SINGAPORE - Hers was a classic ugly duckling fairy tale.
At 10 years old, Lynn Tan was a chubby child and often mistaken for a boy.
Fast forward more than a decade and the former Raffles Junior College student is Miss Universe Singapore (MUS).
It has barely been a week since her win and the beauty queen is still reeling with happiness. Every morning when she wakes up and every night before she sleeps, she puts on her crown and sashes and admires herself in the mirror.
It's her way of reminding herself of how far she has come since her early days as that chubby kid. Miss Tan, 24, an associate with accounting firm Deloitte, said: "I love it. I wake up in the morning thinking that my crown is so beautiful and I'm so lucky."
She used to polish off 27 pieces of Ferrero Rocher at one go. That was when she was a member of St Nicholas Girls' Primary School's Trim and Fit (TAF) club and was in her own words, "very unattractive".
Recalling her transformation, Miss Tan said: "My mum used to send me for swimming lessons when I was young. I was very tanned and not attractive at all. I learnt to appreciate my tan only much later."
She also sported "a thick fringe and wore glasses", and tipped the scales at 58kg when she was 12 years old.
"People didn't pick on me, but they used to mistake me for a boy.
"I gradually lost the weight when I ran 2.4km every morning for a month when I entered my teens. I now weigh 50kg.
"Although I still have tan skin, I think it will stand me in good stead at the international finals (in December) as I feel that the Caucasian judges would like the tan look."
She said her parents are Chinese, but she has often been asked by strangers if she is of mixed descent.
At the Miss Universe Singapore final on Sunday night at the Shangri-La Hotel, Miss Tan also won three subsidiary awards - Miss Body Beautiful, Miss Lumiere International 2012 and Miss Sensational Smile.
She will represent the Republic at the Miss Universe pageant in an as-yet-confirmed country in December.
She was called the "perfect contestant" by judge and MUS chief executive officer Errol Pang, who said she has the ideal combination of beauty and brains.
She was a member of the debate team and the badminton team at St Nicholas Girls' Secondary School and she scored an impressive 7 points for her O levels.
Miss Tan, whose vital statistics are 34-25-35, also impressed the nine judges at the final when she quoted Mother Teresa after she got into the Top 7.
When asked what her strongest selling point was as an ambassadress of Singapore, she said: ""I will be the modern Singapore woman, beautiful, strong and ready to stand for what I believe in. Yet, I will hold on to my values that have brought me here.
"Quoting from Mother Teresa: Reach high, for stars lie hidden in your soul. Dream deep, for every dream precedes the goal."
Since her win, she has had more than 1,000 friend requests on Facebook, which she will "accept once I have time (to look through them)".
When she invited us to spend a day with her on Wednesday, it became clear quickly that her good looks made her, literally, a head-turner.
At her office at Deloitte, Miss Tan stood out in her chic grey dress and red Christian Louboutin heels - certainly a sight for sore eyes especially for all the male colleagues seated around her. She is, however, attached. She met her British boyfriend of three years when she was an intern at Standard Chartered Bank a few years ago.
The couple now have a long-distance relationship, as he is based in China. But he left her a delightful gift of his gleaming black sports car - a $300,000 Nissan GT-R.
Said Miss Tan, who had been in three previous relationships, all with Chinese Singaporean men: "I have always preferred and admired guys who are matured, worldly, capable, responsible and charming - much like the James Bond character.
"What guys have to do to woo me is to impress me with their intelligence (that includes emotional intelligence) and their character.
"They have to be kind, generous and thoughtful yet ambitious and humorous."
But her love life has to take a back seat, now that she has the international finals to prepare for.
This includes studying all the past-year questions, like in an "O levels 10-year series", she said.
To think that once upon a time, Miss Tan had wanted to be a lawyer like her older sister and only sibling, Miss Jacqueline Tan, 33.
The pair are close. Miss Tan's sister still picks her up daily from work at her office at Shenton Way.
On Wednesday, TNP tagged along as the pair headed to the Makansutra Gluttons Bay at the Esplanade for dinner.
Having ordered a massive spread of fried rice, kang kong, sting ray and satay, the Tan sisters chatted easily and teased each other while feasting on the yummy hawker fare.
Miss Tan kept to her strict diet and had only satay and kang kong and admitted that she had a weakness for crab, especially the huge, 2kg ones.
Said the older Miss Tan, a corporate counsel: "I used to take my little sister with me everywhere and to meet my friends, so they remember her as the chubby tomboy.
"I was the rebellious one while she was the obedient, disciplined one who would do everything by the book.
"When we were young, Lynn and I used to climb mango trees and try to pluck the fruit off them and run about barefoot at Bishan canal.
"My friends can't believe that she looks like that now and that she actually won Miss Universe Singapore.
"No one has asked to be match-made with her because they know they can't compete with her boyfriend."
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