Miss Hong Kong 2002 – A dash of pageantry, a gallon of showbiz

Job description: Wake up at the crack of dawn, and be prepared to work as many as 19 hours a day, seven days a week for two and a half months. Your co-workers are not only your peers, but also your competitors. During the course of your job, you will be documented through photographs and video. Cantonese desired, but more than one language strongly preferred. Evaluations are continuous, sometimes blunt, and often available to the public. Housing not provided. Oh, and no salary.

If this sounds like a voluntary, nightmarish, very public consulting project, guess again. For competitors at the annual Miss Hong Kong Pageant, this is the process to making the final televised competition. After the grueling public relations training, the endless jibes from the local tabloid media, and the countless hours of rehearsals under the glaring spotlight, one can’t help but think that the upcoming results seem to be a mere afterthought.

Miss Hong Kong has always marched to the beat of a different drum compared to her international sisters. Ever since TVB (Television Broadcasts Limited – the giant Hong Kong-based network that also runs the annual Miss Chinese International Pageant) took over the pageant’s operations in 1973, Miss Hong Kong titleholders not only represent the former British colony at international pageants, but also serve mandatory one-year contracts with TVB. TVB also has the option of offering contracts or auditions to the remaining contestants, so the potential to reap benefits goes beyond the actual awards.

In addition, TVB began recruiting overseas contestants in 1991. The network sensed a trend of locals leaving the region due to “emigration or studying abroad [which] have been popular in Hong Kong since the late ‘80s,” said Rosa Chan, deputy project manager for the 2002 Miss Hong Kong Pageant. The strategy has been fruitful, as seven of the last 12 winners – including Miss Hong Kong 2002, Tiffany Lam of San Francisco – were all overseas contestants.

Also separating the pageant from similar national competitions is that the winner no longer competes at Miss Universe, a decision made in 2001 “as the new conditions and terms stipulated by this pageant in that year were not found acceptable by TVB,” Chan said. The winner now only represents Hong Kong at Miss Chinese International, leaving the more plum assignments, Miss World and Miss International, to her 1st and 2nd runners-up respectively.

Still, these atypical variables continue to attract viewers and aspiring contestants. Like many pageants in this day and age, Miss Hong Kong has served as a professional launch pad for many ambitious, intelligent and attractive young women. Certainly the contestants of today have more varied goals than those of yesteryear. Some enter to pick up public relations and marketing skills to further their careers. Others want to enter Hong Kong’s entertainment industry, as the pageant has been a tried and true path for many stars, including the most famous alumna: actress and 1983 1st runner-up Margaret (Maggie) Cheung. Others compete because they want to be a part of the fun and glamour.

And yes, there is time for both of those. Prior to the finals, this year’s 20 contestants appeared on numerous television variety, news and game shows, appeared in a Miriam Yeung MTV video, went on cruises and promoted tourism (contestants were treated to location shoots in Saipan and across mainland China), in addition to numerous other obligations and appearances. In the meantime, their hair, makeup and custom-made wardrobe were all taken care of on a daily basis – usually an unexpected or non-existent bonus at many other pageants.

The Miss Hong Kong Pageant celebrated her 30th anniversary during the finals telecast on Aug. 11, 2002. Long before the finals, Meniscus randomly chose contestants to be interviewed…little did we know that we would end up with the eventual TVB Pearl Ambassadors! These two women with different career aspirations had been attending universities outside of Asia prior to the 2002 edition, and both shared some candid thoughts in exclusive interviews with Meniscus.

  Amanda Edith Boll

Winner, Miss Chinatown Melbourne 2000
Contestant, Miss Chinese International 2001
Finalist, Miss Hong Kong 2002

  Victoria Jane Jolly

1st Runner-Up & Miss Popularity, Miss Hong Kong 2002
Contestant, Miss World 2002