Update (21 May 2013) – Vanessa presented me with a copy of her book ‘Be The Right You’ at the National Achievers Congress and it was a breeze to read. I learnt a number of things which are ‘new’ to me, such as the “Principle of Non-Interference” which is to ‘allow others to make their own mistakes, go through their own processes, and walk their own journeys in their business and personal lives‘.
Within about 150 pages, Vanessa shares about how you can “Be The Right You”. Ladies who want a quick guide on how to lead an empowered life would do well to get a copy of this book. 🙂
The original interview…
Official Pageant Trainer for Miss Singapore Beauty Pageant 2011 & Miss Universe Singapore Finalists in 2012
Founder, Vanessaism Inc Pte Ltd
[Pictures selected by Grace from Facebook & courtesy of Vanessa Tan]
1) You’re said to be on an “Inner Beauty Crusade” by the media. Tell us more about this crusade and how we can cultivate inner beauty.
After being crowned Mrs. Singapore World 2011, I worked with The Salvation Army Gracehaven Home to design a programme to help young girls who come from abused backgrounds, were declared beyond parental control or had minor brushes with the law. It was a 9-month Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative from August 2011 to Mar 2012 by my training company, Vanessaism Inc, in collaboration with The Salvation Army Gracehaven Home.
The self-confidence building programme called “Be the Queen in Your Life™” not only imparted life skills but also helped the girls refocus on their dreams, talents and strengths. These girls have been told and “programmed” to feel helpless and worthless since they were young and I wanted the girls to rediscover their inner beauty all over again.
This CSR project was concluded on 2 March 2012 with The Salvation Army Gracehaven Pageant and Charity Dinner which raised funds for Gracehaven Home. In addition, all 20 girls participated in an “Inner Beauty Pageant” to showcase what they have learnt during the programme. It was touching to see their transformation. There was an adorable, pint-sized young lady who was a shy and quiet girl when I first met her but she had a 360-degree transformation. Her confidence level shot up during the rehearsals and she practically shone like a “queen” during the inner beauty pageant – she won the hearts of the judges and she won the pageant!
We were interviewed on Channel News Asia which described the project as an “Inner Beauty Crusade”. We were also interviewed on 938LIVE and Capital 95.8FM. The Straits Times described the charity dinner as “The Beauty Pageant with a Difference” and The New Paper wrote about how “Inner Beauty Beats Looks”.
The reason we wanted the media coverage was to raise public awareness of Gracehaven Home. Gracehaven Home has been around for the last 20 years helping and housing children from disadvantaged backgrounds.
All credit for this initiative’s success goes to the team behind Vanessaism Inc, including my business partner (Kwok Yew Chong), volunteers and sponsors, together with the entire team from The Salvation Army Gracehaven Home. Without them, this crusade would not have been possible.
Two Exercises to Cultivate Inner Beauty:
Exercise One: Visualize your Dreams
During the first training session with the girls, I refocused their attention on their dreams and what they want out of their lives. Instead of living our lives by default, we can create and design our lives according to what we desire. Visualization exercises such as drawing or creating the vision board using pictures helps us attract the things we want into our lives.
Most people are programmed to focus on the things that they don’t want such as “I don’t want to be poor”, “I don’t want to break the law” etc. Guess what? The Law Of Attraction also works to bring what we don’t want into our lives. Therefore visualizing our dreams gives us meaning in our lives and also refocuses our attention on what we want instead of what we don’t want.
Exercise Two: Gratitude Exercise
Focus on your strengths instead of your weaknesses.
I placed a piece of paper on each girl’s back and asked the girls to write 3 POSITIVE things on the back of every girl. After being called worthless and useless since young, it was time to recondition them to focus on their strengths and be grateful for the gifts and talents they are bestowed with.
The version for adults is the Gratitude Exercise. We can practise being grateful and thankful everyday by spending 15 minutes to write down a list of things we are thankful for. For instance, I am thankful to be alive, healthy, blessed with a supportive family, the ability to sing, draw, dance etc. I do this exercise twice everyday – once before I sleep and when I wake up. This exercise sets me in the positive, grateful mode for starting a brand new day with the right mindset.
