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November 11, 2011

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Shanghai gal makes country proud

WHEN the 60th Annual Miss Universe pageant reached over 1 billion viewers as it was broadcast on NBC from Sao Paulo on September 12, we, in China, had little idea about it.

But the result made us proud. Miss China Luo Zilin finished fourth runner-up out of 89 contestants. Though she didn't win, it was China's best ranking in the past eight years.

The 1.83-meter-tall, 24-year-old Luo, a model from Shanghai, had one-month of strict training in New York ahead of the pageant.

Her mentor is Chinese beauty mogul and TV personality Yue Sai-Kan, who has dedicated much of her time this year to make China a contender for the Miss Universe title.

With the strong finish at the pageant, Luo's schedule is packed these days with charity activities, top-level events and media interviews.

Luo and Kan spoke to Shanghai Daily about their experiences at the beauty pageant.

Q: What did you do before winning the Miss China crown? And what prompted you to enter the annual beauty pageant?

Luo: I used to be a model since I was still in senior high school. I went to modeling school to correct my positions and gain confidence. But after years of modeling, I wanted to change and prove I can do better than being simply a model. An older friend of mine encouraged me to participate in this year's Miss China beauty pageant though I never considered myself a typical Chinese beauty.

Q: Yue-Sai, can you tell us how you got involved with the Miss Universe China pageant?

Kan: They have been trying to get me involved for a long time. I wasn't really sure I wanted to do it because I knew it'd be a lot of work and I need to devote a lot of my energy. In China we have no beauty pageant culture. This year I finally devoted myself to the pageant because if you want to promote a good image of China, there are a few important competitions that will highlight our image and this is one of them.

Q: It was the very first time you've helped Miss China prepare for the Miss Universe beauty pageant, what was the goal?

Kan: There have been Asian winners of the Miss Universe title but there has never been a Miss China who has won the title. I was determined to provide the Chinese contestant the best training and assistance to help her be at her very best. The moment Luo went to Sao Paulo, she was no longer Luo Zilin, she was called "China." She was the Chinese culture image ambassador and she showed the soft power of China.

Q: Zilin, can you share with us what it was like in New York for the pageant boot camp?

Luo: Every day was packed with lessons in modeling, makeup, etiquette, dance, English, and interview skills. Yue-Sai invited professional trainers including Lu Sierra (the runway coach for Miss USA), five-year Miss Universe trainer Akiko Shimizu, chief fashion stylist Lizzette Kattan, makeup artist Yuko Takahashi. Lu Sierra was charged with teaching me how to strut on the catwalk and other elements of comportment. More than a "walking clothing rack," I learned to be more expressive and always smile on stage. And I worked very hard on the interview part.

Q: Miss China had been going to the Miss Universe pageant for the last decade and the result had always been disappointing. You must have been under tremendous pressure.

Luo: Of course. When I arrived in Brazil, I saw 88 gorgeous girls and thought to myself, "I cant do this." But Kan knows how to encourage me. She said: "Try your best and you'll have no regrets."


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