For someone like me who used to work in the Golden Land (Myanmar) for 7 consecutive years, who embraced the culture, explored the ins & outs, known the do’s & dont’s, befriended the locals by sitting on a small plastic stool just hanging out there and drinking la-phet (tea) and eventually became a “local” by speaking their dialect fairly enough to converse and survive every single day there while a bowl of mohinga (national Myanmar food made from rice noodles with fish soup, fritters and even pieces of chopped banana trunks)—I am just so glad to see a Myanmar representative after such a long time of their hiatus in an international pageantry like Miss International.
And if you are superlatively wondering why Nang Khin Zay Yar posed like the pic above by overly protruding her back side—is simply because it’s a “Myanmar fashion way of posing”. Yup. Most ads may it be a poster, flyer or even on the billboards usually feature these Myanmar models posing “that way”. I should know because I did many advertisements before with high profile Myanmar actresses, models and even with upcoming stars.
The word “Nang” on her name on the other hand is actually a Shan word which means “Miss” commonly used by the native Shans when calling or designating a young lady themselves while “Sai” is the male counterpart for “Mister”.
During my so-called “heydays” in Yangon, I do recall the strict policy of “no showing of armpits and above the knee” censorship among Myanmar female models in any form of advertisement…not even on the runways in most cases. But when I visited my the then “second home” last year, I was surprised how things evolved drastically—infrastructure, trend and people-wise. Plenty of new malls arose and so does private gas stations boomed like mushrooms out of nowhere. Boy in my days, you’d see a long queue of vehicles piling and lining up on their controlled gas stations like when people lined up during the opening days of Uniqlo, Krispy Kreme and H&M here in Bangkok. And yes, boys & girls have learnt to dress up the “Korean way” though I still saw some in their “longyis” (sarong) and mainly guys still bitterly chewing betel nuts.
And the fashion shows now? Totally different in terms of the clothes and how these female & male Myanmar models worn it compared to what I saw some 13 years ago. It’s a whole new world. A new game if I may say.
And yes, kudos to Nang Khin Zay Yar for being the first Myanmar beauty contestant to ever wear in a swimsuit, two-piece to be exact. . .
The 23-year old and 5 feet and 6.5 inches tall native of Taunggyi (Shan State) did make her hometown proud by bringing home the bacon of Miss Myanmar International 2012 last March 2012 at Myanmar Convention Centre. Let’s check how did Nang Khin Zay Yar fair in her local competition. . .
Let me wrap up this feature by sharing to you my interview with The Myanmar Times issue November 2002. In this interview, three expatriates from three different ad agencies in Yangon were interviewed by Kimberly Fielding about “Beauty”. I was one of those ad execs being interviewed and fortunate enough to voice out what I feel inside based on my years of experience working with various models in the industry and research. Kimberly interpreted it by saying how the young people are getting sick of fashion shows and want something different.
This is how I explained it to Ms. Fielding, “They’ve seen the fashion shows and they didn’t want to join them. They want to listen to music and they want to see something new. We need to give them something more.”
When I said that, I said it because that’s how I felt and I believe that’s my best diplomatic way of saying it. At that time, the media in Myanmar is not the same as from today. Some of my friends and even acquaintance from the industry gave their kudos to me for sticking up to what I’ve said to think that it was really “ballsy” to say something like that during that period in my beloved Myanmar.
But as I’m Not Most People and always a one step ahead of everyone, I did sense and I knew for sure that one day, the people of Myanmar will realize the depth of the words I left. ‘Twas until the only 4th Myanmar female delegate in an international pageantry (2 previous delegates from Miss Universe: one in 1960 with Daw Myint Myint May who also won the ‘Miss Congeniality’ Award and one in 1961 with Daw Myint Myint Khin + the sole representative for Miss International 1961 with Daw Minnie Pu) came up to represent their country once again in five decades with a hope to bring the crown this October 21, 2012 in Okinawa, Japan.
Now, I rest my case and I am glad that the Myanmar people will be able to see something new…something more with this young lady from Taunggyi representing her country in an international beauty competition.
Here’s the scanned photo of my The Myanmar Times interview. . .