2) You do what few other Beauty Queens are seen doing – in “walking the talk” and making a difference in the lives of others. What drives you to want to help the less privileged in society?
I wanted to return to my calling of helping children from abused and disadvantaged backgrounds re-instill confidence and self-love back into their lives. I believe all children deserve a happy childhood.
I used to work as a Child Protection Officer with the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports, investigating into child abuse cases, counseling the families and designing suitable intervention plans to help the families cope with domestic abuse. I was 23 years old then and I had the opportunity to interact with a side of society that isn’t mainstream.
I worked with children struggling with physical, emotional and sexual abuse at a young age. There was a seven-year-old girl under my care who said to me, “I am scared. Please protect me.” From that day onward, it became my life’s mission to be the voice of underprivileged children.
I realized that participating in a Mrs. Singapore Pageant would be an excellent platform to champion my cause of creating greater awareness for the children suffering from child abuse. That is what I did after I won the overall title. Even if I did not win the title, the desire of returning to my calling to be the voice of underprivileged children will still drive me to do what I did.
3) Tell us more about your love for Scuba Diving – what draws you to diving?
I first discovered scuba-diving when I was operating a flight to the Maldives during my days as a flight stewardess with Singapore Airlines. The tranquility that I experienced underwater; the peace and quiet (the only noise you hear is created by the bubbles when you breathe or when a parrot fish sinks its teeth into the corals) and the return back to Mother Nature made me fall in love with scuba-diving.
When I dive and am in close range with the different marine creatures, I feel extremely humbled by the vastness of the Universe and the beauty of Mother Nature.
It is as if, relatively speaking, I am just a tiny speck in this huge Universe and therefore, the problems I experience in my life are nothing compared to the miracle of life. Diving helps me feel grounded and makes me see life from a different perspective. Our time on this Earth is short and transient. Instead of focusing on the nitty gritty (sometimes negative) details of life that drags us down, why not choose to see how we can do, accomplish and create a difference in other people’s lives in the short time we have on this Earth?
After the first discovery scuba-dive in Maldives in 2005, I returned to Maldives a couple of months later on a holiday to complete my Open Water scuba-diving certification for a week. In 2006, I was back to the beautiful island again to do my Advanced Open Water scuba-diving. In 2007, I became a certified Rescue Diver and subsequently went to Manado, Indonesia with 2 other male friends to complete a 3-week Divemaster course. I now belong to a small elite group of female Divemasters in Singapore.
Since 2005, I have had the opportunity to dive in different exotic destinations and had close encounters with magnificent marine creatures. I swam with the barracudas in Maldives, dived with the elusive and magnificent whale shark and danced with Manta rays in Similan Islands, Thailand.
I also had a near-death experience seeing the mysterious Mola Mola or Ocean Sunfish in Bali, witnessed the tiniest seahorse (the pygmy seahorse) through a magnifying glass in Manado, penetrated into the wrecks of a sunken battleship in Australia and even gate-crashed into a mating session of a pair of cuttlefish!
During my honeymoon in Norway and Iceland, my husband and I dived in the 2 Degree Celsius waters in Iceland in-between the European and American continents.
I have been blessed to experience the beauty of Mother Nature to the fullest through scuba-diving. Some of my more conservative, less adventurous female friends ask me why I pursued scuba-diving and I told them that should I be unable to wake up one morning, I want to know that I have lived life to the fullest.
4) Who are the people who inspire you to do what you do, and what are the most important principles/lessons you have learnt from them?
That person would have to be Jesus Christ. I was born again in February last year after finally receiving the revelation that God has been a wonderful gentleman and has never given up on me since I was four years old. I was first brought to church when I was four and never received Jesus because my parents practised traditional Chinese religion. Despite not being a Christian for close to 30 years, I always have my prayers answered whenever I prayed.
For instance, I was struggling to get into SIA as flight stewardess from 2003 to 2004 and had four failed attempts. When I got desperate and prayed for my final attempt, I breezed through the different interview rounds and was highly favored by all the interviewers. This was quite a feat having gone through 4 failed attempts.
