Miss Universe Singapore 2006 says experience 'toughened' her
Carol Cheong says the competition moulded her to become more of a people person
It has been a decade since 2006 Miss Universe Singapore (MUS) winner Carol Cheong took home the crown.
But the memories and lessons she gleaned from the experience are still close to her heart.
Cheong, 35, told The New Paper: "Through the people I have met and events I attended during my reign, I was given the exposure not many girls would have.
"This experience has moulded me to become (more of a) people person in dealing with different personalities and characters in life.
"I also learnt stage presence and speech presentation, all very much-needed lifelong skills."
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 below.)
Cheong said she "grew up shy and introverted", so joining MUS was a way of pushing herself out of her comfort zone and overcoming stage fright.
Cheong being crowned by Miss Universe Singapore 2005 Cheryl Tay (in white).
"Winning the competition that year was pretty unexpected as all the girls had a very positive, competitive spirit," she said.
"My birthday was the day after winning the title and it was probably one of the most memorable birthdays for me."
The international pageant that year was held in Los Angeles and it marked Cheong's first time going to the US.
She said: "Pageants in Singapore have always been under a lot of scrutiny and it's definitely not the easiest competition to (take part in).
"The experience has toughened me up to deal with different unexpected situations in life.
"It also helped me realise that we need to be proactive in taking steps to overcome some uncertainties and fears," said Cheong, who has a seven-year-old daughter.
She used to be an art director and is now a headhunter.
"After becoming a mother, it was challenging going back to the long hours in advertising. Recruitment has given me more flexibility to balance work and spend time with my family," she said.
Cheong encourages women to join MUS 2016 as "you'll never know where (it) could take you".
She said: "Girls who want to bring themselves to the next level, be it personally or career-wise, should be part of this competition.
"It is good exposure at both a national and international level and a great opportunity to network and meet people from all kinds of backgrounds and cultures."