From Gymnast to Beauty Queen

By Nyein Nyein 11 November 2013

As a youth, Htar Htet Htet represented Burma at gymnastics. Last week, the 24-year-old arrived in Thailand to take part in an international competition of a different kind.

Htar Htet Htet was crowned Miss Grand Myanmar in September, and will take part in Miss Grand International 2013 in Bangkok.

The main event takes place on Nov. 19, but in the northern Chiang Mai, Thailand, last week, she competed Friday alongside beauty queens from more than 80 countries for the Best National Costume Award. Wearing a dress in the style of the central Burmese Awa, or Inwa, Kingdom, she finished in the top ten.

During her time in the northern Thai city, The Irrawaddy’s Nyein Neyin caught up with Htar Htet Htet.

Question: What is it unique about your Awa style dress? Did you expect to be in the top ten?

Answer: I think it is because of the design as well as the performance.  I think the design is a bit different to others. Before the contest, I want a dress that would be distinguished from the others. So, we went to the National Museum [in Rangoon] and carefully selected the costume design that would suit me.

I did not expect much. The ancient Awa style is simple but still sophisticated. It is my own design and I am happy when the name Myanmar was called out. It is the first contest and I am one of the top ten. I believe my supporters will be happy like me.

Q: How did you get here, representing the country as Miss Grand Myanmar International?

A: There was a call for applications in Yangon to enter an international beauty contest. I like the aim of the Miss Golden Land Myanmar organization—which hosted the contest in Yangon—to show the world about the intelligence of Myanmar women, to share our culture. I also want to do my best in representing my country. So I applied and I was selected.

Q: How much preparation does it take to take part in the swimsuit contest, in terms of your confidence, and what will be the reaction from the audience? Wearing a revealing swimsuit not something Burmese women commonly do.

A: The swimsuit competition is part of the rules of contest. I used to do gymnastics representing Myanmar. In gymnastics, you also have to wear a short outfit. It is not very comfortable as a Burmese woman to wear swimsuit but I prepare so am confident and relaxed. We have to try to overcome this for the competition. I hope my fans would understand on me that. I’m sure there will be criticism as it is a new thing for Myanmar.

Q: When did you start doing gymnastics and when did you represent the country?

A: I started doing gymnastics at the age of 6. Then, two years later, I was selected to for the Myanmar gymnastics team. I received training overseas three times in Korea and China. I competed in the Southeast Asian Games [SEA Games] in 2003 in Vietnam. And I competed again in the SEA games in 2005 in Philippines, when I came in the top ten.

Q: From Gymnast to Beauty Queen

A: I stopped doing it when I was 16 because I was in a car accident. But since then, I worked training future gymnasts, as a teacher at an international school. I also volunteer at the Myanmar Gymnastics Federation. I want to contest in the 27th SEA games, which we are hosting [in December] but I cannot compete anymore.

Q: Why do you choose to become a beauty pageant after your gymnastics career?

A: I want to be a representative of my country. I want to show the world how smart Burmese people are, that we are able to compete in world stage. When I was young, representing my country as gymnast, I did my best and was used to the honor of being a representative for the country. But when I could not do that, I thought I should do something in a different area. And I saw I could also represent my country as a Miss. I want to share about my country to others.

Q: Is there a different feeling, or a different level of commitment, in being a gymnast and being a beauty queen?

A: It is a bit different. As a gymnast, the physical health and practice is important. You just have to show your talent, perform well with combination of practice. In a beauty pageant, you have to be perfect physically, mentally, in your knowledge and talents. You also have to prepare for the interview, knowledge sharing and talking about your own country.

Q: What is your plan after the beauty contest? Will you be a philanthropist like other beauty queens?

A: I will be a part of the SEA Games in December. I will keep volunteering in gymnastics. Then I plan to enter the artistic field. If I win the award, I will form a foundation to support philanthropic work. Some think after you become a Miss, you become philanthropist. But it is not like that. For me, I have been a volunteer since I was 16, supporting the vulnerable people, people with leprosy, using my own money. When I became Miss Grand Myanmar, I also provided support to those who are in need, together with my fans. We are not the only ones doing philanthropic work. There are many other youths who are in this field.

Q: This is the first Miss Grand International contest, and also you are the first to represent Myanmar, how do you feel about that?

A: Yes, it is the first beauty contest of Miss Grand International, and many other nations are participating too. And as it is in Thailand, our neighbor, it is really convenient. I met a lot of our fellow citizens, who support me, in Thailand. Also, as the theme of this beauty pageant is “Stop The War,” the organizers’ hero is Myanmar icon Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who is one of the prominent woman in the globe. I am so proud of that too.