As a former participant yourself do you view beauty contests as cattle shows?
Veronica: They are! I don't deny the fact that people are coming to look at beautiful bodies, to ogle over them.

Don't you think it demeaning to be ogled at especially when you are in a swimsuit?
Veronica: No, that's because I look at beautiful things as a creation. There are some who have been blessed with a little bit more attractiveness and if I'm one of them, I'm grateful. I've never looked at a beautiful woman's body as being anything else other than to be appreciated for what it is. It's just like you look at a beautiful flower or painting.

So it is acceptable for men to admire and appreciate a beautiful woman's body?
Veronica: Yes, it is. But you cannot control the way people think. If a man looks at a woman in ways other than appreciating her beauty, those are his thoughts. We cannot control this as we cannot tell everybody how to think.

How did you feel when you were ogled at?
Veronica: It's a mixed feeling. There is a sense of pride. You feel good that you are admired but when it is over expanded you tend to withdraw a little. You have to be a person who is more extrovert than introvert to be able to participate. You must feel proud of yourself and have confidence in your body, in you, to be able to project yourself. When every male is staring at you, you are not supposed to cringe.

What kind of an attitude should a contestant have? To take the whole thing seriously or to just have a good time?
Veronica: Personally, I think going in with the aim of winning something. This is basically the kind of person I am in the sense that if I do something I like to do it well and be successful in what I do.

A contestant should be very conscious of what she is doing. You don't just go in to a contest and say, well, it doesn't matter if I don't win. You take a look at your competition. You have an idea of what the organisers require of the winner, what kind of personality they are looking for and you assess your assets. If you have it within you, you must learn to project it.

Would you encourage young girls to participate?
Veronica: Yes. It gives them tremendous exposure to areas of life they normally will not be expose to. Like myself, I led a sheltered life, and it opened up a lot of opportunities.

What kind of opportunities?
Veronica: You immediately have a lot of job offers. You meet a lot of people and you learn as you develop friendships with them. These people can help you get into business. Having a title puts you at a higher value.

But you have to be careful because there are elements which are not altogether conducive. For example, in larger contests there are bookies who give you a rating and you can really feel bad.

Of course, these are the things feminists believe are the adverse side of beauty contests and they do happen. When I was in London for the Miss World contest there was a proposition from an Arab sheikh. Even in local contests there will be lots of people coming up to you to make all kinds of propositions because you are in the public eye and there are men who seek you out.

How should a contestant handle that?
Veronica: You've got to use your head all the time. Suddenly you become popular and people will want dates with you. You meet the best of people and you could also meet the worst. I wish there were centres where former beauty queens can advise them or maybe act as chaperones to guide the young impressionable girls through the experience.

What else should they be aware of?
Veronica: There are men who actually trace you down and stalk you, phone you and threaten you. I would advise them to be always aware of the fact that being attractive attracts a lot of people and when you've been given a title and are exposed to a lot of situations you've got to be very sane about the whole situation.

Beauty queens often have an unsavoury reputation. How true it is that they can be bought if the price is right?
Veronica: I think this is not just among beauty queens. Some women are willing to be showered with material things, and they are attracted by them. They would look at a relationship in terms of the material gain than the emotional gain. I think the world itself is made up of many such women and it is not specifically just beauty queens. I know of lots of beauty queens who are wonderful wives and mothers today and they did not get into relationships. But the opportunity does exist.

If you come into contact with the winners themselves, more often than not, 8 out of 10 have an impeccable character. This is something that is looked for, if it is a good organisation putting across a good title like Miss World and Miss Universe which are the most prestigious. The organiser itself would not want the winner to embarrass them in any way.

But if the ladies don't have enough strength of character, yes, they can be waylaid.

Is there a dark side to beauty contests? Can they be rigged?
Veronica: Unfortunately yes but not the more prestigious titles. It only happens in the little contests. I'm sorry to say this but I personally have judged several contests in which I wasn't sure how the winners were selected because on conversing with the rest of the judges after the event we were not all in consensus with who should have been the winners.

Are women who participate in beauty contests less of a feminist?
Veronica: Definitely not. It doesn't mean that a contestant or someone who likes to be attractive is not a feminist. I am a very strong feminist at heart and I would like to believe to be a feminist doesn't mean you have to give up your femininity. There is a difference between the two here. I know some people might not agree with me. I think the experience I had as a beauty queen has enable me to have very strong views about feminism itself and a lot of ladies who make comments about beauty contests have not actually been there.

I don't say it is wrong for everybody. It is wrong for some people but it is good for a lot of ladies to take part. There is a lot of good that comes out of it. That should be something that should be allowed to take place. If you meet up with title winners what they will share with you would not be negative.

There are some who say that it's vanity that leads contestants to parade their bodies in public.
Veronica: Define vanity. Every man and woman is vain in his or her own way. Just because she looks into the mirror at home but doesn't take part in beauty contests doesn't make her less vain and if she takes part she is more vain. The reasons people join beauty contests go beyond vanity.

Let's now talk about you as a person.
Veronica: I've run my own business for the last ten years and I like working for myself because it gives me a free reign on my creativity. I began with event management, my best and favourite area being health, beauty and fitness because it encompasses things I believe in.
Now I'm moving into what you would call real business. I used to be in awe of how one actually gets involved in multi-million dollar businesses, large projects. I'm fortunate that through some business acquaintances and partners that I have met throughout the years I've been introduced to this area of work. So I'm actually into project management now where I am looking at various infra-structure development projects which are taking place in Malaysia because one of my major concerns is that there are not many women who are part of this business.

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