Miss Singapore makes it to top 16 of Miss Universe pageant, for first time in 34 years
It may have taken India 21 years to reclaim the Miss Universe title.
But it has been an even longer 34-year wait since a Singaporean made it to the semi-finals of the international beauty pageant, after Ms Marion Nicole Teo's feat in 1987, when the annual event was held in Singapore.
Reigning Miss Universe Singapore Nandita Banna, 21, made history for the country at the 70th Miss Universe competition in Eilat, Israel, on Monday morning (Dec 13) by cracking the Top 16.
Miss Harnaaz Sandhu of India was crowned the winner out of 80 delegates - succeeding her compatriot Lara Dutta in 2000 - followed by Paraguay and South Africa in first and second runner-up places respectively.
Ms Valerie Lim, director of Miss Universe Singapore, told The Straits Times: "Nandita just celebrated her 21st birthday on Nov 8, so (her achievement) is truly special. She's someone who always keeps an open mind and pushes herself to try new things."
Miss Nandita attended Raffles Girls' School and Raffles Institution and is currently a third-year double degree student at Singapore Management University, majoring in business management and information systems (business analytics).
At 1.76m tall and modelling professionally since 2017, she even chopped off her long tresses after winning the local pageant and took to the world stage sporting a pixie cut.
According to Ms Lim, the last time Miss Nandita had short hair was when she was five years old and this current hairdo is her shortest ever.
Ms Lim said it was a group decision, as they felt Miss Nandita was "hiding behind her hair" and a pixie cut is more "edgy and fashion-forward" and could bring out her features and showcase her personality better.
Naturally, there were initial reservations, as she had to learn how to style it well and rock it with confidence.
But the style gamble paid off.
Right before the live telecast of the finals, Miss Nandita wrote on Instagram, rather prophetically: "I'm so excited and hope that all the effort I put in so far can get Singapore into the Top 16.
"Keep an eye out for me during the opening dance, ya girl is up in the front showing off her moves."
Miss Nandita also appeared in a red and white national costume designed by home-grown couturier Frederick Lee.
It featured a graphic print by local award-winning artist Lee Xin Li that weaves together intricacies ranging from familiar landmarks to notable incidents that make up Singapore's unique stories into a cohesive map.
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