FORMER beauty queen Larissa Ping hails her parents as her first motivators.
She remembers that when she was a child, they talked to her like an adult.
“They have always been supportive of whatever I wanted to do, be it swimming, ballet or music and others.
“They gave me room to grow and that was when I learned how to rise when I was down.
“I believe when you treat your children like adults, the children will develop better confidence as they grow up,” says the Sarawakian.
Larissa was crowned Miss World Malaysia 2018 when she was just 19 – a victory which brought her to Sanya, China where she represented Malaysia at the global Miss World 2018 pageant and brought pride to Sarawak and Malaysia.
To be in the pageant was a dream come true for the young beauty. She had been passionate about the Miss World pageant since she was younger. She loved the pageant’s slogan, ‘Beauty with a Purpose’, which was inclined towards humanitarian acts.
The pageant was not just about physical appearance and poise, but also a noble heart.
A beauty queen is not just a beautiful face after all but one who possesses the fine qualities and attributes of an ideal woman and which makes her image par excellence. In the words of Arzmy Hargreaves, the Miss International Sarawak 2023 official trainer for personal branding and communication skills: “A beauty queen carries a huge moral responsibility whilst maintaining a respectable character.”
Miss World Malaysia 2018
When Kuching hosted the Miss World Malaysia pageant for the first time in 2018, Larissa was thrilled.
She recalls how she started to do her own research on the pageant before signing up as a contestant, only to be inspired further along the way.
“I found that a lot of professionals competed at the global Miss World pageant, some were doctors and lawyers, and the winners were involved in humanitarian work across the globe. It became their mission to be involved in the work.”
By the time she joined the pageant, she had gained the needed confidence and courage to be a potential winner whilst nurturing the other qualities and attributes that made a beauty queen.
A notable mention: she was the youngest amongst all the contestants.
“I felt a lot of people doubted me then mainly because I was only 19, and that the other contenders were very competitive. I had to learn how to walk on high heels and was glad that there was no swimsuit segment in the contest.”
Support from parents
“I remember receiving negative comments on social media and how with the unceasing support from my parents, I was able to deal with all those by focusing on the positive.
“This helped me build my mental perseverance, which I believed was vital if I had to stay in the contest. It was only when I represented Malaysia in China that people began to see my potential and became very supportive,” says Larissa.
She attributes her success at the Miss World Malaysia 2018 to her supportive parents, especially her mother, and also the teachers who had given her leadership roles in school.
“Without them, I wouldn’t have learned to stand on my own two feet and be strong at a very young age.
“Even if I didn’t win in the Malaysian pageant, I would still be happy nonetheless.
“I have learned so much just being part of it. I remember giving thanks to God for the rare opportunity of being a contestant of the pageant while waiting for the announcement of the result.”
Apart from the Miss World Malaysia 2018 crown, Larissa also brought home two subsidiary titles: Miss Talent and Miss Photogenic.
The former beauty queen, whose father is a Chinese and mother a Kenyah, studied in St Joseph’s Private School from Form 1 to Form 5. She was among the first batch of students who went to the then newly-opened private school at the time.
In school, she sat on the prefectural board and was actively involved in the school’s marching band where she took on a leadership role. The discipline in marching band was very strict and indeed, it was a good training ground for her to better herself as well as develop her potential.
Larissa takes pride in the fact that the band won first place in two international competitions held respectively in America and Germany during her time. She graduated from the school as a straight-A student.
Cutting a refined and down-to-earth figure, she shares her bittersweet experiences as a contestant in the global Miss World beauty pageant in the resort city of Sanya, in the Hainan Province of China.
During her one-month stint as a contestant of the renowned international beauty pageant, she had to go through so many hurdles that she was able to take it in stride. The first challenge was when all contestants were required to do their own makeup and hairdo for every stage appearance.
“Some of the contestants, including myself, freaked out on the first day after the briefing.
“I had to learn to apply makeup on the spot through YouTube, and practise doing my hair bun.
“It was a matter of survival!
“It humbled me when later I came to know that many beauty queens who won in international beauty pageants did their own makeup. I found that inspiring.”
