Eileen Feng, on being Miss Singapore International 2018

September 20, 2018

What started out as a fun way to kill time in summer became one of the most pivotal journeys I’ve embarked on: my on-a-whim decision to participate in this year’s edition of Miss Singapore Pageant International (our longest running local charity pageant that is the Singapore charter for international titles Miss International, Miss Supranational, and Miss Asia Pacific International, organised by the non-profit  Singapore Womens' Association), with a close friend that I met in Tembusu, became (pardon the cliché) the journey of self-discovery I never knew I needed. Other than being afforded a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to represent Singapore on an international stage, competing and winning in a beauty pageant also made me question a lot of assumptions I had about my perceptions of beauty, my notion of purpose, and about myself.

I’m not going to extol beauty pageants, and it’s definitely not for everyone. What I do know is that pageantry isn’t big in Singapore, and for good reason. The way beauty pageants are organised perpetuates the idea that beauty and confidence should be reserved for those blessed with physical features that align with the conventional ideals of beauty, leaving little room for diversity and inclusion. Pageants are quickly being left behind in our pursuit of progressive and liberal values, but I believe they have the authority as platforms to celebrate the very values they are currently knocking-heads with. Ultimately, I do hope that my yearlong stint as a beauty queen would be a meaningful one not just for myself, and I do hope to take up the mantle in instigating relevant and meaningful conversations about my experience and what it can mean to others.


The Tembusu (Fagraea fragrans) is a large evergreen tree in the family Gentianaceae. It is native to Southeast Asia. Its trunk is dark brown, with deeply fissured bark, looking somewhat like a bittergourd. It grows in an irregular shape from 10 to 25m high. Its leaves are light green and oval in shape. Its yellowish flowers have a distinct fragrance and the fruits of the tree are bitter tasting red berries, which are eaten by birds and fruit bats.