The New Paper
8 September 2016
Ariel from Disney film The Little Mermaid exchanged her voice for love.
Miss Audrey Chen, who was crowned the first Miss Mermaid Singapore on Tuesday night, had sacrificed her hair in support of cancer patients.
With her buzz cut, the 25-year-old entrepreneur stood out among the other 11 finalists at the inaugural local beauty pageant held at Village Changi Hotel.
She shaved off her shoulder-length tresses at the annual Hair For Hope event this year.
She admitted that her win was unexpected as she was struggling with self-esteem issues due to her hairstyle.
Miss Chen, who will head to Egypt next month to represent Singapore at the international Miss Mermaid competition, also took home three subsidiary awards - Miss Popularity, Top Influencer Award and Best Talent.
The top 10 finalist in Miss Singapore World 2014 told The New Paper: "A shaven head is a representation of the ordeals that children with cancer are going through.
"I did it because I want to bring a statement across that not everyone is privileged to be healthy."
But although Miss Chen had felt compelled to raise awareness and understanding for cancer patients, she did not feel empowered after shaving her head.
Plus, she was in the midst of preparing for Miss Mermaid Singapore.
Miss Chen said: "I thought I would be okay, but I was so depressed I cried for two days.
"To me, my hair is a crown, so it was quite hard for me to accept it"
She said that most pageant winners have long hair and she thought the other finalists would stand a better chance at winning the title.
She said: "I felt a lot less confident without my hair...I was so touched when I won.
"I thought (not having hair) would make me less beautiful, but I am very thankful it worked out fine."
The Miss Mermaid Singapore contestants were judged on elements including creativity in decorating their mermaid costumes, marine conservation knowledge and swimming skills displayed during an underwater obstacle course.
Miss Chen, who was carried up the runway in a self-designed glittery pink and purple bikini top and light pink neoprene mermaid tail, had heard about the mermaid sub-culture only two months ago.
She said she sustained minor injuries while training once a week for about three hours each time at her condominium's swimming pool,
Three weeks ago, her left wrist swelled up after she hit it against her neoprene tail, which weighs 2kg.
She visited a Chinese physician, underwent acupuncture for three days, and resumed training.
She said: "I really like to swim as a mermaid. I would love to continue doing this."
Miss Chen hopes to be able to glide alongside the marine creatures at the S.E.A Aquarium or even start a mermaid school in the future.
She also wants to do more charity and voluntary work for the cancer cause as she has "better leverage now to speak and be heard" with her new title.
But before all that, Miss Chen will be busy preparing for the international Miss Mermaid pageant, where she will be required to swim while donning a silicon tail that weighs 15kg.
Miss Chen, who is 1.65m tall and weighs 47kg, said: "The silicon tail will be very heavy and will weigh me down in the water. I will need to train my core muscles so that I can focus on looking graceful underwater."
As the first Miss Mermaid Singapore, Miss Chen is feeling the pressure to perform well at the international level.
"I have watched videos of the past winners and the standards are really high.
"I am not there yet, but I will be giving it my all and work hard to do Singapore proud," she said.
Judge: Winner has 'the whole package'
When the six judges of Miss Mermaid Singapore first saw winner Audrey Chen, they were curious about her buzz cut as she did not mention the Hair For Hope connection in her self-introduction.
One of them, Miss Poojaa Gill, felt she that she should have as it is "an excellent selling point".
The 25-year-old full-time model told The New Paper: "Girls should not be participating in beauty pageants just because they are beautiful. They should have a cause they want to support and give back to as well."
Although Miss Chen's unconventional hairstyle helped her stand out, Miss Gill said she won because she had "the whole package".
Miss Gill, who was Miss Asia Pacific World 2014 and a finalist on the second season of reality TV modelling series Asia's Next Top Model, said: "She could speak well, walk well and perform well."
During the talent segment of the pageant, Miss Chen dressed as supervillain Harley Quinn from the movie Suicide Squad and performed tricks such as making a water fountain appear under a tablecloth during her solo magic show.
Miss Gill said: "Audrey showed that she had that something extra we were looking out for - the X-factor - and that gave her an edge over the others.
"She was also able to inject personality into her show, which was very impressive."
But Miss Gill is encouraging Miss Chen to wear a wig at the international Miss Mermaid pageant.
She said: "As much as you want to be a game-changer, you have to admit that the top 5 of any beauty pageant all have the same kind of look.
"You want to fit into that."
See photos related to the story in the gallery below.