Under this year's concept, the Miss Thailand 2009 contest will search for someone with a good heart as well as brains and looks
Little girls dream of being a beauty queen, and at the national level there are three titles to pursue: Miss Thailand, Miss Thailand Universe, and Miss Thailand World.
The Old Vajiravudh Students Association revived the national beauty contest in 1964, and eight Miss Thailands were crowned till 1972.
A dream come true for Chutima 'Kaimook' Durongdej, she became Miss Thailand Universe 2009, which took her to the Miss Universe pageant in the Bahamas, to bring back home the Miss Photogenic Universe Award. Channel 7 has been running this beauty contest since 2000 with Kaimook as the 10th Miss Thailand Universe.
Entertainment giant, BEC-Tero sends their beauty queens to the Miss World contest. The Miss Thailand World 2009 final will be televised tomorrow night on Channel 3, from 10:30pm, and the winner will go to the Miss World contest in December in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The original Miss Thailand though is organised by the Old Vajiravudh Students Association, which now has MCOT and Modernine TV as its partners in broadcasting the contest. Also taking place this month, the Miss Thailand 2009 attracted 310 applicants but only 18 hopefuls have made it to the final on October 28.
The winner will join the Miss Thailand Hall of Fame, which includes Apasra Hongsakula, Cheranand Savetanand, Kanok-orn Boonma, Porntip Nakhirunkanok and Sawinee Pakaranang.
The first Miss Thailand, then Miss Siam, was Kanya Tiensawang. Beauty and politics seem to be of two different worlds but the Miss Siam contest was actually a spin-off from the change in the country's ruling system. Held on December 10, 1934, at Saranrom Royal Park, it was a highlight of a fair to celebrate the Constitution and to promote democracy.
Apasra Hongsakula, Miss Thailand 1964 and Miss Universe 1965.
After Kanya Tiensawang, there were four other Miss Siam, before changing the title to Miss Thailand in 1939. The annual beauty contests were cancelled during World War II, then resumed from 1948-1954. The government then stopped organising the Constitution fair as well as the pageant.
Its comeback a decade later not only gave the country a Miss Thailand but a Miss Universe. The beauty contest was revived by the Old Vajiravudh Students Association, which after two years of crowning a Miss Vajiravudh renamed it as Miss Thailand.
Finishing high school in Penang, Apasra Hongsakula entered the Miss Thailand 1964 contest, and after winning the title, she went on to become the first Miss Universe from Thailand.
''It was the first time for Thailand to participate in the Miss Universe contest. Thus, the new age of the Miss Thailand beauty contest began to follow an international standard of beauty, for example height was important as well as communication and language skills. Miss Thailand took on a greater responsibility as a cultural and tourism ambassador to promote Thailand to the rest of the world,'' she said.
The judges didn't overlook beauty and they were backstage taking a close look of the contestants, who had to get up very early to come to Saranrom Royal Park. ''We didn't even have the time to finish putting on makeup, and so the judges virtually saw our true beauty and they even looked at our hands,'' said Apasra, who's now a spa entrepreneur.
MCOT’s vice president marketing, Kematat Paladesh.
She emphasises that Miss Thailand should be as beautiful from within, and the position will give her a great opportunity to give back to society.
After Apasra, Porntip Nakhirunkanok, now married to an American tycoon, was the second Thai to win the Miss Universe title in 1988.
Changing times bring a different definition of beauty, and today, the prestigious Miss Thailand title asks for more than having a pretty face and a perfect figure.
''Beauty contests were regarded as wethee kha orn referring to a competition of physical features, like nice legs. The Miss Thailand contest no longer has a swimsuit competition, and so it looks beyond external beauty. Contestants shouldn't only be sweetly smiling on stage but can smartly answer questions and express their viewpoints,'' said Miss Thailand 2008, Panprapa Yongtrakul, a fourth year medical student.
