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Small town girl done well
Publication Date : 03-01-2014
The newly-crowned Miss Malaysia Universe believes beauty opens doors and is determined to make her reign meaningful
Awestruck and overwhelmed, Sabrina Beneet could barely keep the coveted Miss Malaysia Universe tiara from sliding off her head as she did her victory walk. As the cameras clicked away to record her initial disbelief which gave way to tears of joy, Beneet absorbed the announcement that the spotlight will now shine brightly on this farm girl from Bagan Serai, Perak.
By the time she attended her first press conference as Miss Malaysia Universe a little later, Beneet’s crown sat securely as she had re-coiffed her long silky tresses into a bun. She was fully composed and at ease as she answered questions from journalists. The 23-year-old psychology and communications major from Segi College proved why she was the favourite to win the title among the 16 finalists.
She fielded questions ranging from why she deserved the Miss Malaysia Universe title to the necessity for beauty queens to be involved in social work. The answers were all delivered with the poise of a newly-crowned beauty queen confident that people will always be inclined to beauty and this opens doors.
Beneet is determined to make the most of her reign to draw attention to issues important to young women. “There were a lot of things I wanted to do even before winning. Now, with the title, I have some weight behind my voice,” she says.
One cause Beneet will be championing is support for rape survivors, propelled by a close friend’s trauma after being sexually attacked by a group of men, one of whom she knew.
“Many women are afraid to come forward out of shame. Some are afraid their experiences will be made public especially if the perpetrators recorded the incident on their mobile phones and threaten to blackmail the victim by posting the images online. But I say it is time for women to take a stand. This is because keeping quiet will allow the perpetrators to do the same thing to other women.
“For once we are going to send out a clear message: ‘You touch me, I am not going to let you off. I am going to make you face the consequences!’,” stresses Beneet, who says such recorded images will definitely nail the perpetrators as it is solid proof they were at the scene of the crime.
Although Beneet has not solidified her working plans, she hopes to reach out to rape survivors by creating a service or platform where they can call anonymously for counselling and help. Beneet also plans to raise awareness on safety for women.
“It is not uncommon for young, small town girls coming to the city for the first time to be naive and trusting of strangers. With no family and guidance, they can be easily influenced and this can be their downfall. Many girls also do not know how to defend themselves. I am not telling them to physically fight back but they should know how to take preventive measures such as being aware of their surroundings,” says Beneet.
Small town girl
Beneet knows too well what it’s like to be a small town girl.
The youngest of four siblings, Beneet grew up on a two-acre farm in Bagan Serai, Perak where she recalls spending most afternoons running with chickens, goats and cows. She was terrified of the cows but readily made friends with the goats. She even had a favourite billy goat named Lee Bun Cit who died tragically in a road accident.
Her mother, Susie Subramanian, 53, is a homemaker.
There is much that Sabrina Beneet wants to accomplish during her reign as Miss Malaysia Universe.
“My father, Beneet Daniel, now 65, also had a poultry stall in the Bagan Serai wet market. I can still remember sleeping on the fishmonger’s table during my kindergarten years while waiting for him to finish work,” Beneet reminisces.
Her days as a farm girl only lasted 11 years before the family ventured into the frozen meat business, selling packed cuts of lamb, beef and venison to the local market and also exporting them to Singapore and Indonesia.
Beneet, who grew up in a loving Catholic family, remembers spending many Sundays helping to pack frozen meat.
Being exposed to manual labour from a young age also shows in her strong, well-toned arms.
“I can easily handle a shovel and carry two full buckets in either hand,” boasts Beneet who keeps her biceps toned by pumping iron every day.
“Ours was a business-minded family. It was not unusual for our parents to talk about business ideas and strategies with us. I guess this is why I have always had the entrepreneurial spirit,” she says.
Back in 2004, when she was just in Form Two, she and her friends raised close to 6,000 ringgit (US$1,817) for 48 children from the Wawasan Home in Sungai Petani, Kedah by organising a bake and pre-loved fashion sale in the course of four months.
“This was to cover the children’s schooling expenses,” she recalls.
The children’s home has since closed down as the owner has passed away, but the experience left a deep impression.
The turning point in Beneet’s life came on her 18th birthday. Fresh from secondary school, she was raring to explore her options. As her three elder siblings were all in college, the idea of asking her family for financial help in pursuit of higher education did not seem right ... so she took matters into her own hands.
“I felt that I should challenge myself to try and accomplish bigger things. So, I came to Kuala Lumpur and lived with my elder sister,” she says.
Her goal was to pursue a tertiary education but she had to earn the money to pay for the fees. Her first job was at a gym where she worked as a membership consultant for eight months.
“Because I was very passionate, I became one of their top performers. In a month, I hit 40,000 ringgit in sales for the company and received 7,000 ringgit to 8,000 ringgit in commission,” reveals Beneet, who has also had short stints as an air stewardess and an IT support personnel at a call centre.
Beneet conscientiously saved up her earnings to finance her double degree. It would take her two years, with the help of a partial government scholarship, and she is now one semester away from graduating. However, having won the Miss Universe Malaysia title, she has deferred her studies till December 2015.
A full-time student and part-time model before she joined the pageant, Beneet is not the only beauty queen in her family. She reports five aunts who have taken part in the Miss Sari and Miss Little India pageants in Kedah during the 1950s and 60s. She started joining beauty contests when she started modelling in 2011.
“I was a finalist in the Miss Selangor Kebaya in 2011 and second runner-up in Miss India Malaysia in 2012,” she says.
For now, Beneet need not worry too much about money as her title comes with a 50,000 ringgit award.
“There is little chance to go wild with the money because it will not be in a lump sum but distributed in stages to cover expenses during my reign. It works like a salary which comes up to 4,000 ringgit plus a month,” she says.
Beneet is still reeling from her triumph, and she knows 2014 will be an eventful year. The highlight of it will be representing the country at the Miss Universe pageant which will tentatively take place in Brazil between October and November.
For now, Beneet is just revelling in the moment, full of anticipation of the adventures and opportunities that await her.
“I just want to be the woman that I want to be. As long as I have inspired others to empower themselves, I would have achieved something,” she concludes.
*US$1 = 3.30 ringgit