Thursday, September 3, 2009

Flavour of the Month for August - Miss Hong Kong Sandy Lau

The annual Miss Hong Kong Pageant always manages to generate a lot of publicity, perhaps not surprisingly when heavyweight TV network TVB is behind the show's organisation. A good showing in the contest can often lead to a lucrative Hong Kong TV career. Or maybe Hong Kong citizens just like their beauty pageants. This year's winner, Sandy Lau (刘倩婷, pinyin: Liu Qianting), a 23 year old securities analyst, immediately found herself thrust into the glare of the publicity spotlight.

Dubbed the "Brokeback Miss Hong Kong", Lau has had to fend off suggestions that she is a lesbian, the media scutinising her relationships with a couple of "very close female friends" including a fellow competitor. At a media conference, Lau set the record straight by saying "I like the opposite sex". Not satisfied, the press asked if she would consider a gay relationship in the future, to which she responded "No way, I will never fancy a girl".

Then photos from her past emerged on the internet, which seemed to show a dramatic change in her appearance. Gone were the small eyes and dark skin of her younger days, features which are not considered as aesthetically pleasing. Defending herself again she denied undertaking any plastic surgery with the remark, "I'm not Michael Jackson". Unfortunately this only got easily offended netizens further offside, as they felt she was being disrespectful of the recently dead. As if no one has been making jokes about Michael Jackson since his demise. Nevertheless, Lau felt compelled to publicly apologise to the Jackson family.

Sandy Lau was considered a surprise winner, and when the favourite, Esther Lam failed to make the top five, there were familiar cries that the ceremony was rigged. It seems that people in Hong Kong, only too aware of how important your connections can be in getting ahead or getting things done, assume the same code applies when beauty pageant winners are selected.

Already there were grumblings about the quality of the field of contestants, one Chinese language website deriding it as the lowest quality in the contest's history. Lau was probably not the most attractive of the contestants, an admission the judges seemed to confirm by saying that she was selected because she was the most articulate. At least Lau hasn't been subjected to the derision that Kayi Cheung 2007's winner endured. Described as "pie faced", poor Cheung was infamously booed by some audience members when her name was announced.

Recently the Miss Hong Kong crown has been more like a cross that it has winner has had to bear. Last year's champion, Edelweiss Cheung, has earned herself the title of the "laziest" Miss Hong Kong ever because of her failure on so many occasions to fulfill her Miss Hong Kong duties. The media have claimed that she took "sickies" instead of making her required public appearances. As punishment, she was not invited to present the 2009 crown to this year's winner as is the usual practice. Instead, that honour went to Lolette Chu, winner of the crown back in 1977, a time now fondly looked back upon as a golden age for the Miss Hong Kong Pageant.

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