Why Miss Malaysia Jane Teoh doesn’t want the national dress to go viral

Teoh says she is happy for the national costume to get attention, but only for the right reasons. — Picture by Hari Anggara
Teoh says she is happy for the national costume to get attention, but only for the right reasons. — Picture by Hari Anggara

PETALING JAYA, Feb 12 — Newly crowned Miss Universe Malaysia Jane Teoh is already anticipating the unveiling of the national dress later this year, a topic of stirring debate in recent times.

Twin Towers and nasi lemak inspired gowns had Malaysians throwing out all sort of ideas about what concept will be conjured up next by the Miss Universe Malaysia Organisation (MUMO) when the Brian Khoo design was revealed last October.

Khoo’s nasi lemak dress in particular, worn by former queen Samantha Katie, drew most flack for its impression, notably the use of “banana leaves” on stalks as part of the figure-hugging ensemble.

It left a bad taste in the mouth of fashion designers who raised issue that the competition’s national costume segment is no longer being taken seriously.

Now MUMO title-holder Teoh has made her feelings clear on the matter.

She told the Malay Mail about her preference to work with Penang-based designers when she represents Malaysia on the world stage, as opposed to someone willing to put together a more daring outfit with the potential to start trending.

Given the option of a “viral” dress or a classier design, Teoh said she would opt for the latter.

“I think it is possible for a renowned designer to come up with something that would make people say ‘wow’ and at the same time help get Malaysia some recognition,” she said.

“The Twin Towers was very contemporary whereas nasi lemak was funny — it captured people’s attention in a fun way. I felt the Twin Towers was more significant of the two.”

However she said: “I’m confident I can pull off anything.”

MUMO bucked the trend with its national costume in 2016 when it swapped the idea of a culturally influenced design to a more overt piece.

Kiran Jassal debuted a Petronas Twin Towers themed bodysuit on behalf of Malaysia at the Miss Universe pageant in Manila the following January.

The silver glitter encrusted design, created by Rizman Ruzaini, featured a tower on each shoulder from the iconic KL landmark.

It created quite a stir on social media when it was unveiled on Jan 5, 2017.

Teoh, a surprise winner at this year’s MUMO pageant in January, said she would like to use her platform to help lesser-known designers back in hometown Penang get recognition for their work.

She suggested Alden Leong, who fashioned her evening gown the night she was crowned, as one name she would be willing to team up with again.

“I have worked with some of the designers from Penang before and they didn’t get the attention they deserve. I would like to work with them again using my title,” she said.

“They helped me through my modelling career when I was a nobody and I would like to return the favour,” she said.

Teoh also addressed criticism she’s too boring to be a pageant queen, comments which surfaced following her crowning achievement a month ago.

“Haters? I take some of what they say in a constructive way. Some was good advice like how I should improve myself. But the ones just bashing you I brush it off,” said the confident business student, who will defer her studies this year.

Her resume was relatively bare compared to some of the contestants running against her that night, including runner-up Alexis Sue-Ann, popular TV and radio host who, among achievements, listed climbing Mount Kinabalu to raise RM50,000 for The National Cancer Society of Malaysia last year.

Although Teoh is able to boast of representing Malaysia at a world pageant before, having claimed first place in the Face of Beauty International contest in 2016.

She went on to finish in the top 10 at the final, saying the experience helped her become “the whole package” required to be Miss Universe Malaysia champ.

“I trained hard in the catwalk and prepared well for Q&A. I made most progress practicing to speak in front of the public,” she said, citing the reason she deserved to win.

She conceded that other contestants who finished within the top four were “crowd favourites” and perhaps she’d come across in a negative light to some observers.

“People might think I’m arrogant but I’m quite cheerful and quirky in my own way.”

Following the “career-changing moment” as she prepares to embark on the next 12 months as Miss Universe Malaysia, she plans to use social media in an effort to change perceptions.

“Before this, I didn’t understand the importance of audience engagement. I need my fans to get to know me better. I need to change perceptions of my haters, turn them into my supporters.

“I have a voice now, I have followers and I’ll use it for a good cause.”

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