By Christy Lau
After making waves in last year’s national Miss Universe pageant, Miss Universe Thailand 2018 second runner up Vena Praveenar Singh is ready to write the next chapter of her story.
When Vena Praveenar Singh entered the Miss Universe Thailand (MUT) contest last year, pageant fans were captivated by her strikingly exotic looks and graceful stage presence. She is a natural in front of the camera with a conﬁdence that belies her freshness to the pageant scene. After nailing the preliminary competitions, many hoped that Vena would go on to claim the crown, making her a quick fan favourite. However despite securing the second runner up position, her win still paved the way for the future of pageant contestants who have now come to recognise and appreciate diversity. Suﬃce it to say, joining MUT has opened doors for this vivacious young lady, and hundreds of her fans know that this is only the beginning of a bright career. Currently involved in several projects with the Miss Universe Thailand Organisation while studying Russian at Thammasat University, this go-getter has become a passionate multitasker. But no success story comes without its set of challenges, and this Indian beauty who hails from Chiang Mai has faced her own demons. She shares her journey with us today, as she strives to become a voice for young women to empower themselves
Why did you decide to join Miss Universe Thailand?
I have been watching it for years and it greatly inspired me. It’s a place where women can show their capabilities and share their thoughts on important issues. Pageants aren’t just about beauty anymore. The winner is not necessarily the most beautiful person in the room, but she is ultimately the most unique and smart, and this is made clear by the answer she gives during the ﬁnal question and answer round.
How did you prepare for the competition?
Firstly, I exercised to get in shape. Secondly, I kept up-to-date with international aﬀ airs and Thai news so I was prepared for any question. I also attended relevant courses on how to walk and tackle the ﬁnal rounds. I went to the Miss Grand Thailand pageant as well to see how it all works.
What was the audition process like?
You ﬁrst apply online, and then you go for the actual audition, where they watch you walk and ask you some preliminary questions. After that, they have an attitude interview, where you are required to bring in your parents. When someone joins the pageant, they want to make sure you are who you say you are, so that is the purpose of the attitude interview. After that, we spend a couple of weeks partaking in activities to get to know each other better, before the ﬁnal award and crowning night.
Was it what you expected?
I expected it to be a lot more stressful honestly. But every girl was so friendly and we were all happy to have each other. This made me feel like it wasn’t a competition.
What was the toughest part?
I think the hardest part was not letting what other people think get to you. It requires a lot of self-control and discipline. When you are in the limelight, people, fans included, will say things about you that can be mean. They always want you to change something about yourself and it can be anything from “why don’t you whiten your skin?” to the other extreme, “why don’t you get a tan?” So the toughest part is knowing how to compose yourself and block it out.
How do you deal with negative feedback?
I always remind myself why I am here. Firstly, I am doing this for me because I am passionate about the pageant, and secondly, I want to help other girls who struggle with self-doubt.
I was born Indian in a Thai community, and so, when I was younger I was constantly bullied because I didn’t look like other Thai girls. I feel like this needs to stop. I want to change that by showing that an Indian can also be a beauty queen and represent Thailand on the world stage.
What was your most memorable moment from the competition?
It was the last day of the awards show. That was the culmination of so many weeks of work and I really felt the true meaning of what I was doing and what I was doing it for. Before I went on stage, many of the other contestants came up to me and told me to be conﬁ dent and to be myself. Even though I didn’t make it to the ﬁnal round, they were still cheering for me. That touched me a lot.
What would you have done if you had won the crown?
I would set up a campaign to empower girls who struggle with bullying. I used to live in a Thai rural area and people always harassed others who didn’t have white skin. We need to change that mindset, and I would do it through speech-sharing sessions with some other empowered women, such as previous winners of MUT like Maria Poonlertlarp.
Not many people are aware that you are currently studying Russian. Why did you decide to pursue this language?
Since a young age, I have always been interested in studying languages, and I have had dreams of becoming a tour guide because I loved travelling. When I got into university, I wanted to study English, but many students were already pursuing that, so I thought I’ll try Russian to stand out from the crowd and get more work opportunities as a guide or translator.
Could you share some beauty tips with our female readers?
I would say it’s most important to drink more water. You don’t have to put lots of cream on your skin to stay hydrated. I try to drink as much water as I can and I stay away from sodas. I also love wearing coconut oil before going to bed, as sleeping in an air-conditioned room can really dry out the skin.
What is your ﬁtness routine like?
Before I joined the pageant, I went to Muay Thai classes every day. It burns a lot of calories and helps build muscle. I also did a lot of weightlifting.
How have you grown since the ﬁrst MUT auditions?
I have grown a lot. I learnt that you should always be yourself and never try to change for others. If you want to dress a certain way, than you should. It doesn’t matter what others say or think about you. I also realised that you must always put your opinions forward. If you don’t like something, say it. One day, my makeup artist tried a new look on me, which came out great, but I didn’t feel like myself. So all day, I didn’t feel conﬁdent and I wish I had told him.
Are you planning to join any other pageants?
Not at the moment, but maybe in the future. I want to focus on my career and ﬁnish my studies ﬁrst. Yes, my dream is to become Miss Universe, but let’s see how it goes, as I must wait three years before I can apply again.
So what are you focusing on now?
For now I am currently taking acting lessons as I want to star in a local movie. I would also like to travel to Russia next year and maybe ﬁnd work as a Thai/Russian translator.
How has the pageant experience changed your life?
Being in this pageant gave me a lot of opportunities and I have gotten to know a lot of inﬂ uential people. It also gave me a certain reputation, as people know that I am currently studying Russian, and so they approach me for collaborations that could potentially help my future.
What advice would you give to women who are looking to compete in a pageant?
The ﬁrst thing is be yourself. The second would be to be kind to others and to yourself. I believe that whatever situation you are in, if you are thoughtful of others, you will do better. All in all, you don’t have to be the most beautiful girl and you don’t have to be the smartest, you just need to be you.