The New Paper
25 July 2016
Shi Lim took part in Miss Universe Singapore (MUS) 2013 because she thought it was something "new and exciting to do".
She won the title, but little did she know what she was in for.
Lim had just graduated from New York University with Bachelor of Arts in individualised study (specialising in cognitive science) and was helping her father with his business investments at the time.
She told The New Paper: "I was bored with whatever I was doing back then. I had also dabbled in some freelance modelling so I thought I'd use those skills in the pageant.
"In a lot of girls, there's this desire to be on stage, so I wanted to see how that would turn out for me."
This year, Singapore's most prestigious pageant is back in a big way, with new presenter Singapore Turf Club and new imaging partner Canon Singapore on board.
For the first time, TNP will be MUS 2016's official media partner and co-organiser with the Miss Universe Singapore Organisation.
The winner will receive $10,000 in cash and a Canon camera worth $1,000.
Registration is now open to women aged 18 to 27. (See report, inset.)
It was during MUS that Lim realised the spotlight came with its fair share of negativity.
"I don't think the public was very accepting, not only of me but of pageant queens in general, so having to deal with that was difficult," said the 27-year-old.
She received the most backlash after she won.
"While the competition was ongoing, there were a lot of Internet trolls saying negative things about the contestants. But after I won, I heard everything from 'she's too short', 'she's too fat', 'she's too skinny' or 'she's not good or pretty enough'," said Lim, who stands at 1.77m.
She admitted that even though her family and friends urged her to ignore these haters who "didn't even know her", the comments were "a big hit" to her self-esteem.
"When you're actually in that position, it's not as easy as that. You do take it to heart. I was really quite depressed for awhile because I wasn't equipped to handle everything that was being thrown my way," said Lim, who even "dropped off" social media for a time because any picture she posted "would get really mean comments".She "learnt a lot as a person" from being beaten down, and emerged with more self-awareness.
She said: "I had to force myself out of my own shell and become confident... You either let people's opinions trample all over you, or you rise above it and become a stronger person.
"When you're in a (pageant), you're surrounded by so many other beautiful girls and you're being judged for your appearance.
"With so many people coming to a consensus based on my looks, I needed to know for myself what was beautiful within me, beyond other people's validation.
"That was a big question I had to deal with and (it forced me) to look inwards and understand myself as a person more."
She added that the MUS experience made her "grow up and become less naive", and gave her a "better idea" of what she wanted to do in life.
She now knows that being in front of the camera isn't something she wants to pursue as a career.
Lim is still assisting her father but hopes to pursue freelance writing.
Being Miss Universe Singapore also led her to find love.
Her businessman-boyfriend is the older brother of Miss Universe Myanmar 2013, whom she met at the international pageant in Moscow that year.
"(MUS) is a very unique experience that not many people will have. For me, (there) was a lot of personal growth and coming into myself.
"Regardless of what you take away from it, you will never come out learning nothing.
"It will be something you cherish for life," she said.
See photos related to the article in the gallery below.