By Tan Mei Kuan
Ipoh Echo caught up with 27-year-old Ipoh girl, Olinda Josephine Nicholas who recently clinched her first pageant title of Miss Virtual Malaysia 2019 advocating for mental health with a first queen subsidiary title, Miss Body Beautiful.
“This platform is important as I am able to use the concept of beauty and advocate what I believe in and hopefully change the perception of people that beauty pageants are not merely about a person’s physicality. I find people are very intrigued and interested in beauty pageants and it’s the easiest way to get through to someone or a group when they have tuned their minds to listen to you,” she told Ipoh Echo.
Olinda believes that she could harness the publicity and prestige that pageantry has to get her voice heard in this society about the stigma that is placed on mental illness.
“I had a close friend who was suffering from depression, that was what sparked my interest in advocating on mental health. Seeing her struggle to get on with day-to-day activities in the glare of critical social opinions that she was not made of stronger stuff or that she was just being over-sensitive, hit me hard and I made a resolution that this stigma has to stop. This criticism just aggravates their symptoms,” she pointed out.
Targeting on all age groups, her vision is to reduce the stigma attached to mental illness and to normalise the topic of mental illness like how a person would talk about having fever and flu.
“Having an emotional breakdown is temporary and I believe the most important group which holds the responsibility in recovery is family and friends. With their love and support, I am confident these sufferers will definitely recover,” she added.
An alumni of SMK Convent Ipoh, she obtained her Bachelor of Laws from the Multimedia University in Malacca with a Diploma in Arbitration. She is currently working in Maybank Group and pursuing an MBA in BAC-Veritas.
Citing her parents and Michelle Obama as her role models, she enthused, “Two quotes of Michelle Obama that made an impression in my mind is ‘Success isn’t about how much money you make, it’s about the difference you make in people’s lives’. The second is ‘Always stay true to yourself and never let what somebody says distract you from your goals’. My parents are my first role models who have moulded me to be who I am today; always there with their limitless support and always reminding me to trust God in every situation that I will encounter.”
Her father, Dato’ Fredrick Indran Nicholas, was a High Court judge of Fiji. He is now an industrial court chairman In Kuala Lumpur while her mother, Datin Rufina Nicholas was a teacher. Olinda and her identical twin, Olivia Constance Nicholas also Miss International Malaysia 2016, were called to the Bar at the High Court in Ipoh in 2017.
In the Miss Virtual Pageant, a two-week pageant journey preceded its grand finale held on September 26 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, KL, with guest of honour, Tengku Puteri Iman Afzan Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al Mustafa Billah Shah.
The panel of judges included Phuang Khanh (Miss Earth 2018), Faye Malisorn (Miss Grand Thailand 2016), Amber Chia (Winner of International Model Search 2014), Nasha Aziz (Malaysian model & actress) and Yang Mei Ling (Editor at Female Magazine).
Here is Olinda’s precious advice for all the girls out there with voices in advocacy: “As a girl, there’s the added pressure of people telling you what you can and cannot be. Use this as fuel to champion what you truly believe in, don’t let the negativity discourage you in pursuing your goal in getting your choice of advocacy heard loud and clear in society.”