In our series of interviews with strong women we were excited to dig a little bit deeper into the world of beauty pageants. We met the current Miss Grand Singapore 2022, an island city girl who lives her life creating expression and cultivating a space for others to do the same.
We were mesmerised by Emil's charisma and we are quite sure that at the end of this article you will be too.
Let us introduce to you:
Emilbiany, Miss Grand Singapore 2022
"I love my progress, I love my mistakes, I love my imperfections and the wisdom I’ve gained from all of it"
OUTFYT: To start off with we all want to know what got you interested in pageants?
When I was 11, I used to watch the Q&A segments of Miss Universe. A little egotistical, but I’d listen to the questions and tried answering them. I never thought I'd ever participated in a pageant but I was offered to give Miss Universe Singapore a shot after my performance in The New Paper New Face (a local modelling competition). Realising how it could benefit my career prospects as a model and actor, and how it aligned with my passion for volunteering and speaking, I decided to take it on. What inspired me from the start, was to have a platform to really make an impact with my truth.
OUTFYT: Apart from participating in pageants and modelling what else do you do for work?
I’m really blessed, I get to teach drama to children ranging from 3-16 years of age. I perform as an actor and aerialist in a show; Around the world in 80 days by And So Forth. I act in films and I do social media marketing for a local fashion brand. It has been absolutely fulfilling.
"I've always dreamt of seeing the world"
My absolute dream job would be to work as a nomadic multi disciplinary artist, that facilitates healing and the unravelling of creative expression to each and every soul I meet. I’ve always dreamt of seeing the world, gathering as much lessons and resources and then creating something out of it, that’ll help humanity. Be it writing, visual story telling, performing, acting, devising shows or projects, and especially passing that knowledge on and facilitating it through teaching, the thought of this lights my soul.
OUTFYT: What do you do to keep fit and what is your favourite exercise?
I love Karate, stunt training, yoga and aerial silks. I’m not a big gym person, because a lot of strengthening of physical vessel relies on what I’d love to create with my body and sometimes working out monotonously without a goal sometimes gets grating to me. So pushing myself to stay discipline and conditioning my body becomes easier with a desire to master a craft or create and perform. Sometimes I do take it slow and focus on yoga and stretches just for me to get back in my breath and the moment, to flow through my emotions. As long as it brings me joy, everything else is secondary.
OUTFYT: What is your favourite thing about Outfyt?
Outfyt has Gaia’s wellness and future in mind, along with ours. I can’t even begin to describe how incredible it feels physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually to wear Outfyt. The idea of recovering waste from fishing nets from the ocean or scraps heading to landfills and alchemising it into wearable, comfortable and gorgeous activewear is just magic. To transform a heartbreaking issue into a beautiful solution, an Outfyt that empowers women to create and support sustainability, that’s what is so special about Outfyt.
OUTFYT: Have you ever completed anything on your “bucket list”?
Yes! Skydiving! As a child I had a fear of heights, but I often found it thrilling to challenge myself and face and feel that fear, to be familiar with it. I found myself on countless of monkey bars, rock climbing walls and now aerial silks. Skydiving was higher than anything I’ve ever done. It really taught me about my relationship with relinquishing control, when you first jump out, you have a slight panic, it hits you when you realise the inability to grasp or clutch, and slowly you surrender to free falling, instigating an immense amount of courage within as the wind screams in your face. As the parachute gets pulled out and it yanks you from the back, you start to fly. And you see the world from a birds eye view, realising how minute your worries are in this universe. How it is all a spec of thought.
It really taught me, in times of anxiety, chaos or when things feel like they are uncontrollable, to breathe and trust. That the longer you explore your fear, fear no longer becomes that scary.
Next on my bucket list is either to be in a competitive fight, maybe karate or to perform in the circus arts festival at the esplanade as an aerialist (:
OUTFYT: If you could change places with anyone in the world, who would it be and why?
I am so happy and proud of myself for finally being in a place where I wouldn’t want to be anyone else. Where I love my progress, I love my mistakes, I love my imperfections and the wisdom I’ve gained from all of it. That I’d miss out on experiencing life as me if I were someone else and I get increasingly curious each day to see how my story unravels.
So if I were to be anyone else, it has to be an anime or cartoon, because it’ll be a different realm and it’s mostly out of curiosity of what that plane of existence is like. Maybe Katara from Avatar the last air bender, always wondered what it’s like to manipulate water, ride a flying bison and heal people in an instant. Probably why I love acting as well. It’s always a different realm and perspective where anything can happen.
OUTFYT: Which was the first pageant you took part in and what was your biggest learning from it?
Miss Universe Singapore in 2017. My biggest take away would be learning how to balance staying true to myself while evolving the skills I need to connect with people on a grand stage. Throughout my time in it, there were many feedbacks and criticisms about my personality, my looks and how I presented myself. Learning the wisdom to take what aids my growth and what to let flow past, coming closer to the clarity of my heart, is one of my greatest lessons.
I was only 18 when I participated and placed as the 2nd runner up, what really helped was being surrounded by 19 other phenomenal, powerful women. Each and every one of them taught me how they celebrated their femininity, their gifts, their voice, their hearts and how they used it in their lives. It was one of the most empowering experiences of my life, especially when I was coming into my own as a woman.
OUTFYT: What was the worst style choice you ever made?
This photo right here.
I was seven. I deeply appreciate how child me was boldly creative and fervently expressive, even through fashion.
