Burma Wins Costume Award at Miss Universe Competition

By Thae Thae 31 January 2017

RANGOON — For the first time in the pageant’s history, a contestant from Burma won the award for best national costume at the Miss Universe beauty pageant.

Miss Burma Htet Htet Htun won the award at the Miss Universe 2016—the 65th annual event—which was held on Monday in Manila, the Philippines. Her costume theme was a “puppet princess,” and it was inspired by a traditional Burmese puppet show.

Kachin dressmaker Lazing Gam Htoi, who has worked as a fashion designer for more than a decade, designed Miss Burma’s national costume. In fact, he designed most of the dresses that Htet Htet Htun wore throughout the contest.

“The Miss Myanmar pageant national director, Daw Soe Yu Wai, asked me to design a costume that resembled a traditional puppet. But I thought there were some limitations in making a costume that looked like a puppet. Of course, I could copy what others have done and add my own embellishments, but I didn’t want that,” he said.

Instead, Lazing Gam Htoi had the idea to combine a puppet stage with the dress. So he designed a small puppet stage that was light enough to wear.

“I wanted to put a Burmese puppet show, our real heritage, onto the international stage. I wanted people to realize that the thing being shown on the stage, it exists in real life,” he explained.

During the beauty pageant, Htet Htet Htun stepped out carrying her small puppet stage which bore paintings of Shwedagon Pagoda and Bagan in the background. She opened the small curtain and performed a puppet-style dance, earning big cheers from the audience.

“Other countries have their own style of puppet shows. So I put Shwedagon Pagoda and Bagan in the background of my stage so that people will recognize this comes from Burma once the curtain is opened,” said Lazing Gam Htoi.

The entire costume—the traditional dress and the small puppet stage—weighed around 35 kilograms (77 pounds).

“I am proud of this win for my country. I am thankful to Htet Htet Htun, that she was able to do what I told her to do on the stage.  I am grateful to those who congratulate me as well as to those who criticize me,” said the designer.

France won the overall title of Miss Universe. Haiti finished as first runner up, and Columbia was second runner up.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko