Miss Universe S'pore 2015 chosen at low-key, closed-door event
This year's Miss Universe Singapore chosen in closed-door audition
It used to be one of the most talked-about events.
Picking a girl to represent Singapore at international competition Miss Universe was an almost national affair, with television coverage, front-page headlines and a swanky pageant.
But Miss Universe Singapore 2015 was picked earlier this month - with hardly any fuss.
This year's winner, in case you haven't heard, is Miss Lisa Marie White, who was crowned in private and then officially unveiled for the first time at a Formula 1 after-party and catwalk show at Amber Lounge last weekend.
The 22-year-old freelance model, who is of Malay-Kiwi descent, was picked out of over 50 hopefuls by a panel led by Miss Universe Singapore's (MUS) new national director and 2002 winner Nuraliza Osman in a closed-door recruitment and selection process that started in May.
The panel included last year's winner Rathi Menon, former Miss Universe Japan national director Ines Ligron, 2005 winner Cheryl Tay, Mrs Singapore second runner-up Mona Gill, and former models Wendy Jacobs and Hanis Hussey.
Ms Nuraliza, a lawyer, took over the MUS licence and franchise four months ago from Derrol Stepenny Promotions, which ran the event for the past 14 years.
She described it as a "brilliant" opportunity, adding: "It's a great platform for us to create role models for young Singaporean women and to put Singapore back on the map."
Last year's pageant was a glitzy ticketed event at Shangri-La Hotel that was open to media coverage, the format ever since Channel 5 stopped televising the finals in 2008 due to dwindling ratings and declining sponsorship money.
So why go for a low-profile, closed-door selection process?
Ms Nuraliza admitted that the short time frame she had played a part.
Said the 38-year-old: "If you want to maximise your chances of placing in the top 15 in the Miss Universe pageant, what do you do with the limited time you have?
"Run a local show in a dinner ballroom - or get as many girls as possible, pick a winner and spend the most amount of time you can developing and training a strong delegate?
"That is our strategy... (because) we've used the same formula year after year and it hasn't succeeded."
Ms Nuraliza, who wanted greater media exposure for Miss White, feels the Amber Lounge event worked in their favour, thanks to the global coverage surrounding F1.
She said a call was put out online for applications and 50 hopefuls were picked.
Two weeks ago, the field was narrowed down by the panel to about 20 girls, who attended an audition held at one of the judge's homes.
Held over several days, it included a swimwear and Q&A segment, pageant-style.
The panel unanimously decided on Miss White, who was told over the phone days before her official unveiling at Amber Lounge.
According to Ms Nuraliza, everything was above board and she had also consulted the Miss Universe Organization.
Miss Menon, 24, told TNP: "During the Miss Universe competition held in Miami last year, I realised that there were a lot of representatives, including Miss Sri Lanka, who were not picked from a national pageant in their home country."
But she also acknowledged that the experience she gained from participating in MUS did come in handy.
"I think it was good to have a show where you compete on a smaller scale... it braces you for the international pageant.
"But still, the goal is the same and Lisa will undergo preparation like I did. We have a team to help her," she said.
Indeed, Ms Nuraliza has assembled a "dream team" who are more than willing to help Miss White without expecting a single cent.
MUS 2000 Eunice Olsen is on board as co-mentor, Jacobs will help with catwalk training, Hussey and a personal trainer will monitor fitness and nutrition, and Ligron will do styling and grooming.
Miss White will also be working closely with MUS' adopted charity Compassion Fund, which offers emotional and financial support to students from lower-income families as a result of sudden death, illness or accident in the family.
Said Ms Nuraliza: "The reason I have such a strong team behind her is because I am done with Singaporeans putting our own down.
"It is about time Singaporeans rallied around our girl."
She will also take Miss White to Amsterdam for a joint training session with this year's Miss Universe Germany and Miss Universe Holland.
When asked if she missed being part of a traditional pageant, Miss White told TNP: "It would have been nice to have been crowned that way, but I was lucky enough to be the first to experience an unveiling at a prestigious event.
"Furthermore, without a local pageant, there is more time to focus on just me - instead of several finalists - so that I can really improve."
If you want to maximise your chances of placing in the top 15 in the Miss Universe pageant, what do you do with the limited time you have?
-Miss Universe Singapore's national director and 2002 winner Nuraliza Osman ( above)
Bring back pageant telecast
Singaporeans The New Paper spoke to feel that the annual Miss Universe Singapore (MUS) pageant is still relevant, but needs some changes.
Medical technologist Galvin Lee, 26, felt that "the glitz and glamour have dwindled over the years".
A traditional one-off national pageant, which was the go-to method in the past, does not quite cut it anymore.
Mr Lee said: "We need to make people pay attention. Perhaps a reality TV show that follows the lives of the contestants so that people can get to know them better and relate to them, instead of a pageant, (could work).
"There could also be opportunities provided for the winner to not only reach out to the local community but overseas as well during her reign."
Teacher Mike Seowbelieves that bringing back a widely publicised, televised national pageant would help Singaporeans recognise and rally for their own.
"I have not been in the loop when it comes to our representatives for so long now.
"I remember at least watching it on TV and being able to recognise the winner by name back in the days," said the 42-year-old.
Former MUS 2002 contestant Sharilyn Choo-Jugnet thinks that a televised pageant is still one of the more effective ways to introduce the winner to the country.
"This helps Singaporeans be more supportive. It helps knowing the selection rounds that lead to the pageant winner and the face that will be representing Singapore," said the 32-year-old, who runs an online retail business.
Equally important is proper training, to mould representatives the country can be proud of, she said, as well as public support.
"Singaporeans should try to understand what pageants are about and this can start off by (having) media exposure of the industry. The public also needs to realise the enormous amount of courage it takes for any contestant to decide to take part," she said.
3 Things about Miss Unverse Singapore 2015
Miss Lisa Marie White is not afraid of the word "no".
The 1.73m-tall aspiring actress-host has attended plenty of casting calls and TV auditions, only to be rejected time and again.
But it did not stop her from trying out for Miss Universe Singapore, her first pageant experience.
The chirpy beauty (pictured above, with her parents), who maintained a healthy diet of eggs, avocados, tuna and salad to look her best during that period, told TNP: "I believe every 'no' is a step towards a 'yes'.
"I've watched Miss Universe Singapore over the years... and I even watched Nuraliza (Osman) (get crowned) in 2002. So it was like a dream for me to join, I never thought I had a chance of winning."
Miss White is a self-professed geek with a fascination for aliens.
"I like watching documentaries about aliens. I'm fascinated by space and the potential of life outside earth."
To get her in a good mood, all it takes is an upbeat tune. Songs like Daft Punk's Get Lucky helped her overcome her nerves backstage before her unveiling at the F1 Amber Lounge party last weekend.
"It was so nerve-racking. I felt like I had a lot of pressure on me, but it was so exciting to be unveiled to the public at such a high-profile event.
"The scariest part was definitely the catwalk."
Miss White, whose dad is Kiwi and whose mum is Singaporean Malay, is a true-blue Singaporean.
Home is a four-room HDB flat in Yishun, where she lives with her two younger sisters and her speech and drama teacher mother. Her father is a mentor for teachers in Malaysia.
She studied visual merchandising at Institute of Technical Education (ITE) College Central, is well versed in Malay and Singlish, and loves local food, especially carrot cake, nasi briyani and roti prata.
"I'm lucky my mother is a great cook... She can whip up anything," she said.
Get The New Paper on your phone with the free TNP app. Download from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store now