As I grew in my faith in the walk with the Lord and getting to know Jesus Christ more and more through my daily devotionals and reading the Bible, the true character of Jesus Christ and grace of God really amazes me.
If I were to select the 3 most important lessons that I learnt and practise in my life, it would be the following:
Be faithful with the little things (Luke 16:10) – At times when I meet with objections and obstacles in accomplishing a certain task, I remind myself that I need to be faithful with the little things and giving thanks for the little things in order to be entrusted with the bigger things.
For instance when we were running the Gracehaven charity dinner, we had the initial struggle of not finding enough sponsors to purchase the tables. Three weeks before the charity dinner and we only had 8 tables sold. It then dawned on me that I have forgotten to be grateful for the 8 tables that were already sold. The moment I switched into the gratitude mode and being faithful to what was already given to us, the last 3 weeks was a breeze. On the day of the charity dinner, I was so touched that it was a full house – 27 tables were fully sold and all proceeds went to Gracehaven! Praise the Lord!
Don’t focus on yourself; it’s never about you anyway (Matthew 6:33) – The Bible states “Seek first the kingdom of God and His Righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” See lesson number 3 below.
Love thy neighbour as thyself (James 2:8) – As the “Be the Queen in Your Life™” programme received more and more media coverage, I received two extreme kinds of responses from the people around me.
The first group of people were the ones who genuinely felt happy for me and the project I embarked on and they wanted to be part of the project as well.
The second group of people were the ones who said that I was receiving too much publicity and that I was showing off the work that I do for the girls at Gracehaven Home. I would be lying if I were to tell you that I am not affected by what the “critics” say even when the things they say to me are not accurate.
However, remembering lesson number 2 of not focusing on myself, I realized all the charity work that is done is to help the girls regain self-confidence and Gracehaven Home to gain greater public awareness.
It is easy to love people who love you, but what about those who don’t? I reminded myself to love my neighbour as myself and the moment I did that, a sense of peace set in and I could refocus my energies on the work that God wants me to do.
5) You’ve mentioned that hitting the age of 30 is one of the best things that ever happened to you. Share with us why this is so. What would you say to your 20-year-old self, if you could?
Oh yes, turning 30 is one of the best things that ever happened to me, getting married is a close second.
Contrary to the popular fear of facing the big 3-0 that your looks, health, career starts going downhill, I felt extremely at peace with myself when I celebrated my 30th birthday.
There is a tremendous sense of security, self-assurance and self-confidence that comes with knowing myself and the purpose in my life as I moved into my 30s. While I was struggling with fuzzy self-identity and seeking the approval of others during my 20s, turning 30 was a breath of fresh air.
With accumulated life experience, I know who I am, what I want in my life and have learnt to make myself happy regardless of the situation I am in. I am also told I look better physically compared to when I was in my 20s because of the inner beauty and confidence that I exude; I am also in better health and financially more independent now.
Being married comes a close second because being in a committed relationship also means it’s no longer “Me, myself and I”. Of course, I meet some ladies around my age who are still struggling with this issue. You don’t get married to feel complete. You are already complete in your own imperfections whether you are single or married. This is because if you see yourself as being complete only with a partner, you run into the danger of being needy, always seeking your partner’s approval and you are less likely to have an exciting life on your own. These are not helpful in a committed relationship because it’s harder for you to love your partner when you keep focusing on yourself.
So, if I were to speak to my 20-year-old self, I would say “Enjoy your journey as a 20-year-old and learn as many things as Life can teach you because when you turn 30, it’s time for you to fly!”
Grace says: I don’t know about you, but I got really inspired just by reading and editing this email interview. I highly recommend you bookmark this page and refer to it again during your journey in Life.
Vanessa truly is a beauty queen with a difference and she deeply inspires me with her attitude towards Life. She’s so generous in sharing her insights that she had sent her answers to me in a 7-page Word document(!) – a couple more pages and this interview could have taken the format of an ebook! 😀
If you have the good fortune to meet her like I did, or hear her speak at an event, grab the golden opportunity to learn from this inspiring individual!
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