Kebaya queen Jean Lee: Future movie star?
By Steven Patrick
Question: What did female Indonesian prisoners in Japanese prison camps during WWII wear as a mark of solidarity? Answer: Baju kebaya.
The kebaya has a history that goes back to the era of the Javanese-Majapahit kingdom in 1293. And prior to 1600, the dress was worn by royalty and aristocrats on the island of Java.
Since then, the kebaya has gained popular acceptance and has come to be synonymous with Malay—and Malaysian—women.
The kebaya is a symbol of pride to Malaysians, so much so that its design has been taken for the uniform worn by the stewardesses on our national airline. So it's more than timely to have a beauty pageant based on the dress and dangle a possible movie role as a prize for the winner.
At the first Miss Wilayah Kebaya 2012 competition last week, Jean Lee was "overjoyed" when she beat 15 other finalists to win the title and some acting classes. She wowed the judges with her form and grace.
She won jewellery, beauty products and classes worth RM7,500, and a 12-month acting course with the newly-established Just Work Productions. The company will produce five Mandarin movies over the next two years and Jean now stands a chance to appear in one of them.
After winning the pageant, Jean said she appreciated the kebaya and its iconic history even more. She never thought parading the dress could bring her a shot at fame and fortune. She said she loves the cut of the kebaya, which emphasises a woman's shape.
"It feels so great to get into the finals and I'm actually Miss Wilayah Kebaya 2012. ... It's really something. I'm speechless," she said. The night definitely belonged to her—she also took the Miss Elegant and Miss Gorgeous titles.
Jean, of Chinese and Burmese descent, said that even with all this, she would continue her studies and balance a law career with modelling. She added that she’s more inclined to take family law, as criminal law is "not her thing".
This wasn't surprising considering her family-oriented lifestyle. "My parents are here and proud of me," she gushed.
The first and second runner-ups were Cassandra Yong and Stephy Laow Kiet Mun, both 22-year-old students. The competition was judged by actress Nancie Foo, TV host Lavin Siew, Miss Chinese Cosmo 2004 Carrie Lee and others.
Miss Malaysia Kebaya 2012 state pageants have already crowned winners in Selangor, Sabah, Sarawak, Penang, Johor and Perak. The Miss Malaysia Kebaya Pageant 2012 national final will be held later this year. The beauty pageant is organised by Smart Network Marketing.
Published: 19th July 2012