Friday, 13 July 2018 | MYT 12:00 AM
Ordinary girl embarks on extraordinary quest
PETALING JAYA: Critics describe her beauty as biasa saja (ordinary), and unfazed Nurul Shamsul (pic) says she does not mind taking part in the Miss Universe New Zealand 2018 finals as an “ordinary girl”.
The 20-year-old said since images of her went viral after she qualified for the finals of the pageant, she had received a lot of flak on social media.
“I don’t mind being biasa saja because that is my aim of being in the competition.
“I want ordinary girls to relate to me, and know that even someone like me can enter and be accepted in a western beauty pageant,” she said in an interview.
Nurul said she understood that social media criticism was “now a part of culture”, adding that people were free to be critical.
“Sometimes I laugh because the comments are hilarious. I’m just glad that I was brought up by my parents to respect others,” she said.
Born in Ampang, Nurul was raised in New Zealand by her Malaysian father and Indonesian mother since she was five years old.
Pledging to keep her hijab (head cover) on during the finals on Aug 4, the eldest of three siblings said she wanted her critics to know that it was not important to conform to western ideals of beauty.
Nurul is said to be the first contestant of the pageant in New Zealand to wear a hijab, and one of the first to ever do so in the world.
“I want women to accept who they are and embrace themselves because they are beautiful already,” she said.
The final-year psychology student at the University of Waikato in Hamilton, New Zealand, disagreed that beauty pageants reduced the status of women to that of mere objects.
“I get a lot of criticism because in the Islamic point of view, this competition is like objectifying me in a way, but I don’t think it does. I feel like it liberates and empowers me as a woman,” she said.
Nurul said the current Miss Universe pageant did not have a swimsuit round but a calendar shoot, pointing out that contestants were free to choose what they wanted to wear.
“I strongly believe that Miss Universe is more than mere physical beauty, especially with its tagline ‘confidently beautiful’.
“We do so much more than just take pictures, as we also help raise money for charity,” she said.
Having worn the hijab since entering the university three years ago, Nurul said she had never been pressured to take it off.
“People are actually more supportive of me wearing the hijab which is really good and even in the competition I have never been pressured not to wear the hijab and it has not disadvantaged me in any way,” she said.
After the beauty pageant finals, Nurul said she planned to finish her degree and later complete a Master’s in community psychology, saying it was her dream to liberate and empower people regardless of gender.
“What I love about being part of the competition is that I feel it has given me the opportunity to do what I have always wanted to do as a community psychologist, which is to help communities thrive,” she said.