Thai TV audiences and “netizens” were flabbergasted – and many of them relieved – last week when 22-year-old Nonthawan “Maeya” Thongleng of Surat Thani province was crowned Miss Thailand World 2014.
After all, the 173-centimetre-tall Southern Thai beauty – who had the darkest skin tone of all 28 finalists – may represent a minority on contemporary Thai beauty stages, but in reality is more representative of the majority of olive- and tan-skinned Thai females, who are often made to feel insecure by a pop-culture and mass-media which have religiously emphasised and promoted “healthy, white skin”.
“I’m heading to the beach to get a beautiful tan now!” posted one light-skinned Phuket-based Facebooker, Charuayporn.
Maeya – who will represent Thailand at the 64th edition of the Miss World pageant in London in December this year – certainly has everything to be grateful for now; the prestige came with a handsome treasure-box of prizes, including B1 million cash; a pearl-inlaid crown from the Phuket Pearl Group valued at B1.3 million; a brand new, white Toyota Camry 2.0 G Extremo worth B1.36 million; a new town-home with land worth B1.95 million; a Muang Thai life insurance policy worth B5 million; more jewellery from the Phuket Pearl Group worth B99,000 and a hoard of other health, spa and leisure perks.
The first and second runners-up crowns (also designed and made in Phuket) went to Venus “Pat” Nanthachai and Chatrarika “Care” Sitthipom – both typical, light-skinned Thai knock-outs – looked somewhat out-of-place posing on stage for photographs next to the new winner.
Maeya, a 3rd-year Airline Business Management student at Stamford International University, attributed her win to her ability to speak confidently in English.
The contest judging panel evaluates candidates on their beauty, confidence, understanding of global, social and international matters, among others.
“I am aware of the importance of English language. As we know, AEC [Asean Economic Community] is around the corner and English language will be very important. In the past, I could hardly speak English and was afraid of conversing with foreigners. I challenged myself ... I knew this would push me to develop new skills,” she said in a press statement.
“I am now far more confident and able to converse much better in English and this will be a tremendous help when I represent Thailand at the Miss World 2014 competition in London at the end of this year,” she added.
“The benefits I gained from taking Stamford’s International Program have helped me in every aspect of my life, and given me a strong base in English with which I need to succeed.”
Maeya won Thailand’s praise with her range of skills and talents which include singing, modeling, exceptional English capability and her professional outlook, which paved the way for her excellent responses to the competition’s final round of questions.