When Beauty and Intelligence Walk Hand in Hand!

by Agneta de Bekassy
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With only a few months left as Miss Universe Thailand, Maria Lynn Ehren took time to get together with me for a little talk. Years ago I had met this beautiful, humble, young woman and already, by that time, she impressed me. I asked Maria, who I know has been modelling since  a young age, how she got involved in the Miss Universe Thailand Contest (MUT).

She said that when she was a mere 18, people told her that she should participate in this competition, but she did not embrace it. She had always been more interested in science and business, so she decided to follow her interest and went to Sweden to start working on her Master’s Degree. Maria has a Swedish father and a Thai mother, thus she speaks both languages fluently, Swedish maybe not exactly fluently, but of course she’s also fluent in English and I presume that English is her preferred language.

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She started on her Master’s Degree (in Consumer and Business Marketing) in Sweden, at the Stockholm Business School, 2015. She decided to study in Sweden, as she wanted to brush up her Swedish and learn more about her Scandinavian roots. She then took some time off and travelled to Düsseldorf in Germany to accept an internship at the Henkel Company. She stayed 6 months, but realised that a job in an office was not that appealing, that she wanted something more challenging and exciting.

She has also studied International Business Administration in Rotterdam, at the Erasmus University, The Netherlands. She decided to go back home to Bangkok. She moved in with her mother and immediately felt inclined to discover Thailand. Shetravelled around Thailand and discovered many things that she thought one could improve upon: She was struck by a big desire to make a difference, to help people to improve their life circumstances. She briefly thought about going into politics, but no, it  was not quite what she wanted.

At this time, she came to reflect once again on the question she had years ago, to participate in the Miss Universe Thailand. A competition of this magnitude could provide an opportunity to influence people, to get their attention and make an impact on society. She decided to talk to the model agency she had worked with earlier. Khun Pi A, at the agency, had encouraged her to participate in the Miss Universe Thailand contest, but she always hesitated as she was studying and did not feel ready for it.

She now explained to him that she wanted to do something that could help her country to improve socially and culturally. She is very much into topics such as: Women’s Rights, Environmental Issues, and Education. If she could be a contestant in the MUT, she could make herself heard and get people’s attention, she believed. Khun Pi A happily signed her up for the competition.

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In Thailand, forty girls were chosen to introduce themselves at the coronation of MUT which took place this year on July 27th at Siam Paragon Hall. The girls came from all over Thailand to participate. They spent two weeks together in Chiang Mai, doing commercial films, photo shoots, etc. “For many girls, this contest is all about being beautiful,” Maria explains, “but some of us have other visions, and we want, through the auspices of their beauty, to make the world a better place.

Every girl has her own reasons for participating, and it’s important not to judge a book by its cover,” Maria says. She also told me that many of the girls participate for the money it brings, money to help support their families. “We were interviewed and had to explain our reasons and further dreams, and I think I might have made a good impression here on the judges, as I was very clear, telling them I wanted to contribute, make improvements, and changes for my country and people.

It was an amazing feeling when I found out that I became one of the 5 finalists and was in the good company of: Miss Venezuela, Miss Jamaica, Miss Colombia and Miss South Africa. The big final took place in Las Vegas. During these 14 days in the US, I was sharing a room with Miss Laos, and we became close friends.” Not far from our room, Miss Korea and Miss Japan also shared a room.

I was wondering and asked Maria if there was a big competition and jealousy among the contestants, but Maria denied it. “We had great fun and supported each other, so there were little intrigue and rivalry going on”. I told Maria that I had, as a participant in the “Miss World Contest” far back in 1975, the same experiences.

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“We were interviewed and had to explain our reasons and further dreams, and I think I might have made a good impression here on the judges, as I was very clear, telling them I wanted to contribute, make improvements, and changes for my country and people.”

We were more than 60 girls from all over the world, but there were no difficulties except for some language barriers. It’s a common prejudice to think that the girls are always jealous and cat fighting amongst themselves. Many in Thailand and Sweden sent best wishes to Maria on the final day of the competition. I wondered how she felt upon the stage as one of the five selected beauty queens.“Well, it’s quite strange, but I felt so calm, not nervous at all,” Maria answered.

I’m sure Maria made a deep impression on the judges, but at the end, Miss South Africa was bestowed the crown. Here I must say, in the Miss World competition in 1975, we were all very sure that Miss Germany would win. She was the most beautiful and interesting woman that I had ever met, and there were many who thought the same. She was, if I remember it correctly, chosen number 2 or 3, and a girl from one of the Caribbean islands became Miss World. I couldn’t help thinking that, behind the scenes, politics played a massive role.

I asked Maria if she felt the same way as I did about the judges choices, she smiled and replied, “No comment”. Maria went on to say how surprised she was by her return to Thailand after the competition. “I had really not understood that Thai people were so interested and involved in this event. When I arrived at the airport, I thought there must be a famous boyband arriving, as so many people had gathered together at the airport, waving flags and screaming.

It took some time before I realised it was a ‘welcome home party’ for me. That was an unbelievable feeling. I had in my deepest dreams, no idea of what an impact I seemed to have on people. This pushes me to work even harder to improve and make a change for my people.” I asked Maria what her future plans will be subsequent to her time as Miss Universe Thailand ends in June.

“I have many different plans I want to try to fulfil,” she answers. “I am working on setting up my own foundation. I want to study and learn how to educate the youngest girls and boys about how to respect themselves and others, teamwork etc. There is a special university here that organises classes for specific topics, that interests me and I also want to take classes in ‘trading’.

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“I have many different plans I want to try to fulfil… I am working on setting up my own foundation. I want to study and learn how to educate the youngest girls and boys about how to respect themselves and others, teamwork etc.”

I know I need to focus on one specific topic. I really want to teach the young ones the advantage of teamwork activities, respect for other people and for you and protection. There are so many young girls around that think they must agree to anything a boy asks of them, just to be able to keep them and their love. Men need to take their responsibility,” she points out. “Here we need both parents and teachers to cooperate. I have a feeling that the young kids will be listening to me.”

Maria also explains the important impact her own mother has on her. “In my age today, mothers and my relationship have changed a lot. We have become more like two close friends. My mother also inspires me,” she says. Maria has twin brothers, both married and living in Texas. I was also a bit curious to find out if there is a boyfriend in her life. “I am an individualist and I have to be careful as I have a very protective fan club,” she says with a big smile.

Maria has been approached by several organisations, to be asked if she would consider working with them, e.g., Greenpeace. UNICEF has also contacted her and made her an offer. For the time being she does a lot of research, trying to find out what she really wants to focus on. In the meantime she does commercials for TV and she has played a role in a love story series which soon will be released. What about modelling I ask her: “I’m not that interested in fashion anymore,” she said bemusedly.

Whatever this young lady will decide, I am sure it will be something impressive. She has the right attitude and stands with both feet on earth. Maybe we in the near future can read about her foundation “Maria & Mom” and until then I wish her all luck and success.

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