Ever thought of joining a beauty pageant? Rosemary Ling, Miss International Hong Kong 2021/2, shares with us her experience.
Let’s be honest: many of us have dreamt of getting dolled up, being featured on magazine covers, and “living that high life”. But this happens to barely any of us – whether due to family and societal expectations, or the fear of being under the spotlight (when it actually lands on us!) While some may envy those who manage to become famous, though, chances are that reality is much less glamorous. No, we’re not digging into celebrity gossip here (#SorryNotSorry), but rather about the hard work that goes into each project – especially as the representative of Hong Kong in a globally renowned beauty pageant. Read on for our interview with Rosemary Ling – Miss International Hong Kong 2021/2.
Beauty and the brains: Rosemary Ling, Miss International Hong Kong 2021/2
Hey Rosemary! Thank you for chatting with us today. Please tell us a bit about yourself.
Hello Honeys! It might surprise you, but I actually have a full-time job which isn’t modelling. I’m the Creative Producer for an ethical jewellery brand, which means organising shoots, liaising with models and photographers, brainstorming campaign ideas, and more. I studied sociology and media cultural studies in HKU and have been working in the marketing and fashion industries since graduating.
How did you become a model?
Modelling is a side hustle for me. Throughout the first two years of university, I had modelling gigs here and there through friend referrals and businesses reaching out to me via Instagram DMs. I had never thought of modelling as a permanent career until I came across a charity fashion show called “Harmony” during my final year. Out of curiosity, and appreciation for how the project promotes diversity, I signed up for it. Although I had to get out of my comfort zone, I was fortunately selected. I managed to meet more people in the fashion industry and, eventually, more gigs came in. I’m now connected to bookers from a few agencies, who’d kindly look out for me when there are jobs available.
Have you always aspired to become a model since young?
In kindergarten, when we were told to draw out our “dream job”, I had already wanted to be a model (mostly because I was taller than most girls my age already at the time). But as I grew up, I lacked confidence. I felt as if I was just an “average girl in class”, and with the extremely tough standards to become an international model (one has to be of a certain height and weight), I simply lost hope. And even when I finally decided to apply to Elite Model Look, an international modelling competition, when I was 16, I never heard back.
But, when I joined the contest again three years later, I actually got in! It felt like a miracle to me. Looking back, I didn’t have the look, nor did I know how to present myself as a model. Yet, having gained confidence, I began to work on myself and soon realised that I could become who I’d envisioned myself to be.
What is it like to compete in a beauty pageant?
After participating in Elite Model Look, I took part in Miss International Hong Kong beauty pageant. I got the title in 2021 and was supposed to head to Japan in November last year to compete, but that’s been postponed to December this year due to COVID-19, so the pageant is still ongoing.
The process differs between pageants (and countries), but I was one of the 40 applicants who came through to the first general interview. I ended up being among the six finalists, then we had to undergo a month of beauty pageant training, which involved lessons on styling, doing make-up, going on the catwalk, and more. For the final round, there were titles like “Best Swimsuit” or “Most Photogenic” to be won… And one ultimate winner.
Judges choose the winner not only based on our appearance, but also our performance during Q&A sessions; our ideas, how fast we think, and how we present ourselves all contribute to their assessment. Everyone is so polished already on the outside, so they’re really looking for someone who’s able to captivate the audience, or say something more thought-provoking. Beauty and the brains – gotta have them both!
What are some challenges you face during the pageant, and how do you cope with them?
Making time to complete the training sessions was difficult. The classes themselves may take hours, plus putting on full-on stage makeup and doing my hair… These may total to four hours, if not more. Even though I go straight home afterwards, I need to remind myself to keep track of my progress, and have the time and space for myself. Because I was modelling, working full-time, and competing in a pageant during a global pandemic, managing my time and maintaining motivation were challenging at first. But, I’ve come to understand that the earlier I prepare, the easier it’d be for me later on; I know that the time and effort I’m putting in now will all be worth it.
On another note, I feel a lot of pressure since I don’t have much global pageant experience compared to contestants from powerhouse pageant countries, many of whom have been training for years. This is certainly a challenge I’m still facing (and will continue to face), but I’ll try and perform my best in the name of Hong Kong.
What are the best things that have come out from your beauty pageant experience so far?
Firstly, the pageant has inspired and motivated me to become more elegant and powerful. My experience has also taught me to be more open, accepting, and receptive towards others and myself. Modelling is different from competing in pageants: the former is more about whether a client likes your look or not; the latter is about presenting yourself as a whole – you need to be powerful, pleasant, and smart. So, I had to learn to hold myself together in order to present all these elements.
Also, I’m really grateful to have met my team and fellow contestants in Miss International Hong Kong. Although most people may think that pageants are only about the individual, there’s actually a whole squad behind them. As a candidate with little pageant experience, I always feel reassured that the National Director, designers, and make-up artists have my back. They give me great advice and comments, and we work towards a common goal: to present Hong Kong in the best light on a global platform.
Next, let’s debunk some myths. What are the glamorous and less glamorous sides of modelling?
People generally think that models are all glamorous and super rich, but this is just an image we present on the outside. The truth is: we borrow the clothes, we do our make-up, so that we can look amazing for that one shoot. Beyond how I look, I believe my “glam” is an aura that stems from my confidence and the way I present myself.
The least glam part of being a model is, well, modelling. People assume that we just go and get dolled up, and simply stand there and pose and smile… But no – there’s actually a lot of effort put in behind the scenes. There are days when we need to pose in lingerie in winter; shoes sometimes don’t fit that well when we’re on the catwalk… It’s not all sunshine and roses!
What are your thoughts on body positivity in the fashion and modelling industry?
I think everyone has the right to live happily regardless of how they look. There shouldn’t be a set standard of beauty, as everyone’s built differently; if you feel good, you should be accepted by society. I know that it’s been hard for the industry to fully assimilate body positivity, but I’m happy to see that our local scene is becoming more diverse by employing models of different body shapes and ethnicities.
At first, loving my own body was a struggle for me. Not only did I have to lose ten kilos before my formal modelling debut, but I had always been self-conscious about my skin tone. I was born with a darker skin tone compared to other Chinese girls and I tan easily, so it was difficult for me to secure local, more mainstream gigs. I was sad, frustrated, and thought it was unfair. But later, I learned that the decisions could be subjective; it’s not because I wasn’t “pretty enough” – it’s just that I don’t suit the criteria of particular projects. We all have our own niche and characteristics, so it’s important to acknowledge and embrace ourselves – whether people like the way we look or not!
Do you have any advice for fellow young people your age?
The most important thing is to believe in yourself and go with your guts instead of just following what society tells you to do. Being in our 20s, this period is our golden age during which we can afford the time and energy to explore our options and take advantage of the resources around us. We may have many plans and dreams, but we tend to limit and underestimate ourselves – when we just need to walk the talk and try things out ourselves!
Also, I think it’s essential for us to give ourselves time to think and reflect. Hongkongers are always living at a fast pace: we work hard, play hard, spend time with our friends and family… Yet we never allocate ourselves some headspace. Give yourself daily affirmations. Reflect on your mistakes. Appreciate what you’ve achieved and give yourself some credit.
The finals for Miss International 2022 will be held on 13 December at the Tokyo Dome City Hall in Japan. Support Rosemary Ling, Miss International Hong Kong 2021/2, on Instagram.