The New Paper
Oct 16, 2016
Shoulders back, chest out and chin up.
Clad in their glamorous evening gowns, the Miss Universe Singapore (MUS) 2016 finalists spent Friday evening practising their runway walks and twirls at their final gown-fitting session.
"I had only five minutes to practise my walk in the dress," Sonya Branson, 25, tells The New Paper on Sunday.
"I'm a little worried because my dress has quite a bit of material at the bottom and I have to lift it up slightly while I walk and try not to (trip on the hem)."
Sonya, a full-time model and University of Western Australia psychology graduate, hopes that her previous experience modelling at bridal fashion shows will make up for the little time she had to practise in the gown.
"It's not my first time walking in big dresses so I'm banking on my experience (in almost 10 fashion shows)," she says.
The girls will be parading their glamorous gowns at the grand final this evening at The Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel.
The 16 gowns for the 15 contestants and former winner Lisa Marie White cost between $1,000 and $2,000 each and were made in just over two weeks by Indonesian designer Karla Jasmina, 33.
And Ms Karla is confident the finalists will be "just fine" in the dresses.
She says: "The dress each girl will be wearing is not randomly selected. I make sure the girls match the designs well.
"My passion for creating designs doesn't stop at creating (the gowns), it goes beyond that and that's why I fussed over the girls so much this evening.
"I wanted to make sure they felt comfortable and that they would be able to manoeuvre around in the dresses easily."
Finalist Vanessa Tay, 19, tells TNPS she "felt like a princess" the moment she put her dress on.
"I pictured myself in a wedding dress that's similar to this so it was really emotional for me," says the English drama undergraduate.
But then Vanessa realised that the dress had a low neckline that she wasn't used to.
"I don't usually wear outfits that are revealing," she says.
But there was a silver lining.
"It's very tight-fitting, which means that I can only take small steps. That also means I have no choice but to walk elegantly," she adds.
Adding to the glitz and glamour of the night is bespoke jewellery with Swarovski stones created by Mr Eduardo Liem.
Mr Liem, a Netherlands-based designer who has specialised in custom-made haute couture jewellery for 12 years, has designed jewellery for the Miss Universe Germany and Miss Universe Holland winners.
The 45-year-old says he made "20 necklaces, 20 earrings and 12 bracelets" just for the MUS finalists.
"Expect a lot of bling on the ladies tonight," he says. "But don't worry, I didn't go over top. The idea behind this collection was a classic tres chic look."
Finalist Nutan Rai, 24, a nurse, says: "The jewellery is so glamorous. I've never worn anything as fancy as this before. After trying it on, I just can't wait to walk on the runway and feel like a princess."
Step by step
Just over a week before the pageant's grand final today, the 15 Miss Universe Singapore 2016 finalists practised how to strut down the runway.
And they were taught by one of the best in the business - Mrs Hanis Hussey, 52, who has modelled for Yves Saint Laurentin Paris and was the first Singaporean model to appear on the cover of Time Magazine Asia in 1997.
Last month, shortly after the finalists were announced, Mrs Hussey was at the Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) News Centre to coach the girls, drilling them on posture and poise.
At her second session with the girls, she focused on teaching them how to "act like models".
Cheryl Chou, a fine arts student at Lasalle College of the Arts, feels she has benefited from Mrs Hussey's lessons.
She tells The New Paper on Sunday: "She gave us tips on how to position our feet... and how to pose."
The 20-year-old also recalls Mrs Hussey's advice on how to maintain your balance.
"It's very difficult. If you're not posing correctly, it's very easy to tumble... You should just transition to another pose (that would help you to balance better)," she says.
Fellow finalist Luisa Gan, 22, also had much to learn from Mrs Hussey.
As a model and actress, Luisa feels she has a slight advantage over her less experienced peers.
But she is not allowing herself to get complacent.
"Hanis showed us a different side to modelling. She gave us a lot of tips on how to walk," she says.
More than anything else, Luisa was just excited to be in the presence of a professional.
"When I heard it was Hanis... I thought, 'Is it that same Hanis?' It was such an honour to be taught by her," she says.
Hazel Tay, 25, adds: "Hanis is so professional. It's great to learn from an expert."
The data analyst, who has never modelled before, discovered that catwalking was not as easy as she thought it would be.
She says: "I didn't know there was a technique, I thought models just walked... Then there are the expressions. I didn't know I had to think about that."
Mrs Hussey also taught the girls how to build up their self-esteem.
She explains: "When they are on the catwalk, there is a lot of fear about showing off their flaws."
She adds that the swimwear round is even more challenging as the girls will need to not only master walking in six-inch heels, but to also appear confident despite wearing only a bathing suit.
Mrs Hussey's tip? It's all about changing one's perspective.
She says: "When they are on the catwalk, they look good but they don't feel that they do.
"I wanted to show them that when they actually look at themselves in a mirror, they will be amazed by how beautiful they are."
She believes the girls' hard work has paid off and she was pleasantly surprised when she saw them a second time.
"You could see a big transformation compared to their first session... They're very good."
Crown fit for a queen
No pageant queen is complete without her crown.
Jewellery brand ORRO designed the Miss Universe Singapore 2016 crown, and it truly befits royalty.
Costing over $80,000, the crown took four months to create, from its conceptualisation to its crafting.
The state-of-the-art crown was designed using 3D-modelling computer software, which calculates the perfect position for each gemstone.
The crown is adorned with 1,583 individually crafted pieces of diamond simulants of different sizes, totalling approximately 124.09 carats, including seven yellow pear-cut gems.
ORRO's team of designers incorporated Singapore's spirit in their creation, which features a leaf-like filigree design, symbolising Singapore's reputation as a garden city.
- Darienne Sim