It takes a certain type of person to become a pageant queen. It takes someone ever-poised, ever-cheerful and oh-so-eloquent. A penchant for charity work helps too. Most importantly, though, they must look damn good in a swimming costume.
So it’s not surprising then that 22-year-old Grace Chan, who fully encompasses these characteristics, was an early favourite to win TVB’s Miss Hong Kong 2013 contest. The serenely confident and glamorous Chan deftly charmed both the judges and the audience, securing 170,000 votes from the public on the way, in the first ever Miss Hong Kong contest to include public voting.
The moment she won marked the culmination of a lifelong dream for Chan, who had longed to enter the pageant ever since she was eight years old. “My mum and dad were in the audience,” she recalls. “The moment that they announced I was the winner, my eyes shot straight at them and then I saw mum crying. And then I just cried!”
Chan is Hong Kong-born, but has lived in Vancouver since she was five. It was only after graduating last year in Canada that she decided to return to her homeland, just in time to enter the pageant. “My mum came back to Hong Kong with me to see if I was going to adjust properly,” she says. “The Hong Kong culture is so different from Vancouver. That was the one thing I had to adjust to… but, because I have enjoyed that simple, quiet kind of life [in Canada], I am ready to jump into something that’s more fast-paced and action-packed. I love Hong Kong!”
But perhaps Chan still has a tiny bit of adjusting to do in our tech-savvy city. “I didn’t get a mobile phone until I was at university!” she laughs. “And I don’t have Facebook. I just love talking to someone face to face, and I feel like this is just a barrier.”
Despite the fact that Chan is still adjusting to being in Hong Kong, she has already become a well-known face across the territory. Yet, she seems to be coping with the attention well. “No matter what happens around me,” she says, “I’m just going to continue being myself and being natural. I love wearing my flats, my jeans and just walking around. The media honestly just wants to give you the attention that you deserve. I feel like, if you try to hide, people are going to try and take pictures of you because you are hiding!”
In recent weeks, Chan has attracted some attention over her exceptionally tiny frame – at 39.5kg she’s the tiniest Miss Hong Kong. However, she brushes this off. “This is who I am, and I have been like this since I was young,” she says confidently. “All my friends know I am healthy – and I live a very balanced life. If I show that I’m happy with who I am, then they can’t bother me.”
More recently, Chan has also garnered attention following comments she made on TVB News, apparently voicing her support of universal suffrage. She has clearly become a little more wary, especially as her comments were subsequently pulled from the main broadcast. “I think I was shocked that the comment was a little bit taken out of context,” she says. “I was relating [my comments] back to the pageant itself. But once it’s out, you can’t change it. It gives me more awareness of how people will take what I say, and how they will turn it.”
She doesn’t, however, seem apologetic for speaking her mind. “Any person should be aware of the things that are happening around them – whether politically or economically. It’s great we have an environment where we are able to actually express these opinions.”
Being Miss Hong Kong may not be quite as glam as people imagine, however. “Seeing [the pageant] on TV, you think that the whole process is like a fairytale – but it’s not! I can’t say the whole process was like ‘I am on cloud nine!’ because there is so much work that goes into it, and the late hours as well. There were a lot of rehearsals – just knowing where to stand is a lot of work!”
While Chan hasn’t decided what she wants to do after this year, she is concentrating on working hard at all her community engagements. “Sometimes I’m working seven days a week, but I like it!” she says with zeal. “Every day is so exciting!”