Miss Universe Myanmar 2020 brings âlight, hopeâ amid political crisis
Miss Myanmar Candy Thuzar uses the Miss Universe stage to send a powerful statement.
STAR/ File

Miss Universe Myanmar 2020 brings ‘light, hope’ amid political crisis

Charmie Joy Pagulong (The Philippine Star) - May 30, 2021 - 12:00am

She didn’t win the Miss Universe 2020 crown but for the hearts of many, including Filipino pageant fans, Miss Myanmar Thuzar Wint Lwin — who also goes by the name Candy Thuzar — will always be the lovely and feisty bet who urged the world to speak out against the military junta.

In a recent meet-and-greet event in the US, she was feted by the Chin community in Indianapolis for her courage and representing their country in the 69th Miss Universe pageant. She landed in the Top 21 and won the National Costume competition, thanks to a powerful statement asking prayers for her country.

“You are truly amazing. We are people who love our traditions and customs. You are a blessing for the Chin people and Myanmar, too. We believe that God answered our prayers through you. We just want to say thank you,” a representative of the community said during the event streamed live via Facebook by Vanmi Productions. “During the crisis in our country, you showed us confidence. You bring us light through your confidence and your smile. You give us hope… May God bless you abundantly.”

The 22-year-old beauty queen has taken refuge in the US following the Miss U competition. She was welcomed by the Burmese community in Indianapolis, the same group who helped her obtain asylum and land a modeling stint in New York City. This after she was issued a warrant of arrest by the military junta of her home country. She is secured for now and won’t have to face persecution in Myanmar.

The Miss Myanmar candidate enjoys life abroad and feels comfortable in her new “home.” “It was my dream to get here when I was little. I’m so happy to be here. I like the weather in Indianapolis because it is the same weather in Myanmar. So I feel like home,” she said during the Q&A session of the meet and greet.

“I came here, achieved my childhood dream and became successful. I think it’s my fate and I’m lucky,” she added.

When asked about the things she missed from home, she answered “family, home and the food.”

Candy is also goal-driven. “I only focus on my goals. When I face negativity in life and sometimes feel like giving up, I will say to myself to stay focused on my goals and this motto keeps me going. I don’t care what others say as long as I am focused on my goals.”

Candy’s Miss Universe journey was laden with unexpected trials and tribulations — from the time she boarded the plane to Hollywood, Florida to the issuance of arrest warrant after the pageant — but she was able to surpass them all.

Just like in a dramatic, suspense-thriller movie scene, she reportedly went incognito, managed to evade Myanmar border security at the airport, and took the flight to the US to compete in the international contest. Candy sent her original national costume through an international courier company so as to not catch the attention of customs officials, unfortunately, the outfit did not reach the venue. But members of the Chin community in Florida were generous enough to lend her an ensemble labeled as “Fearless Empress.”

Her winning national costume was based on the ethnic attire of her Chin people from northwestern Myanmar, where fighting has raged in recent days between the army and anti-junta militia fighters. As she paraded in her national costume, she held up a placard that said, “Pray for Myanmar.”

Meanwhile, she recalled her “good experience” at the Miss Universe. “I met a lot of people, we have formed a friendship. The organization was helpful and kind to me. They did everything for me. This is the first time that I was away from home and I came here alone.”

She furthered that she was “shocked” when her name was called as part of the Top 21. “I can hear the people’s applause, I was very happy and even cried. This is the first time that Myanmar entered the Top 21. I’m so glad and happy.”

Candy, who started modeling after she graduated high school to support her family, is among dozens of Myanmar celebrities, actors, social media influencers and sports people who have voiced opposition to the coup, which had elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi overthrown and detained. She was an active protester in her country, having joined demonstrators in streets to support the pro-democracy movement.

According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners activist group, at least 807 people have been killed by security forces since the Feb. 1 coup. It also said that thousands have been arrested and are still detained, including celebrities.

“Our people are dying and being shot by the military every day,” Miss Myanmar said in a video for the Miss Universe 2020 competition held at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.

“I would like to urge everyone to speak about Myanmar. As Miss Universe Myanmar since the coup, I have been speaking out as much as I can,” she added.

Myanmar’s junta spokesman did not answer calls from Reuters seeking comment at that time.

Early this year, another Myanmar beauty titleholder took their country’s fight to the international stage. Myanmar model Han Lay did not win Miss Grand International beauty pageant held March 27 but she was remembered as one of its most impassioned contestants.

The 22-year-old made heads turn in Thailand during an emotive speech where she pleaded for “urgent international help” for her country, the same day 141 demonstrators were killed in a crackdown by military rulers she said were selfish and abusing their power.

“I can say one thing, that we Myanmar citizens will never give up,” she told Reuters. “They told me that they will fight on the street and I’m also fighting my way on the stage now. So I think that if they will not give up, we will win.”

Like Candy, Han Lay was allegedly issued a warrant of arrest after her speaking up against the military forces.

Meanwhile, in an interview with The STAR, journalist and former councilor at the Myanmar Press Council Zayar Hlaing cited Candy’s bravery as well as other personalities’ initiatives to put the spotlight on Myanmar’s crisis. “Burma Spring Revolution is exam for society who is enemy or friend clearly. Hundreds of celebrities, bloggers, journalists and social influencers have been arrested since Feb. 1. The rest who protested against military dictatorship are moved and (hid). All walks of lives don’t want authoritative military rules and speak out everywhere.

“Thuzar Wint Lwin is one of them. I appreciated her since she dares to speak out loud to get international attention on what is happening in Myanmar. Only one sesame seed can’t make oil but unity can make it. Not only her but also Myanmar citizens around the world speak out and call for democracy. I believe her voice can help in some ways.”

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