I experimented immensely with sewing and up cycling my clothes in my childhood, that now looking back there are tremendous amounts of ‘Why Emil? What were you thinking?’ Once I even made fingerless gloves out of old socks just so I could dress up for tuition.
I’m really glad though, nothing much has changed with sewing and up cycling my clothes as I still do, and I’m really grateful for all the mistakes because I believe I’ve gotten a lot better now. Or well, we’ll see what 35 year old me says haha.
OUTFYT: How do you train and prepare for a beauty pageant?
In a pageant, there is a physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspect. Everyone notices the final night where the winner is crowned, but the entire course of the pageant can last from a month to a year or two if you qualify for the win. That requires upmost stamina.
For me, understanding the stamina it requires, I continued to keep my discipline practices physically, making sure that as important as it was that my body was fit, I kept challenging my mental limits. Every time I pushed myself in a workout or training, it strengthened my persistence, grit and resilience.
I continued to read about the world, about my passions. Practicing Q&A's, to be articulate and engaging with my message. Practicing my walk over and over and over, and practicing the national language of the country I’d be competing in. (Miss Grand Internal 2022 was held in Indonesia, so I practiced speaking Bahasa.)
And finally, meditating everyday helped me remember the space of equanimity I’ve nurtured within. That no matter how tough a challenge seemed to be, I have a space of calm within me to rise to adversities with a single breath.
OUTFYT: Do you think pageants encourage self-discipline, if so how?
With a grueling 12 hours schedule on most days, where we wake up at 6am and end our days around midnight, everyday (yes weekends too) for nearly a month, truly shows you how disciplined you can be. At one point as Miss Grand Singapore, I got sick during the competition, and everything in me desired to lay in bed and recover. I do believe in listening to my body so I took one day to rest because the doctors said I was too sick to go out.
But, I also understood I was in a competition, representing my homeland and I was working for a better future for my family so even with a fever or pains, I had to get up, and give everything I’ve got. The moment I felt my condition stabilised enough, I immediately jumped back into rehearsals.
As I wasn’t fully recovered, it was painful but what got me out of bed other than my amazing room mate, Miss Uganda, Oliver Nakakande, (she even brought me to the beach to ground and make me feel better) was my ‘why’. Everyday that I chose my ‘why’ over the temporary pain I felt, the more it affirmed my purpose and discipline.
OUTFYT: Have pageants opened up new opportunities for you?
It has! I’ve gotten more modelling projects and performing projects. The fact that Miss Universe Singapore led me to being Miss Grand Singapore, which allowed me to travel and meet beautiful souls from all around the world was one of the biggest opportunities.
OUTFYT: What would you like to say to people who think that pageantry objectifies women?
I can see why you’d think so. But I would also like to invite you to observe the evolution of pageantry, how it has empowered hundreds and thousands of women all over to speak loud and strong of their cause and message. How we have brought awareness and discussion to some of the most troubling and heartbreaking issues of our planet. How these pageants have given some who came from poverty or are in war torn countries a catapult into a new life for themselves and their families. Even if the contestants do not win the ultimate title, they have opened doors in their careers, in their advocacy, and they ride the tidal benefits of such a grand platform.
For me, when I represented Singapore, I am aware of certain backlashes I received because of my ‘imperfections’. From my teeth, to my body, to my looks, and I chose to use this opportunity to stand tall as I am. To show the world that our ‘imperfections’ are not what hinders us, that our disowning of it is what does. That it is possible to embrace all your quirks, edges and curves on a platform, many people believe, scrutinizes beauty. I was here to redefine what beauty could mean. To love yourself deeply despite all naysayers' reasons.
When I arrived at Miss Grand International, being amongst powerful, beautiful, amazing women, from all over the world came in all shapes, sizes, colours, definitions, talents and how they defined their signature femininity and divinity, standing proud to represent their country and vocalising their beliefs, it was vastly life changing.
OUTFYT: What is your best advice to someone who wants to take part in pageants?
As important as it is to keep your eyes on the prize and go strong, let it go and everything will fall exactly where it’s meant to. If you held too tightly on the idea of winning the title, you’d miss all the precious gem filled moments in the pageant. Make as many friends as you can! This is your chance to be with people with the most insane and remarkable stories, gifts and love.
Even if you end up winning the title, what you will remember, what will inspire your heart is not the crown you end up walking away with at the end of the night, but the journey and friends made to get there. Choose to make it a wholesome, loving and joyful one.
But the question I get the most in my DMs is always about self doubt and insecurities. And to that I say, I resonate with it deeply! The struggle with our doubts and fears is so real. But I’ve learnt, nothing you ever get externally is ever going to change the way you feel about yourself. Feelings of doubts, insecurities and fears are natural, they are always there because it is a survival instinct to be critical of a situation we are unfamiliar with. It is okay! You do not need to be perfect, no one is. You are beautiful, just as you. Everybody feels this. What’s going to pull you out of it is your reason, purpose and your intent of being in a pageant. Consciously choose to reclaim your focus and put it on the people or cause that needs your help.
To always remember your heart felt advocacy. You never know who you are going to inspire just by being you. And the more you choose to embrace you, the fears and doubts no longer have a reason to stay and ‘protect’ you.
And hit me up if you ever wanna train your walk hahaha!
Thank You Emil!
We are so happy that you have taken the time to share your thoughts and experiences with us. We would like to congratulate you, not only to the Miss Grand Singapore 2022 title but for being an inspiration to women and young girls alike.
The Outfyt Team