After an initial botched beauty pageant in which she was removed from participating in Miss Earth finals, Nathalie Dekker bounced back to snatch the Miss Netherlands Miss Tourism International and went on to win the Miss Tourism International title in Kuala Lumpur on 31 December 2010!
I was one of the judges for the grand finals on 31 December 2010 since I am, ahem, an authority on physical male and female beauty! Over the years I had been invited to judge many Miss Malaysia pageants but this was the first time I was able to judge the Miss Tourism International finals. It is now into its sixteenth year so it was really high time I contributed my expertise to Dato' Danny Ooi who rose from poverty (read his autobiography book now available in good bookshops which I helped to edit!) to be Malaysia's first and only owner of an international beauty pageant. He now has 80 franchise holders of Miss Tourism International from across the globe. He founded this beauty contest based on building bridges of friendship via tourism in 1994 and the first pageant was held in Kuching, Sarawak.
I have never won a beauty contest but no one can beat me in the bling department!
Miss Tourism International 2011 holding the new Panasonic LUMIX cameras.
The 2010/2011 pageant was held at Sunway Resort and Spa, one of Malaysia's finest hotels known for its hospitality, service and amenities. This is my favourite hotel outside KL's Golden Triangle. The Ballroom was vast and pillar-less with plenty of room for everyone even though there were nearly a thousand guests as Miss Tourism International is held annually on 31 December and is the only one on earth to fall on New Year's Eve! This explains why I was unable to judge as previously I was either out of Malaysia in some snowy parts as I feel Christmas and New Year should come with snow or else was tied up at some parties from which I was unable to extricate myself to go judge!
Three beauties! Dato Wendy-Anne Chong, Miss Tourism International 2011 Nathalie Dekker and me!
Nathalie Dekker, Miss Netherlands and newly crowned Miss Tourism International 2011 with me and my feathers created for the occasion by HoleInOne!
Andrew, boss of SOGO Department store, Malaysia's biggest and best with friends.
The main players doing the honours; Dato Danny Choo pins the sash bearing the legend Miss Tourism International 2010/2011
The outgoing Miss Tourism 2010 from Germany crowning her successor.
Tan Sri Dato Sri Dr Jeffrey Cheah, visionary founder and chairman of Sunway Group which owns the stunning Sunway Resort & Spa, venue of the contest, presenting the trophy to the new Miss Tourism International.
Dato Wendy-Anne Chong with second runner-up Miss Venezuela.
Handsome model Adrian Loh who is so tall he is the same height as Nathalie with her crown.
Miss Mongolia, 4th runner-up and one of the judges.
Enjoying drinks and supper after the contest. My bird is still intact and I mean the pigeon! Speaking of birds, top designer Carven Ong had earlier helped me pin and position the pesky pigeon on my shoulder!
Putting my pet pigeon in its place took some persuasion.
The end result was worth being pricked by Carven's pins!
Judges from left; Miss Tourism International 2009/2010 Miss Germany, General Manager of Sunway Resort & Spa, Dato Wendy-Anne Chong, Carven Ong and me, Kee Hua Chee. Standing is Master of Ceremony Dato Mahathir Lokman during the close-door judging of swimwear section.'
Miss Malaysia at right
From the start, Nathalie Dekker’s astonishing resemblance to Barbie doll made her a favourite. Everywhere the 75 international beauty queens went in Kuala Lumpur and elsewhere, she stood out with her blonde tresses, pretty features, svelte figure and brilliant smile. Her English is perfect as if to match her physical assets. Even her size is doll-like. At 168 cm, she is among the shortest to win an international title, giving hope to those who are not flagpole tall nor towering over most men like Miss Malaysia Universe Andrea Fonseka 2004, Miss Malaysia International Chantelle Chuah 2011 or another namesake Nathalie Glebova, Miss Universe 2005.
Small but perfectly formed, she is such a vision I automatically start scrutinising for flaws, cover-ups and cosmetic enhancements. As if reading my mind or more likely due to my clumsy staring at her chest, she laughs, “Everything about me is real. My eyes, nose, teeth and cheekbones are genuine. I have not done any surgery. I don’t have hair extensions. No Botox but then I am only 21 so I don’t need it. No fake nails. Even my eyelashes are real as I have naturally thick and long lashes! I only use mascara and make-up!”
I comment politely her frontal pair of assets must be real too since they are not spectacularly big. She flutters her lashes as she casts a look at her cleavage. She chuckles, “No silicon! You can get a doctor to verify!”
Being so formidably armed in all the departments except vertical, one can forgive Nathalie Dekker even if she is the classic dumb blonde. But here the resemblance to a doll ends. She was among the most educationally qualified for she had already passed her law degree three months before her arrival in Malaysia!
Miss Tourism International 2011 is now a notary and will graduate in July in Masters in Law. “After winning the title I have to work extra hard to make up for lost time and the days I had to take leave from studying to fulfil my obligations.” says Nathalie Dekker who came to Kuala Lumpur to launch Panasonic’s new Lumix cameras. “By chance I was already using Panasonic Lumix DMC FH3 in Holland before I participated in Miss Netherlands so it was a happy coincidence. Now I am launching Lumix DMC LX5 and TZ 20.”
Miss Tourism International 2011 Nathalie Dekker shows how to hold the cameras properly so you look great behind or in front of them!
This PR-savvy dynamo seems adept at promoting everything she touches. “I am studying at University of Utrecht, the best university in Holland. I finished my Bachelor degree last August and embarked on my Masters in September. Law is so important as everything in life involves law. Just buying a drink has legal connections! I was always curious to learn how the legal system works as it is an integral part of our daily existence.”
