US-North Korea summit is the inspiration for Singapore’s Miss Universe national costume this year

Miss Universe Singapore 2018 showing off this year's national costume. (Image by Alphonsus Chern / TNP)

Oh. My. Goodness. Singapore’s entry for the national costume segment of the Miss Universe Pageant was recently revealed and it’s NOT what anyone would have expected.

Ditching the usual strategy of referencing Singapore’s multi-racial themes or architectural icons, costume designer Mr Moe Kasim decided to play on the pageant stereotype – wanting world peace – and referenced instead the North Korea-United States summit that was held in Singapore earlier this year. The historical summit was the first ever between leaders of the two countries and caused quite a media frenzy when it happened.

The costume consists of 3m-long white dove wings to symbolise peace, an electric blue bodice, and a skirt which reveals a digital print of a handshake – one hand wearing a sleeve featuring the Korean flag while the other features the US stars and stripes – over the Singapore skyline, clearly identifiable with the Marina Bay Sands front and centre.

Left: Miss Universe Singapore 2017 (Image from Straits Time) | Right: Universe Singapore 2016 (Image from Rappler)

In contrast, the 2017 MUS winner Ms Manuela Bruntraeger wore an LED Supertree costume reminiscent of the neon tree at Gardens by the Bay while 2016 winner Cheryl Chour’s costume was Peranakan-inspired.

Now upon first sight of this 2018 costume, it does seem to border on the ‘ridiculous’. Apart from the skyline, nothing really speaks to Singapore’s uniqueness. The dress simply displays a significant event that happened in Singapore but had nothing to do with nation itself – besides being the venue, Singapore wasn’t part of the summit.

The designer, Mr Kasim who the creative director of Moephosis Concepts, together with MUS national director Nuraliza Osman, said it took three months to conceptualise and create the costume.

He said, “This year’s costume is different as it does not have any multi-racial, architectural or iconic elements or themes at all. Instead, it is based purely on an internationally-watched historic event in Singapore’s calendar, which is rather unique.”

Miss Nuraliza added, “It shows Singapore’s importance in brokering peace, not only regionally but also globally.”

Miss Universe Singapore 2018. (Image by Alphonsus Chern / TNP)

Well, when you say it like that. I do see where they’re coming from – they’re showing Singapore as a broker of peace, a place where history is made, an island of hope for the future. And the dress, unopened, is quite pretty. Still, I think it’s all a little too abstract for the ‘national costume’ segment of a beauty pageant where countries tend do all they can to one up each other by showcasing the best parts of their culture.

It seems a little far-fetched to reference a summit that many have called ‘dramatic’ and which did very little for the US while achieving a lot for North Korea’s Kim Jung-un. According to many political analysts, the summit served to help North Korea’s leader normalise himself on the global stage and secure suspension of US-South Korean military exercises which is what they’ve wanted all along.

Trump, on the other hand, gained nothing of substance from the meeting even though he’s under the impression it was a tremendous success. I guess if you consider theatrics a success, then Trump did in fact succeed in that department.

In terms of the Miss Universe pageant, the summit happened just before the MUS 018 auditions and MUS 2018 Ms Zahra Khanum remembered it playing a big role in her preparations.

“I read up on world issues every night and took notes. I listened to what important people had to say about these issues, such as my idols (former US First Lady) Michelle Obama and (actress) Priyanka Chopra,” said Ms Khanum.

On her costume, she says “It definitely represents something we all need, which is to promote a sense of unity and friendship, rather than hatred and anger.”

I can’t argue with that sentiment – we definitely do need unity and friendship instead of hatred and anger – but I’m just not sure if it’s the best idea to memorialise such a controversial moment that Singapore was barely a part of in a ‘national costume’ segment of the Miss Universe Pageant.

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