Lost phone episode
On the day she had to prepare herself for two segments, ‘Top Model’ and ‘Best Designer,’ Larissa lost her cell phone of all things. It was stolen from her room and the case became quite an issue as it was an invasion of privacy.
“I had never felt so down. I was the only contestant that went to the event’s venue without makeup that day as I had been crying over my missing phone.
“However, when we reached the place, I was able to put myself together. ‘It’s just a phone,’ I comforted myself.
“Although the problem was not over yet, I managed to focus on the show. I wiped my tears, did my hair and makeup, put on my evening wear and shawl and gave my best on the stage.”
Despite the predicament, Larissa brought pride to Malaysia when she made it to the Top 5 in the ‘Best Designer’ segment, and Top 30 in the ‘Top Model’ category.
However, she still had to find a way to get a new cell phone. Because of the strict regulations, she could not go beyond the pageant’s premises to go to a phone shop, even when she was in dire need for the device as she needed to be in contact with her team.
“In China, I was put on a spot. If you didn’t speak Mandarin, the locals wouldn’t speak to you and they wouldn’t help you.
“They would just pretend they didn’t understand you.”
Larissa picked up a bit of Mandarin when she was in kindergarten. Given the situation, she spoke Mandarin, just a splatter of it. She used the language to buy food, to ask for directions and all that.
For more serious matters, she would seek the help of Miss Hong Kong, Miss China or her roommate Miss Singapore to be her interpreter.
When she lost her phone, she needed to ask permission to check the closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage, so her Mandarin came in very useful.
Suddenly, she realised that she knew quite a lot of Mandarin words.
Her spirits were lifted high the day she received a new phone sent to her by a relative who resided in another state in China. She had earlier on called her mother in Kuching via a fellow contestant’s cell phone to tell her that she had lost her phone.
Consequently, her father contacted his relative in China, and the rest was history.
Once in a lifetime experience
“For me, the beauty pageant was a once in a lifetime experience and I didn’t want to waste a day thinking about my problem. I believe there is a solution to every problem; it really depends on how we deal with it.
“I wouldn’t have known resilience if everything went the way I wanted. It was not just about winning but the moral values, character building experience and friendship that we gained during the pageant month,” says Larissa.
She did fairly well to make Malaysia proud in the 2018 pageant, making it to the Top 30 out of 118 contestants.
She was also in the Top 5 in the ‘Talent’ category, where she flaunted her skills on the ‘sape’, and Top 10 in the ‘Multimedia Debate Challenge’.
Her attire, a blue evening dress designed by Sarawak’s fashion designer, Rozie Khan, was among the Top 5, and she made it to the Top 30 in ‘Modelling’.
“I can’t describe how proud I was when Malaysia’s name was mentioned each time they called my name.”
Larissa remains true to the motto that drew her to the Miss World pageant, ‘Beauty with a Purpose’, focusing on humanitarian work and supporting charity bodies.
During the post-pandemic, she raised funds through her social media account to help the urban poor around Kuching.
Larissa initiated the noble cause when she was a law student in Universiti Malaya spending her short break in her home city Kuching.
“I was thinking about how the pandemic had affected everyone, especially the needy, single mothers with young children, the elderly and the disabled.”
She collected RM11,000 in less than 24 hours. With the money, she bought rice, sugar and salt, canned food, biscuits, milk powder, detergent and other essential items, including sanitary pads, and distributed them to the needy groups in five identified locations around Kuching.
She also used the money to help students sitting for online classes who could not afford to pay for their Internet data.
Larissa lives the virtues that have shaped her character and the values that she learned at the pageant as an aspiring beauty, desiring to grow into the best version of her albeit for a brief period of time – a time filled with bittersweet experiences and memories, which have moulded her into a strong woman.
Today, at 24, she has graduated from the Faculty of Law of Universiti Malaya and is currently preparing for her pupillage with a law firm, whilst doing the things that she loves such as modelling, supporting local talents, doing digital marketing for brands, as she continues to support humanitarian causes and charity bodies.