JENS CHEONG first gained our attention last year when she was crowned Miss Astro Chinese International 2019.
As she basked in the limelight, she became what most would deem to be the most ideal representation of beauty.
However, in an interview with theSun, Cheong rejects the stereotype that beauty pageants measure women merely by their appearances, calling that perception a leftover from a far more patriarchal era, proving to us that she possesses not just beauty, but also brains.
Beauty pageants have long been under scrutiny, although for her, joining the pageant wasn’t an act of reclaiming displaced narratives and identity, but rather asserting her right as a woman as she seeks to promote empowerment.
Therefore, instead of asking why beauty pageants are still a thing, perhaps we ought to ask why people have chosen to misinterpret the relevance of beauty pageants, as for the past several decades almost all pageants have pivoted towards contributing to the betterment of society and the well-being of the community?
Why did you choose to become a beauty queen?
“I didn’t choose to be a beauty queen, to be very honest, the judges did. I joined the pageant just to try out and see how far I could go; I wasn’t completely ready to compete and to put myself out there to be judged by the public, more so winning the pageant, to be quite frank.
“In fact, I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur instead, prior to this, I worked in the marketing field. It just goes to show how life works right? It surprises you with different plans. This journey may not be what I expected it to be, but I’m ever so grateful to be where I am today while embracing life as it is.”
What is most important to you throughout this journey?
“Time and time again, I’ve stated that I really believe in the life-long process of acquiring new knowledge. The more I know, the more I’m able to share. I enjoy talking, so I need to make sure that I know enough to keep the conversation going.
“Being in the entertainment scene is truly a brand new experience for me, and it took me a while to get used to it. There’s a lot more to learn, and I’m excited to embark on this journey, even if it means that things are going to be tough down the road.”
Winning the title qualified you to compete in the 2020 TVB Miss Chinese International Pageant in Hong Kong on Feb 15, it has been cancelled due to the pandemic. How has that affected your preparations?
“I’m not very much affected by it. On a brighter note, I’ve managed to learn three new dances which I was planning to perform for the pageant’s talent showcase. Rather than thinking it has all gone to waste, I think it’s pretty amazing actually.
“However, I am quite upset in the sense that I wouldn’t be able to showcase my national costume and the other dresses and gowns for which I was sponsored on an international platform.
“Regardless of how disappointed I was, it’s only right that the organisation cancel the event for safety purposes, and that is all that matters.”
When you think of beauty, what’s the first thought that comes to mind?
“I truly think everyone is beautiful in their own way. Sometimes, we tend to believe that beauty is reserved for the attractive Instagram models and the girl who walks down the street looking effortlessly stunning, but believe me when I say we’re all beautiful in our own sweet way.
“Sadly, a lot of the information we absorb tells us that our waists are not slim enough, our skin is not clear enough, or that even our faces are not sharp enough.
“Despite the negativity we may encounter, we should realise that beauty extends beyond the body into our mind and soul. It’s beautiful and courageous to embrace our body and existence, just being you is beautiful enough.
“Even as the pageant winner, up until today I still receive comments saying I’m not pretty enough to win this competition. So am I going to reflect on this and make my life more beautiful? You bet I will.
“But am I going to allow the negative comments to get to me? Definitely not.
“Living a beautiful life matters more than just having a beautiful appearance.”
What is the relevance of a beauty pageant in a society?
“Beauty pageants are really for empowered women who have a vision for making themselves more resilient and better, and empowering other women to do the same; coming together as one to support each other, it’s empowerment that is about far more than the physicality of beauty.
“Beauty pageants have a common stigma, mostly about girls mistreating each other, sabotaging and gossiping behind our backs.
“Although in the beauty pageant I was in, myself and the seven other girls really have been the most kind to each other. We would always be there for each other, and we looked out for each other’s backs.
“Throughout the course of the pageant, it has really changed the way I see things. I realised that in any given circumstances when women do come together, we do have the ability to also empower others, and spread positivity.”
What do you wish to see in future pageants?
“Beauty pageants have always been a subject of controversy, some see them as a platform to demean women with superficial portrayals, others pose a challenge to women as they subject themselves to judgements based on physical appearances.
“The truth is, there are so many values that the judges examine, through culture and intellectual review.
“I hope there will be a shift in public opinion regarding pageants in the future, with far less controversy, and giving pageants their due justice for what they stand for.
“Not many people have the courage to put themselves out there to be judged by so many others, and to show imperfections and flaws in themselves, while being willing to do better.”