Miss Grand Myanmar contestant Htar Htet Htet has been named the winner of the Miss Popular Award at the first-ever Miss Grand International beauty contest in Bangkok, Thailand.
The 24-year-old native of Yangon claimed the title on Tuesday after receiving 8,899 votes in online polling from her fans. The award comes with a US $3,000 cash prize.
Last week, at a contest in the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai, she was among 10 finalists in the national costume category, the prize for which went to Miss China, Jie Pan.
She also finished in the top 20 among 80 contestants competing for the title of Miss Grand International 2013, won by Janelee Marcus Chaparro of Puerto Rico.
Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Wednesday, Htar Htet Htet thanked her fans for their support.
“It is because of all our people’s support, both inside and outside country,” she said, adding that she hoped they were not disappointed that she wasn’t one of the top 10 finalists in the contest for the crown.
“I hope my fans understand that I tried my best in every competition,” she said.
She also spoke warmly of her fellow contestants, saying they took a strong interest in her country because they knew of Burmese democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi.
“They also said I was sure to win the popular vote because many people in Myanmar were voting for me on the Internet.”
In addition to receiving the official Miss Popular Award, Htar Htet Htet was also the winner of the People’s Choice Award on the Thai beauty pageant website T-Pageant.
Htar Htet Htet is the latest of a string of Burmese beauty contestants to win recognition in international competitions. Until political and economic reforms began in the country nearly three years ago, Burmese rarely took part in such contests.
Like some other Burmese beauty queens, Htar Htet Htet is involved in philanthropic work at home, volunteering with the Myanmar Gymnast Federation and also working with the elderly and people with leprosy. She said she will use her $3,000 prize to create a foundation to help fellow Burmese who are in need.
“I haven’t decided yet exactly which sector to support, but I will keep doing my volunteer works as a teacher, trainer and social support worker for the elder people,” she said.
The former national gymnast is the third Burmese beauty queen to win an online popularity contest since last year. In September, Khin Wint Wah was voted the most popular contestant in the Miss Supranational competition, held in the Belarussian capital Minsk, while Nang Khin Zay Yar won the same title at the Miss International Myanmar contest in Okinawa, Japan, in November 2012.
In October, Khin La Pyae Zaw was named Miss Personality at the Miss Tourism Queen International contest in Xianning, China. In November, Moe Set Wine became the first Burmese to compete in the Miss Universe contest in more than 50 years.
Next month, another beauty queen, Gonyi Aye Kyaw, will compete for the title of Miss International 2013 in Tokyo, Japan