so much more from the pageant than she had expected.
Having joined the pageant while she was still studying in University, she admitted that deciding to join the pageant was a difficult decision to make, let alone execute. I asked her how did she manage it? She said that she simply took a backseat in school for that semester and adjusted her own expectations for herself, however, she still found herself disappointed in her work. But the time spent juggling these two huge milestones in her life made her treasure the time spent on them, and how passionate she was about her major in architecture and the pageant.
Prior to her experience with MSPI, she admitted to sharing the same prejudice against both beauty pageants and pageant organisations - "that it's vapid and reserved for those in the entertainment industry". However, she said that has all changed since she decided to embark on her journey. The pageant has provided her with experiences that have allowed her to learn and grow in ways beyond her imagination.
"Looking at the bigger picture, I struggle to realign my feminist ideals with that of pageantry since a lot of assumptions that drive pageants are also the ones that feminists aim to deconstruct. I also recognise that this really isn’t something open to anyone and everyone, so I do hope that in the future there is a way make the invaluable benefits of participating in a competition like this more accessible to society as a whole!"
She shared that her preparation for the local pageant was mostly self-lead (via the internet and social media), but the former queens definitely leant a helping hand to make sure the contestants were familiar with the basics. She mentioned that one of her favourite parts of preparing for her international pageant was shopping for her make up! I'm sure most of us girls can relate!
Looking back, she admitted that she would have done a few things differently (like liaising with more sponsors or local businesses, and practicing her walk a lot more), but she was happy to have full control of her preparations for her international pageant. Part of the reason why she wanted to collaborate with more local businesses was to raise awareness for them.
"I said that because it was something that I thought was part of the agenda of pageantry — a platform to raise awareness, be it in socially (social issues) or economically (publicity), and naturally it would make sense to represent Singapore with local brands...
...I think a good example of fully utilising the pageant platform is this year’s Miss Universe, Catriona Gray! She has been consistently and strategically collaborating with local talent throughout her local and international pageant journey not only to highlight local culture and economy, but also as a result instilled so much national pride for her country."
I thought that was very smart way of using her title as a platform to help local businesses! However, she admitted she wasn't able to source and contact the right brands in time, so unfortunately, her plan did not 100% go according to plan. Despite that, this experience made her more conscious of the little details and the effects of her decision making.
Eileen was definitely shocked when they announced she had won the title of Miss Singapore International. Her sub awards included the Body Beautiful Award.
Eileen also shared that she was hoping to get the Miss Singapore Supranational title, instead of the Miss Singapore International as the international pageant would have interfered with her studies. As mentioned before, she had come to appreciate how much she loved her architecture major in NUS, and she wasn't allowed to take a semester off, but thankfully, the school was supportive of her pageant journey, and she was allowed to take 3 weeks off for her trip to Japan, which she was very grateful for.
I think this sort of support that was provided for Eileen is something that I'd like to highlight. The flexibility that the school exhibited for her has allowed her to fulfil not only her responsibility to her title, but to her own dreams. The education system can be strict, but I'm glad that they didn't make her take the entire year off just for the 3 weeks she was representing the country in Japan.
Needless to say, she did well during her international pageant as well! She clinched the continental title of Miss International Asia. For those who aren't familiar, a continental title is a title that's decided purely by the votes from the contestants.
I asked her to describe her experience in the International Pageant, and the word she gave me was 'Serendipitous', which I suppose is understandable, considering that she was surprised about winning the local title and that she was aiming for a different title as well. It's also a good thing, since she was able to rise to the occasion with the help of the people around her and bring back an amazing title. Each pageant's program and values are different, and she mentioned that it was a good thing that she won the Miss Singapore International title afterall, as the title's philosophy and execution aligns a lot with her own views of pageantry.
As for her views on women empowerment, Eileen shared that it was something she felt very strongly about. We are all aware of the strict gender roles that have been passed down from the older generations, and of course, these roles have been blurred and diluted over the years. However, some cultures preserve the ideology of subversion and subordination of women, and some women still suffer from these cultures - be it harassment, belittlement or abuse.
Despite all this, she also mentioned she didn't believe in throwing the blame or discriminating against the other gender. The biological differences between the two genders will never allow the levelling of the playing field, but to her, that's the beauty of diversity.
"Women can’t do everything that a man can do, but we can do everything that a man can’t, and we should celebrate the abilities of both sexes equally."
With all this being said, it's time to brighten up the mood with some words of advice from Eileen! To some of you ladies who are still contemplating on joining a beauty pageant for whatever reason your heart has, or if you're just thinking about making a huge change in your life and you're 'stuck', her advice to you is to be hopeful and optimistic enough to dream big, at the same time, be savvy about it. Make sure all the proper preparations have been done and reach out to people who are experts in the field or who you feel would give you sound advice.
"A flower doesn't think of competing with the flower next to it, it just blooms" As mentioned before, MSPI is organised by SWA. The pageant is the highlight of their annual Charity Gala Dinner as well! If you're between the ages of 18 to 27 and you feel that you embody the theme of 'Beauty with a Heart and Purpose', you're already on your way to embarking on an amazing journey with them. MSPI's recruitment is currently underway and if you're looking to enter, you can do so via here.
Of course, if you would like to find out a little more, you can read up on the pageant via these links: Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/MissSingaporePageantInternationalSWA's Website: https://www.singaporewomenassociation.org/
I hope you guys have enjoyed this blogpost and that you're inspired by Eileen's journey. If you'd like to connect with her on social media, you can do so via her instagram! I'll see you guys in my next blogpost!