Over the years, more and more highly-educated contestants have contended for the title and previous Miss Thailand with a medical background include Dr Apisamai Srirangsan (Miss Thailand 1999) and Lalana Kongtoranin (Miss Thailand 2006).
The 18 finalists of the Miss Thailand 2009 contest. The winner will be announced on Wednesday, October 28.
After winning the title, Panprapa managed well both university schooling and the obligations of being a Miss Thailand. ''As Miss Thailand, I have contributed to society by promoting culture and tourism and helping charity. It also gave me opportunities to do things that I had always wanted to do like newsreading,'' said Panprapa, who's a Channel 9 newscaster on Saturday and Sunday nights.
Panprapa was the first Miss Thailand under the cooperation between the Old Vajiravudh Students Association and MCOT. In its second year, the producer has put together a modernised beauty contest-cum-reality show to search for a digital age beauty queen.
Kematat Paladesh, MCOT's vice president of marketing, noted that the Miss Thailand 2008 was a phenomenal beauty pageant since the contestants had fan clubs.
The reality TV show lets the audience get to know more about their personalities, and so the audience may develop a liking for a particular contestant and join her fan club,'' he said. ''Moreover, this year the contestants will be writing diaries, blogs, and tweeting to further reach out to people who go online to update on the beauty contest.''
Panprapa Yongtrakul, Miss Thailand 2008.
The reality show will even feature commentators to advise contestants on personal developments. And of course, SMS voting will be a part of the pageant to find a Miss Popular Vote.
Affirming that it's not an Academy Fantasia-like gimmick, Kematat said: ''Audience participation makes it more interesting whereas the reality show and the online content will allow the contestants to express their thoughts and feelings, adding value to themselves.''
From October 18-27, social, cultural, religious and charitable activities will have the 18 finalists proving themselves that they fulfill the qualities of being Miss Thailand. Under this year's concept, the Miss Thailand 2009 contest will search not only for someone with beauty, brains, and special abilities, but also a good heart.
Miss Thailand 2009 reality show airs on Oct 21, 22, 23, 26, 27 on Modernine TV, from 8-8:30am. The final to be held at Aksra Theatre will be televised on Oct 28, from 10:15pm. For more information, visit www.mcot.net/missthailand2009.
Burin Wongsanguan with the Miss Thailand 2008 crown.
A painter, an architect, a publisher, a PR man and even a filmmaker, Burin Wongsanguan has done so many things in his life. Long associated with the Miss Thailand beauty pageant, he even scouted contestants, including Saengduean Maenwong, who won the title in 1968. Moreover, she took home the dazzling crown designed by him.
Burin became involved in designing the Miss Thailand crown in 1966. Beforehand, it was a tiara; for example, Apasra Hongsakul's was a silver tiara with 200 diamonds.
Inspired by the Miss America crown, he designed a bigger and more majestic crown with an even level across it. While probably making it too heavy for a beauty queen's head, she couldn't complain.
Lighter and sloping down the sides designs followed. Not only did he think up their shapes and proportions, much of the jewellery on them were his designs. Notably, Miss Thailand crowns feature iconic blue jewels, which represent the "ocean blue" concept and Vajiravudh spirit.
"Each crown has its own history and was designed to represent an important occasion of the year. For example, the Miss Thailand 2006 crown, worn by Lalana Kongtoranin, had gold diamonds to mark the 60th anniversary of His Majesty's accession to the throne," said Burin, whose other post-retirement activities include reviving ballroom dancing.
At 73, he continues to be the crown designer for this year's contest. A huge crown made from silver immersed with platinum, it's adorned with precious diamonds and pearls while its platform boasts a lotus petal shape to portray elegance and purity. Taking three months to make, it costs around 400,000 baht.
The winner of the Miss Thailand 2009 pageant will receive the glittering crown, a million baht, a trophy, and a car. Burin, however, believes that the crown is a real treasure to a beauty queen because it brings out an aura whenever she wears it.
This year’s crown has over 1,000 diamonds and pearls.