Maeya: Dark beauty

Maeya: Dark beauty

Thailand's beautiful new Miss Thailand World is a walking advertisement against the need for whitening creams

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Miss Thailand World 2014 Nonthawan ‘Maeya’ Thongleng at the Bangkok Post building earlier this week. PORNPROM STRABHAYA

Redefining beauty

Thailand’s Pocahontas on her dream to shift the country's perception of pretty

Pim Ungphakorn

The message has been drummed into us — beauty means light-coloured skin.

It’s no surprise, then, that the winner of this year’s Miss Thailand World 2014 has raised a couple of eyebrows. Her dark-bronze complexion is immediately noticeable among the pale throng of contestants.

But Nonthawan “Maeya” Thongleng doesn’t just stand out because she looks like an Amazonian goddess, or, as the media have begun to dub her, Pocahontas. Maeya stands out because she’s natural, endearing and down to earth.

And most importantly, she’s comfortable in her own skin.

“I wanted to prove that darker skin girls can make it in the Thai beauty world too,” she says. “Before the contest, I told my Instagram followers that I wished to represent all the girls who felt insecure about their dark skin. I said, ‘I will try to win this contest to give you a leg to stand on'.”

“Many Thais want to be white and those with dark skin try to hide it. They think they aren’t good enough but I’ve shown them that this isn’t true.”

The 22-year-old aspiring singer and model has since been inundated with messages from fans saying she’s helped them change the way they feel about their skin.

“They tell me, ‘I won’t try to be white anymore. I will be proud of myself'.”

Maeya with first runner-up Venus Nananthachai (left) and second runner-up Chattharika Sitthiprom.

As a young girl growing up in Surat Thani in the South of Thailand, Maeya often dreamed of being crowned Miss Thailand.

“I practised my beauty queen wave every day — I was a real wannabe,” she jokes. But she discouraged herself from getting too hopeful, aware that there were very few dark-skinned Thai beauty pageant contestants.

“I would tell myself, ‘They don’t like people with dark skin. Only people with pale complexions are considered beautiful’. But when I looked at myself in the mirror, I thought, ‘I am pretty! I’m just a different kind of pretty’.”

And the 2014 Miss Thailand World is........Nonthawan ‘Maeya’ Thongleng. PATTARACHAI PREECHAPANICH

Maeya says she had to try a lot harder than the other Miss Thailand World contestants to encourage people to accept her skin tone.

Did she ever think she stood a chance of winning?

“Of course! I think that I met the other requirements [for winning] except perhaps about my skin colour, but I decided that it was OK! I’d just have to change their minds.”

Maeya during the evening gown competition. PATTARACHAI PREECHAPANICH

Maeya had previously competed in Miss Thailand World 2011 but failed to make the final round. She spent the next three years focusing on her studies at Stamford International University. Talent and intelligence are just as important as beauty, she believes.

You can see why Maeya won in this video:

Learn from listening

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  • a leg to stand on (idiom): confidence; support - ความเชื่อมั่นความมั่น
  • aspire: to want to achieve something or to be successful - ตั้งปณิธาน
  • aware (adj): knowing that something exists, or to have knowledge or experience of a particular thing - ทราบ, รับรู้
  • beauty pageant: a competition to choose the most beautiful from a group of women - ประกวดนางงาม
  • bronze: a dark reddish-brown metal made by mixing copper and tin - ทองสัมฤทธ์, ทองแดง
  • complexion: the natural colour and condition of the skin on a person's face - ลักษณะผิว
  • contestant: someone who competes in a contest - ผู้แข่งขัน
  • crown: to give someone the position of being a winner in a competition - ให้ตำแหน่งแชมป์
  • down to earth: practical and sensible - ทางปฏิบัติ, ตามความจริง, ไม่เพ้อฝัน
  • drum into (verb): to make somebody remember something by repeating it a lot of times - ตอกย้ำ, พร่ำสอน
  • dub (verb): to give a name to, not the real name - ตั้งฉายา, ตั้งชื่อเล่นให้
  • encourage: to make someone more likely to do something, or to make something more likely to happen - ปลุกใจ
  • endearing (adj.): appealing, likable, lovable, something that makes people love you - ซึ่งเป็นที่รัก, น่ารัก, เป็นที่รัก
  • goddess: a female spirit with special powers that people in some religions believe in and worship - เทพธิดา
  • immediately (adv): happening right after something else with no delay; right away - ทันที
  • insecure: Not secure; not confident of safety or permanence; distrustful; suspicious; apprehensive of danger or loss - ขาดความมั่นใจ
  • intelligence: the ability to understand and think about things, and to gain and use knowledge - สติปัญญา, ความเฉลียวฉลาด,ไหวพริบ
  • inundate with (verb): to give or send somebody so many things that they cannot deal with them all - ท่วมหรือเจิ่งนองไปด้วย
  • media: radio, television, newspaper, the Internet, considered as a group - สื่อ
  • mirror: a piece of glass that you can see yourself in - กระจก
  • natural: normal; as you would expect - ตามธรรมชาติ, เหมือนจริง
  • noticeable (adj): easy to see or notice; clear or definite - ซี่งเห็นได้ชัด
  • pale: describes someone's face or skin if it has less colour than usual, for example when they are ill or frightened, or if it has less colour than people generally have - ซีด
  • perception: a particular way of understanding or thinking about something - ความเข้าใจ
  • proud: feeling pleased and satisfied about something that you own or have done, or are connected with - ภูมิใจ
  • raise eyebrows (idiom): to show that you are surprised by something or that you disapprove of or are surprised by something - แสดงความประหลาดใจ, แสดงความไม่เห็นด้วย, แสดงความไม่ชอบ
  • requirement: something that you must have or do in order to do or get something else - ข้อกำหนด, ข้อบังคับ
  • runner-up: winning second place in a competition - รองอันดับหนึ่ง
  • shift: to change - เปลี่ยน
  • stand out: to be easily seen; to be noticeable - เห็นชัด
  • talent: a natural ability to be good at something, especially without being taught - ความสามารถพิเศษ
  • throng: a crowd or large group of people - ฝูงชน, ประชาชนจำนวนมากที่มาชุมนุมกัน, กลุ่มคน
  • tone: a shade of a colour - เฉดสี, โทนสี
  • wannabe: a person who wants to be famous or successful like someone else they admire - คนที่ปรารถนาจะเป็นแบบผู้อื่น
  • wave: to move your hand or arm from side to side in the air in order to attract attention, say hello, etc - โบกมือ, โบกเพื่อทักทายหรือส่งสัญญาณ

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