By PARINYAPORN PAJEE
THE NATIONAL THEATRE was bursting at its seams last week as excited residents of Myanmar’s former capital city poured in, hall determined to be part of an event that had never been organised in their lifetimes.
More than 50 years have passed since Myanmar last sent a candidate to the Miss Universe pageant so the enthusiasm for the show came as little surprise. An added incentive for the crowd was the distribution of free tickets and they responded by cheering the lovely ladies throughout the four-hours pageant.
As might be expected with an inaugural contest, there were plenty of glitches but the passion of both the beauties and the audience more than made up for the flaws.
After considerable breath-holding, the judges finally selected Moe Set Wine, a 25-year-old business and marketing graduate of California Lutheran University as the winner. She’ll represent Myanmar in the Miss Universe Pageant in Moscow on November 9.
In the meantime, Mo Set Wine will wear her crown proudly, secure in the knowledge that she beat 39 other contestants.
The pageant was organised by Soe Yu Wai, a 36-year-old publishing executive and the owner of Myanmar’s Hello Madame and The Future magazines. Soe was also successful in winning the rights for three pageants – Miss Universe Myanmar, Miss Myanmar and Miss Teen Universe Myanmar – for the next 15 years.
“Preparations started just 45 days before the pageant so everything was done in a rush. Because they are new to the field, we stepped in to help them,” says Chintana Chalermchaikit, ICC International’s vice president for cosmetics and perfumes. She oversees the BSC brand, which entered the
Myanmar market five years ago. The company also provides cosmetics, lingerie, shoes and swimsuits to the Miss Universe Thailand pageant.
Chintana was joined by veteran Miss Universe Thailand contestant manager Pranome Thavaravej, the international director of John Robert Powers, who provided coaching to the Myanmar team and helped organise the pageant activities.
“They often lacked confidence so I spent a lot of time offering encouragement and reminding them it was their show, not mine,” Chintana says.
With the country just now emerging to the modern era after half a century of military rule, organisers and contestants had one big worry – the swimsuit competition.
However, BSC was able to put minds at ease by providing modest one-piece suits rather than bikinis.
“Just two years ago, showing an upper arm in public was a big deal to Myanmar women,” Chintana explains.
“And while most of the contestants were confident in themselves, they felt awkward about wearing the swimsuit, so we also provided fabric for them to cover their lower bodies,” Pranome says, adding that the contest should help the people of Myanmar prepare to open up to the world. “It will help to boost new businesses such as modelling agencies and event-organising companies.”
After earning independence from the British in 1948, Burma sent representatives to the Miss Universe pageant from 1959 to 1961. That stopped in 1962, when General Ne Win came to power.