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Friday, June 3, 2011

Grandma's girl gone global

Sulaiman Kamal | 11:35 PM | | | | Best Blogger Tips

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SHE has overcome the odds and achieved alot. In school, she had eczema and was called ugly.

When she was spotted for the Ford Models Supermodel Of The World Singapore 2011 pageant, she had no experience as a model and couldn't even walk like one.

But on Saturday, she emerged the winner.

Still, there was one thing Povaneswari Shanmugam didn't manage to do - get approval from her paternal grandmother to join the competition. She had joined without telling the conservative old lady.

But after winning, Povane (pronounced pu-va-na) had to tell her.

And her grandmother didn't take the idea of her wearing a swimsuit for the pageant very well.

Povane, 19, told The New Paper: "She's a typical Indian grandmother and tends to fuss over me. She's slowly learning to accept me modelling, but for her to be totally okay with it, that would take time.

"Whenever I leave the house now, she asks, 'Are you going to wear a bikini?''

Povane lives with her grandmother and declined to talk about her parents.

She has overcome setbacks going all the way back to secondary school.

Six years ago, when Povane was 13, she joined the Singapore Sports School.

She was picked for netball because she was tall, but she said she had not played the game.

This was enough for her to be picked on by boys who even made fun of her looks.

Bullied, teased

Said Povane, who is 1.78m tall and weighs 55kg: "It has been through sheer grit and hard work that I have managed to turn my life around.

"Yes, the bullying and teasing really hurt, but I'm in a good place right now."

Povane, who recently graduated from Temasek Polytechnic with a diploma in biomedical science, added that in secondary school, she had eczema all over her face and body and the condition would get worse whenever she perspired.

With daily netball training - Singapore Sports School students live on campus and get up at 6.30am to train in their sport - her skin condition didn't have a chance to heal.

She recalled: "I tied up my hair all the time and didn't carry cool bags like the rest of the kids. I was upset with the bullying, but there was nothing I could do about it." Povane added that she would cry herself to sleep every night.

Her roommate and good friend then, Beverly Shaddick, was Povane's rock.

Beverly, 20, a tutor, told The New Paper: "I thought it was sad and mean for the boys to call her names (like "scrap", as in scrap metal). It's not right for someone to be bullied like that.

"I've known Povane since we were 12 and I'm very proud that she has grown and matured beautifully."

Beverly added that during puberty, "some of us are not so fortunate to look good". Then Povane's braces came off, her posture improved, and she looked better.

She tried to be nice and sent "good luck" SMSes to schoolmates before games, but they would reply that they didn't want such messages from "someone like you".

Her schoolmates on the netball team had played the game for years, unlike her.

Initially, Povane said she wasn't allowed to play and could only "watch and learn" from the sidelines.

But her height was an advantage for the position of goal keeper/goal defence, and after two years of vigorous training, she was one of only three students from her school who were picked for the national under-15 netball squad.

In an international netball tournament in Australia, she was picked as the Most Valuable Player.

Today, she plays netball for Singapore's national under-21 team.

Clearly, when Povane puts her mind to doing something, she achieves excellence.

Just three months ago, when she was approached by the Ford Models pageant's national director Colleen Francisca to take part in the competition, she had never modelled before.

Ms Francisca had spotted her on Vasantham show Vaanavil and got in touch with her through her on-screen boyfriend, actor Narain.

Ms Francisca, 29, admitted that at the first audition, Povane had a "terrible walk" compared with the other experienced modelling contestants.

But once again, through sheer determination - Povane tried to improve based on the feedback she got - she eventually won the Best Catwalk subsidiary award at the pageant.

In July, she will represent Singapore at the international finals held in New York and stand a chance to win a US$250,000 (S$300,000) contract with Ford Models.

So now that the single girl has transformed into a bona fide beauty, what kind of guys would she like to date?

Povane revealed that she has a soft spot for down-to-earth men whom she would "not think twice about saying anything to".

Looks-wise, they have to be at least as tall as she is and athletic like her.

Said Povane: "My family is also reserved about me dating anyone.

"For now, I would like to see where this modelling thing takes me.

"I have a few days to eat all the Chinese food I want. I love Chinese food, especially wontons (dumplings).

"Then it's back to dieting and exercise to prepare for New York!"

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