KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia has won the Best National Costume title at the 68th Miss Universe 2019 pageant for the first time ever.
The Peranakan-themed costume, worn by Miss Malaysia – Shweta Sekhon, 22 – was judged best in the preliminary national costume and evening gown segment of the premier international beauty pageant held in Atlanta, the United States, on Sunday.
Excited Miss Malaysia Universe national director Elaine Daly instantly took to Instagram to post a video clip of Shweta’s win, and a message expressing her delight over the triumph.
“For the first time in history, we won Best National Costume!
“So happy for Malaysia! Well done @shweta_sekhon_for carrying the ‘Perakan Indulgence’ so well. Thank you @carvenong_couture for putting us on the world map!
“I’m in tears!!!! Tears of pure joy,” the post read.
The elaborate 28kg costume, inspired by Malay, Chinese and Peranakan culture, was designed by 51-year-old local designer Carven Ong.
In the 2-minute-and-7-second video, Shweta is seen bantering with gaffe-prone host Steve Harvey, who initially mistakenly highlights the costume of Miss Philippines. He is swiftly corrected by an ebullient Shweta.
Harvey apologises, saying that he was simply reading the teleprompter, and tells the technical team to “stop playing him.”
The host congratulates Shweta, who proceeds to explain the costume to the applauding audience.
“This represents one of the states in Malaysia – Melaka – and it is has a historical heritage in my country.
“The five tables filled with food that we have for high tea session, and what I (am wearing) here is the bride’s outfit (in) the mixed marriages between the Malays and the Chinese; while the wings I have represent the goldfish tail which they believe is a sign of prosperity.
“So I am three in one and Steve… we kind of match,” she said jokingly to Harvey.
The body of Shweta’s extravagant dress is made of songket embroidered with elaborate beadwork; while the ‘wings’ feature Nyonya Batik and a long strip of cloth wrapped around the body like a skirt.
A golden songket cape with red beading adds a touch of ceremonial grandeur to the costume, which echoes the traditional wedding costumes worn by Peranakan brides, symbolising the union of Yin and Yang.
The Nyonya Batik wings represent the tails of a goldfish to symbolise wealth and prosperity.
Meanwhile, the headgear of gold aster flowers, represents love, daintiness and femininity.
The finals of the Miss Universe 2019 pageant will take place at 9 pm tonight (8 am on Tuesday, Malaysian time) in Atlanta, and will be broadcast live on television to an audience of billions.
Good luck, Miss Malaysia!