This year, second-time Miss Universe Singapore contestant Mohana Prabha will join 82 other delegates from all around the world to vie for the coveted international title of Miss Universe 2019. The 1.75m-tall statuesque Indian beauty was crowned Miss Universe Singapore 2019 at Zouk on Thursday (Dec 17) night, beating out nine other gorgeous finalists, including those of mixed parentage.

From left: Universe Singapore 2019 finalists Bernadette Belle Ong, Laranya Kumar, Lynette Chua, Mohan Prahba, Valencia Quah, Nerrine Ng, Mia Chow, Lia Tan, Cheryl Yao, Annika Xue Sager.
From left: Universe Singapore 2019 finalists Bernadette Belle Ong, Laranya Kumar, Lynette Chua, Mohan Prahba, Valencia Quah, Nerrine Ng, Mia Chow, Lia Tan, Cheryl Yao, Annika Xue Sager.

Student Laranya Kumar, 19, came in second and full-time host and actress Cheryl Yao, 25, came in third. Model and spin instructor Miss Annika Xue Sager, 19, won the subsidiary title of Miss Global Asian Model Singapore. Emcee and actress Bernadette Belle Ong, 25, won a special title, Miss Aspirational by Beaute Hub and the accolade of Miss Charm Singapore. She will represent Singapore next year in the Miss Charm pageant, to be held in Vietnam.

From back: Miss Cheryl Yao, Miss Bernadette Belle Ong and Miss Annika Xue Sager.
From left, Miss Universe Singapore 2019 finalists in the swimwear segment: Annika Xue Sager, Laraya Kumar, Lia Tan, Cheryl Yao and Bernaette Belle Ong.

Speaking to after her win, Miss Mohana, 24, shared that she had felt more confident this year after being groomed by creative consultant Mr Jonas Antonio Gaffud. Mr Gaffud, who is from the Philippines and is the creative director of Miss Universe Philippines, is also dubbed the “Queen Maker”. The most successful pageant queen he has directly prepped to date is Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach, who was a special guest judge at Miss Universe Singapore on Thursday night.

“Last year, I just had this gut feeling that I wasn’t going to win,” said Miss Mohana, who was shortlisted as one of the top five in Miss Universe Singapore 2018. “This year, my gut said that I actually stood a chance. I learned the basics last year, and I was able to make a lot of refinements under Jonas, the new director.”

Miss Mohana is a Miss Universe Singapore 2018 Top 5 finalist, as well as a finalist in The New Paper New Face in 2017. She is currently signed on to modelling agency Upfront Models.

She briefly broke into tears onstage as she spotted her father, Singapore Power technical officer V.T. Selvam, weeping in the crowd after her win was announced. “I am so proud of her; she’s worked so hard,” Mr Selvam said. He was accompanied by his younger son, fitness trainer T. Kirtan, 23, whom Miss Mohana credits for helping her keep in shape.

Miss Mohana Prahba with her brother T. Kirtan and father V.T. Selvam.

Other than working on poise and fitness, Miss Mohana has been devoting plenty of time to consider the issues she wants to champion as a pageant queen. As a minority race, Miss Mohana said that she is constantly exposed to “casual racism”. And that is the reason why her pet topic is diversity.

When asked to share an experience where she had been confronted with racism, Miss Mohana recalled a three-day stint at a company as an accountant. As a gag, one of the supervisors, a Chinese man, stuck a piece of Blu Tack to his forehead and started speaking theatrically in a pronounced Indian accent.

“No one laughed; it was a bit of a cold joke. At the time, no one confronted him about how offensive it was, either,” she said. What people needed, she felt, was an education in what it means to be accepting of diversity, and sensitivity in interacting with those from other ethnic groups.

Miss Mohana giving a media interview at 12 midnight, after the contest had ended.

So how was she going to go about doing that as Miss Universe Singapore? “I’m already doing it on my Instagram Stories and my friends know that I am very vocal about embracing diversity,” she said. “What’s great about winning this title is that I’ll get to travel, gain more exposure and learn how I can go beyond speaking and translate my advocacy into action.”

There are talks that the international Miss Universe will be held in the United States on December 8. In the meantime, Singapore’s doe-eyed ingenue is heading off the Philippines in mid-November for stage presence training with Mr Gaffud and his team. We wish you all the best, Mohana!

Photos by Samuel Lau.