Miss Universe Malaysia slammed for being too 'white'

There's no Malaysian look, only Malaysian beauty.

That's what outraged Malaysians are saying after US-based magazine International Business Times (IBTimes) questioned the country's values in crowning Ms Kimberley Leggett as Miss Universe Malaysia 2012.

A July 14 article, "The Politics of Beauty: Is Malaysia's Miss Universe Contestant Too White?", highlighted Malaysia as a country that tends towards fairer-skinned beauty to represent it in the global pageant.

The writer raised doubts about how Malaysian Ms Leggett was, saying she was "too white" , reported The Star.

Said the article: "That Leggett's heritage is 75 per cent white raises interesting questions about Malaysian standards of beauty. Are Western norms changing the game?"

The article went on to say that Leggett, with her hazel eyes and fair skin, could easily pass as a citizen of the Euro zone.

Her spoken English is a mix of dialects which sounds like the stereotyped American valley girl accent, with hints of British.

The article also highlighted the country's racial fabric, saying that it was very much racially segregated in terms of politics.

In response, Ms Leggett said: "I was...offended...because it spoils the good reputation of the pageant that is judged fairly, not by the colour of a contestant's skin."

The 19-year-old beauty queen, who was born in Penang and is of Caucasian-Eurasian parentage, said she speaks Malay and understands the Hokkien and Cantonese dialects.

Said Ms Leggett, who studies at Taylor's University in Malaysia: "I love durians. I am exactly like everyone else in the country."

Miss Universe Malaysia 2012 finalist Sugeeta Chandran also defended Ms Leggett, calling her "a true blue Malaysian".

She said: "People say the best things in Malaysia can be found in Penang, and this is true of Kimberley.

"She is a friendly local girl who often uses 'lah' in conversations, and even speaks in Bahasa Malaysia."

Miss Universe Malaysia Organisation (Mumo) has also slammed the IBTimes article.

Mumo's national director Andrea Fonseka said the article was unfair to Malaysians and was uncalled for.


Said Ms Fonseka: "We crown a girl because she deserves it, and to discriminate against fair-skinned girls because they don't look Malaysian is detrimental."

Ms Fonseka, who was crowned Miss Universe Malaysia in 2004 and is also of mixed parentage, said the article showed the writer's ignorance about Malaysia's multi-ethnic background.

She added that the writer should have defined what a Malaysian look was.

"Malaysians are of all shapes, sizes and colours, and I think there is no one with a pure Malaysian look," she said.

"We are so culturally diverse that we cannot pin down a Malaysian look."

Trainer Webster Ku, 27, said that while Miss Universe contestants had to meet certain physical criteria, it was also important that they understood local culture.

Said Mr Ku: "It' not about having darker skin or being raised in Malaysia...

"For me, what defines the Malaysian beauty is how her smile makes us want to smile back."

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