Me and Miss Malaysia Gabriella Ashley Boudville who failed to win as she fumbled during the Q & A due to stage fright and ruined her chances as none of us judges could save her! Many expected her to be in the Top 3 so it was a big disappointment! But she won Best National Costume.
There, there...organiser Dato' Danny Ooi lending a shoulder for Miss Malaysia to lean on as he comforted her.
A little late in the day now for tears... but there are other pageants!
Miss Tourism International 2011 with the Feathered One!
As The Hague is home to the World Court where international trials and disputes are settled, she is bound to cause a sensation but this will have to wait. She smiles, “I can always work behind a desk for the rest of my life. Now I plan to enjoy my reign which is just into its third month. Once it is over, I will continue to model, act and do promotional work for charity. I am open to all offers and plan to travel the world.”
Born in Breda, Nathalie has an elder sister and younger sister and brother. “My elder sister is the opposite of me and oh, I don’t mean she is ugly, don’t you dare write that down! I mean she has dark hair, tanned and not interested in beauty pageants!”
Her head is sensibly fixed to her shoulders. “I love being young and beautiful but I know this is temporary and age will limit my future projects. So I decided I would have law to fall back on when I am old and grey and no longer in demand,” beams the 21 year old unconvincingly.
Participating and even winning the crown tend to receive a lacklustre reception in pragmatic Holland where the Queen is seen riding bicycles. Just compare Amsterdam’s functional Town Hall with the flamboyant and magnificent ones in Paris and Brussels and you get the drift. Sighs Miss Tourism International 2011, “Yes, the Dutch mentality is down to earth, simple and straightforward. They don’t like too much glamour and frivolity. All the Miss Netherlands contests are never broadcast on TV in Holland! I wish we are more like Venezuela, Colombia, Brazil or Philippines where people love beauty pageants and beauty queens!”
FROM MISS BENELUX TO MISSING MISS EARTH TO WINNING MISS TOURISM INTERNATIONAL
This was not her first foray. In 2009 she came across former Miss Benelux’s Hyves or Dutch Facebook page. “She mentioned the contest was still open. So I looked at its website and submitted my particulars. ‘Benelux’ is an amalgam of Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg and only citizens from these three countries can participate. The finals were held, strangely enough, in Turkey! There were 20 contestants from Netherlands, 14 from Belgium and 3 from Luxembourg with a winner from each country. I won for Netherlands.”
Part of the prize was taking part in the Miss Earth finals. This time, Lady Luck frowned on her. A new franchise holder had consolidated the franchises for Miss Netherlands Miss Universe, Miss World and Miss Earth and informed her they were sending someone else for Miss Earth finals.
Distraught, the law student even checked the fine print to no avail. “I was shocked and upset. As a little girl, I had dreamed of being a princess and wearing beautiful clothes and being crowned. My world fell apart. I cried for a week. Then I dried my tears and approached Miss Tourism Netherlands Organisation which held the franchises for Miss Tourism International and Miss International. Its director Katia Maes helped me get back on my feet. The various pageants were looking for different types of girls and I was chosen to be Miss Netherlands Miss Tourism International.”
Her triumph was spot on and had an eerie touch. “The last time a Miss Netherlands won was in 1989 when Angela Visser became Miss Universe. I was born in 1989! Everyone says I was fated to win!”
She was in Malaysia from 12 December till 3 January 2011. As expected, she was interviewed by Dutch media upon her return. What was unexpected was she and Miss Tourism Netherlands Organisation had to approach the media. “The Dutch journalists were not fawning over me and we had to ask them and offer interviews! Not the other way around like in Venezuela and Philippines where national beauty queens were constantly promoted. In Holland, I had to do my own public relations and promote myself. The media and local authorities did not make a big fuss.”
So she embarked on a personal pr blitz on her own. “I decided I should be seen publicly in high profile events and do the party circuit to get noticed,” she says sagely. “I want to bring back the excitement of beauty pageants so I have to take the initiatives. I wear my sash and crown proudly at events which encourage the TV crew and journalists to interview me. People have an excuse to talk to me and ask questions so I can change the perception of beauty queens in Holland. I am in constant touch with Miss Tourism International president Dato’ Danny Ooi and Irene Liong in Malaysia for advice.
“Miss Netherlands 1976 Nanny Nielen helps me and she has a website misshollandnow.com so people can follow what we are doing. I have appeared as celebrity guest at Amsterdam Fashion Week and Sapph lingerie show.”
When she won the crown, it was a dream come true. “I was doubly happy as earlier I won Miss Benelux Holland and could not participate in a pageant and now I won Miss Tourism International! It was all I could wish for. The morale of the story is that if you fall, don’t lie there feeling sorry for yourself but get up on your feet and try again!”
She is 47 kg but loves pizza, local steamboat and nasi lemak. “I love eating but I also swim so I don’t put on weight. I have 18 swimming ‘degrees’ or diplomas in Holland! I plan to visit Sipadan, Langkawi and Pangkor Laut on this trip.”
Some contestants griped she had an unfair educational advantage. Her curt reply; “What is wrong about being well educated and articulate? As representative of your country, you must speak well and be well informed, especially about your host country! A beauty queen must have something interesting to say as a Miss Tourism International is involved with building bridges and promoting tourism.
“A finalist should maximise her skills and assets. I speak well to compensate for not being 180cm!”