Contented has posted a feature on Ho Lye Toh, a three-time Miss Singapore winner (1941, 1946, 1947) and former weightlifter who, at 91, can still vividly recall her beauty pageant days.
We wish we had a grandma this cool!
“There were 16 of us, majority were Europeans,” she tells writer Alyssa Woo. “My cousin and I were the only ones who were Chinese. I was so tired that night because the competition stretched till 12am, past my 9pm bedtime. But my father was adamant about waiting to hear the results so I napped in the car.”
Madame Ho wasn’t even aware that she was part of the contest All she knew was she and her father, Malayan weightlifting champion Ho Peng Khoen, were going to give a public demonstration on the sport at the annual Lady McElwaine’s Fair.
“There were a lot of things going on. Dancing in the hall, boxing somewhere…we did the weightlifting in the garden. You could buy tickets to see whatever you wanted. I don’t know how much it was…maybe five dollars a ticket?”
The former beauty queen continues: “After the demonstration my father told me to change, and I asked, ‘Change into what?’ He had bought me a cheongsam to wear for the pageant!”
Madame Ho Lye Toh in her teens, at the 1941 Miss Singapore pageant and with her father Malayan weightlifting champion Ho Peng Khoen.
She won by public voting and was awarded the Miss Singapore sash and a white snakeskin bag. “It was so big and I didn’t want to hold it,” she recalls.
Unfortunately, the sash was burned by her mother during the Japanese occupation. “What to do? It’s been burned already. I only have the photo of me in the sash now.”
Madame Ho’s sisters also went on to join other beauty pageants and won cash prizes and trips to Hong Kong (her second sister was Miss Singapore 1948 and her third sister won other titles: Miss Chinese Swimming Club, Miss Beach Queen, Miss Selangor).
And her? “I was only Miss Singapore – nothing la,” was her self-effacing reply.
These days, Ho Lye Toh is incredibly active for her age, able to walk without support and with the agility of someone decades younger, according to the story. She spends her days playing mahjong, catching up with friends at hawker centres and being a great-grandmother to a number of boisterous babies.