Change the future

05 Dec 2019 / 10:53 H.

Ask someone who Alexis SueAnn Seow is, and the list of options is long. Emcee, TV host, radio announcer, fitness enthusiast, dancer, singer, Miss Universe Malaysia 2018 first-runner up, and most recently, the winner of Miss World Malaysia 2019 – honestly, is there anything this young woman can’t do?

But one thing is for sure, Alexis has a heart big enough to handle all these challenges.

The 24-year-old, who holds a degree in psychology, has been volunteering at children’s and old folks’ homes since she was just 12 years old.

For her Beauty with a Purpose passion project associated with being Miss World Malaysia, Alexis has initiated #Chance4Change in collaboration with Orphancare Foundation, in order to raise awareness and educate the public on two heartbreaking topics – baby dumping and the sexual grooming of children.

All this as she prepares to represent Malaysia at the upcoming Miss World 2019 in London on Dec 14, competing against 111 other beauty queens from around the world.

How do you define beauty?

“I always believe that beauty comes throughout our lives.

“A beautiful person is someone who is able to speak their truth and worth, a person who has a beautiful mind and soul, and who has the will power to succeed.

“It is not defined by something you see perpetually up front. It really is about their characteristics and personality, and how other people see that person from the inside.

“The superficial idea of how beauty queens just have to be beautiful certainly isn’t the case anymore, particularly at this point in time. The world has evolved according to how we perceive it to be, society at large has created a generation that is socially accepting, and now beauty pageants extend beyond physical beauty.”

After Miss Universe Malaysia 2018, why did you decide to participate in a second beauty pageant?

“Miss World Malaysia has always been my first choice, but back then there was some complication with the organisation.

“I was approached to join Miss Universe Malaysia 2018. Back then, I wasn’t sure if I shared the beliefs, values and attributes of the pageant, let alone could imagine getting crowned Miss Universe Malaysia.

“But because I joined, I’ve noticed how much work beauty queens have to put in it. I’ve come to love and respect the beauty pageant industry. I won first runner-up which was a bummer to me, because I worked so hard for it.

“After that, I decided to never join another pageant, but the pageant fan clubs here were so persistent in telling me to join Miss World Malaysia, they could see how it correlated with my beliefs.

“After a lot of persuasion and self-reflection, I took a step back and asked myself why I joined Miss Universe Malaysia in the first place. It wasn’t for fame or as a stepping stone, it was to represent my country on a global stage.

“Miss World is such a strong platform, it really is a beauty pageant that focuses not on physical beauty, but rather beauty with a purpose, which is through our charity causes.

“Now that I finally get to represent my country, I’ve been given a chance to tell stories close to my heart to the whole world.”

Tell us about #Chance4Change.

“Growing up, I’ve always been helping out different charities, organisations and foundations with my mum.

“I started #Chance4Change even before winning the crown, with the aim to educate. But how do you educate children about things that are not taught in school, for example, taboo topics?

Last year, I visited an NGO called Rumah Kita which shelters unwed teenage mothers, and pregnant mothers who are cast out by their families.

When I was there, I realised there were more babies than mothers.

“Now, a lot of people think that ‘unwanted pregnancies’ only occur out of wedlock, but it’s not true. There are cases where girls have been raped in the most unimaginable situations.

“As of 2019, there have been over 1,000 baby dumping cases in Malaysia, and 64% of the babies died within the first day they were dumped.

“#Chance4Change creates awareness through education by engaging with different schools, teaching both female and male teen students the most basic ideas: how to detect sexual harassment, how to say no, what areas of the body are safe to touch, and even if it’s a safe area, are you comfortable with it? Also teach them how to seek help, who to get help from, and how to save themselves from sexual grooming.

“At first, I thought they’d be able to tell the differences, but you’d be surprised. These students haven’t the slightest clue what’s right or wrong, because sex education is a taboo topic in our country.

“It’s not necessarily about using condoms, but really just about knowing the differences between love and lust.

“#Chance4Change also partnered with Orphancare Foundation and Rumah Kita to teach young mothers how to make jewellery and trinkets to sell.

“Profits go to the mothers because they are still hiding from society, away from predators and people who put negative labels on them. We want to give them an opportunity to work within their comfort zone, so they’re able to provide for their little ones.”

What do you wish to see in future pageants?

“I hope to see more passionate about girls joining pageants, not for fame but to see them strive to become the next Miss Malaysia for a definite reason – to be a voice for the voiceless, and to represent the country with pride.

“Only then will more people realise beauty queens are not just pretty girls pursuing fame, but in fact, are women of substance.”

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