MUS hopefuls want to use pageant to help themselves and others
Miss Universe Singapore hopefuls want to inspire others with their stories
Miss Universe Singapore (MUS) wants women to inspire, and applicants such as Miss Ischelle Koo and Miss Lim Lishan see the beauty pageant as a way to help themselves on their road to recovery from depression.
They also want to help others.
Miss Koo, 22,hopes to encourage women who are going through a rough patch .
She told The New Paper: "I want to reach out to people battling mental disorders or devastation from coping with their own or their loved ones' illnesses, and to challenge societal stigmas on these issues."
Between the ages of 15 and 17, the then National University of Singapore (NUS) High School student started to show signs of depression.
These included fainting spells, isolating herself from family and friends and being unable to leave her hostel room for months on end.
Miss Koo recalled: "I felt extreme bouts of sadness and emptiness, and felt most at ease when I was asleep. I used to love playing sports, music and dancing, but I gave all these up because of depression.
"I kept it to myself. I couldn't come to terms with it and I didn't know who or where to turn to for advice. I had no way to quickly recognise depression and anxiety."
Mental illness continued to haunt Miss Koo into her university days.
In the past three years, the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine undergrad lost her paternal grandparents to cancer and her mother was diagnosed with stage 3 cancer. Miss Koo herself was diagnosed with a genetic blood disorder and experienced a cancer scare.
She spiralled into depression and became suicidal.
On advice from NUS, Miss Koo sought counselling from a psychiatrist. Three months ago, she dropped out of medical school for her health, and she is now on the mend.
She said: "It was a struggle for me initially because being a doctor had always been the only thing I wanted to do.
"But I recognise that my family, health and a well-balanced life is of a higher priority at this point."
The 1.69m-tall, 52kg fitness junkie plans to continue her studies this year and hopes to pursue a masters in political science and public policy.
She attributes her continued healing to yoga, meditation, her family and boyfriend, who motivated her to join MUS.
Miss Koo, who was Miss Singapore Supranational 2016, said: "I hope to show women who are struggling in life or losing faith that they are not alone. That if I am still out here fighting and embracing constantly being blown off course, they too can find the beauty in their own capabilities to experience triumphs, failures and chaos, and turn setbacks into opportunities."
As for 24-year-old Miss Lim, she first experienced depression at 11 and has struggled with binge eating over the years.
She hopes to dispel misconceptions that surround such issues and to urge sufferers to seek help.
"When I was taking my Primary School Leaving Examination, I struggled to go to sleep every night despite being exhausted and having lots of tuition and homework," she told TNP.
Then in secondary school, Miss Lim gained weight when puberty hit and battled bulimia as she felt that being "fat" was synonymous with being "bad".
Miss Lim recalled how the eating disorder took its toll.
"I hit rock bottom. I felt weak and trapped by the addiction that I thought I once had control over. I got headaches and stomach pain often, bloated cheeks, bloodshot eyes and could not think clearly.
"I spent most of my money on binges and my time on exercising or in the toilet vomiting out the guilt."
After she broke up with her first boyfriend and was retained in junior college, the self-destructive tendencies extended to her harming herself.
The Nanyang Technological University communications graduate, who is 1.65m tall and weighs 49kg, eventually turned her life around with yoga.
Now a freelance actress, yoga teacher and model, Miss Lim hopes that by sharing her story on a public platform such as MUS, it will allow the shame and secrecy that surrounds mental illness to be reduced.
She said: "Up to today, I still struggle with self-harm, emotional eating, eating disorder thoughts that chip away at my self-worth and bring my mood down.
"However, I have been equipped with more coping strategies and mindfulness techniques, which help in my journey.
"I think I stand out (in MUS) because I am mentally strong and stand for a worthy cause that many people can relate to."
The registration deadline for MUS 2018 has been extended to tomorrow, giving single women aged 18 to 28 who hold a Singapore passport a chance to represent Singapore on the world stage. This year's winner stands to walk away with $10,000 cash, $15,000 worth of services from official beauty partner Beaute Hub, $5,000 worth of services from BeauteNails, a Smile makeover worth up to $15,000 from Orchard Scotts Dental and $2,000 worth of hair services from Apgujeong Hair Studio.