‘Our beauty queen’s costume a feast for the eyes’

PETALING JAYA: It’s not as outrageous as Lady Gaga’s meat dress but Samantha Katie James’ nasi lemak-inspired national costume for the 66th Miss Universe pageant final has already garnered much attention – and reaction.

After the dress for the Miss Universe Malaysia 2017 received some not-so-favourable comments following its unveiling at MyEg Tower here, former beauty queen Datin Elaine Daly has come out in defence of the creation.

“It’s an iconic national costume. We have people who like it and we may have people who don’t. Same as last year when we had the iconic Petronas Twin Towers; this year, we have the iconic food,” said Elaine, who’s the national director of the Miss Universe Malaysia Organisation.

“We love it and can’t wait to showcase it,” she added.

Created by fashion designer Brian Khoo, the homage to Malaysia’s much-loved national dish features an ivory silk gown that’s hand-embroidered with beads to represent steamed coconut milk rice.

It is accentuated by a dollop of sambal on the bodice with a side of fried ikan bilis, hard-boiled egg and cucumber slices. Huge banana leaves made of silk fabric complete the picture.

Contacted last night, Khoo said: “Nasi lemak is loved by all Malaysians. Previously, traditional costumes were used but there hadn’t really been one that could represent all of us.”

Earlier, at the preview yesterday, Elaine said the theme of the dress was to reflect the nation’s identity, as traditional elements such as songket and batik had been used numerous times.

She expressed confidence that James would give nothing but her best at the competition to be held in Las Vegas on Nov 26.

“We hope she will be able to bring home the country’s first Miss Universe title. But even if she does not, we are already very proud of her and her accomplishments.”

Khoo said the dress took 400 hours of craftsmanship to be made within a month.

“My team and I wanted to give Samantha something unique and iconic to wear. Nasi lemak is a national dish enjoyed by all,” he said.

Fashion designer Hatta Dolmat was unimpressed.

“How can they use this to represent Malaysia in the Miss Universe?” he wrote on Instagram.

He added that the traditional songket shouldn’t be dismissed as a possible concept for the dress.

Facebook user Chris Liang wrote: “This is getting out of hand. Please bring back our traditional costumes and make Malaysia proud again.”

Napsiah Wan Salleh posted: “Maybe the dress is relevant in a celebration parade but not in a beauty pageant.”

James, a 22-year-old Chinese-Brazilian model and aspiring actress, also debuted a stunning red evening gown for the competition’s preliminary show.

“I chose the colour red because not only is it one of Malaysia’s national colours, it also represents boldness and power. Com-plemented with a sophisticated and feminine design, the dress is a perfect match for James as I see all these qualities in her,” said Khoo.

At the event, Arch Kuala Lumpur City Gallery also unveiled the art piece titled “The Tropical Rainforest”, which James will present as a memento to be auctioned for charity at the national gift auction segment.

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