Beauty pageants are considered a big thing in many countries all over the world, and Thailand is also no stranger to such competitions. Among these beauty queen contests, Miss Universe Thailand is considered the big three, alongside Miss Thailand and Miss Thailand World.
If you are a fan of beauty pageants or just curious about the beauty queens of Thailand, this article is just the one for you – from the history of Miss Universe Thailand to the crowned beauty queens up to 2021.
History of Miss Universe Thailand
The first official Miss Universe Thailand competition was held in 2000 to select the Thailand representative to compete in the annual Miss Universe competition. Before 2000, the winners of the Miss Thailand competition were chosen to compete in the Miss Universe competition, from 1954 till 1999.
In Thailand, the franchise for Miss Universe began in 1984. It was initially organized by Charcthua Karnasuta, the former managing director of a mass media company called BBTV and the former president of the Vajiravudh College Alumni Association (1).
After Charcthua stepped down from his position due to suffering from paralysis in 1998, the Vajiravudh College Alumni Association handed over the official broadcaster of the Miss Thailand pageant to iTV from Channel 7 in 2000 (1). His sister, Surang Prempree, took over the managing position of Miss Universe’s national license holder and then split the pageant from the Miss Thailand pageant to establish the new pageant competition, which is the one that is known as the Miss Thailand Universe these days (1).
Between 2012 and 2013, the franchise renamed the competition “Miss Universe Thailand,” as suggested by the Miss Universe Organization (2). From 2019 until 2023, the Miss Universe franchise for Thailand was officially granted to a new national license holder for five consecutive years to the TPN Global Company Limited (3).
Many notable Miss Universe Thailand events have been held with such a long history dating back to 1954. Below are some of the most memorable events amongst beauty pageant fans.
The First Miss Universe Title Winner From Thailand
The most famous winner among all the winners has to be Apasra Hongsakula, the Miss Thailand in 1964. She is the first Miss Thailand and Southeast Asian woman to win the title of Miss Universe in 1965.
Apasra was a high school student when she won the title of Miss Thailand in 1964 and then, she went to compete in the Miss Universe pageant, held in Miami, Florida in the United States, as a representative from Thailand and was crowned as the Miss Universe 1965 (4).
After winning the title of Miss Universe 1965, Apasra was appointed as the ‘Cultural Ambassador’ by the Tourism Authority of Thailand. Apasra is now a 65 years old lady and the president of a spa in Bangkok. Her beauty still shines, as you can see from her Instagram posts (5).
A total of 52 contestants from Thailand have participated in the Miss Universe Competition to date. Thailand has won Miss Universe twice- Apasra Hongsakula in 1965 and Porntip Nakhirunkanok in 1988.
The First Miss Thailand Universe
Although there were representatives from Thailand who competed in the Miss Universe pageant ever since 1954, those beauty queens were the winners of the Miss Thailand competition until 2000. The first beauty queen to hold the official title of Miss Thailand Universe was Kulthida Yenprasert, the winner of the Miss Thailand Universe 2000 competition.
Kulthida was a flight attendant from Thai Airways International, and after winning the competition in 2000, she became the first woman to hold the title of Miss Thailand Universe. She then represented Thailand at the Miss Universe pageant, held in Cyprus on May 12, 2000, but she didn’t place in that competition (6).
3 Controversies that Rocked the Miss Universe Thailand Franchise
1. Dethroned Miss Universe Thailand
One of the biggest scandals to ever happen in the history of Miss Universe Thailand would be the case of dethroned Miss Universe Thailand in 2014. Weluree Ditsayabut, or ‘Fai,’ was the Miss Universe Thailand winner in 2014. Less than a month after winning the crown, Weluree had to relinquish her title due to the backlashes she received for old comments she made online (7).
Before winning the title of Miss Universe Thailand 2014, Weluree wrote in a now-deleted Facebook post that she is not neutral in the country’s political crisis and is on the side of His Majesty the King. Reportedly, she said the country would be cleaner if the ‘dirty red shirts’ (a term used to describe the pro-government demonstrators) left the country (7).
And because of these comments, pro-government supporters began to question her for the anti-red shirt comments. Some even criticized her appearance and claimed that she won the title due to her connections.
Due to these criticisms and backlashes, Weluree resigned from her title as Miss Universe Thailand 2014 and apologized for her words by saying that she was careless, young, and reckless. The 1st runner-up, Allison Sansom, also known by her Thai name as Pimbongkod Chankaew, represented Thailand at Miss Universe 2014 competition.
2. Getting Fired From Mental Health Ambassador Position
Another Miss Universe Thailand winner who got caught up in Thailand’s political situation is the Miss Universe Thailand 2020, Amanda Obdam. After winning the competition, Amanda Obdam was chosen as the brand ambassador by Thailand’s Mental Health Department to promote the department’s efforts on issues related to mental health.
However, this received mixed reactions from pro-monarchy and pro-democracy groups. Amanda had made comments supporting anti-monarchy protests and publicly criticized Thai police on her Twitter and Instagram for the crackdowns against protestors.
Therefore, after only a week of appointing Amanda as the mental health ambassador for their department, Thailand’s Mental health Department decided to drop her from her assigned role (8). Despite this incident, Amanda still believes that politics should be normalized and people should use their platforms to express their opinions as freedom of speech is a basic human right (9).
3. The Misuse of Thailand’s National Flag
The most recent Miss Universe Thailand winner also faced controversy when a photo of Anchilee posing on the stripes painted in the colors resembling the Thai national flag was posted online for a promotional campaign.
A pro-royalist, Mr. Sonthiya, who is also a former adviser to the House committee, filed a police complaint against the beauty queen for her picture and accused Anchilee of breaching the 1979 Flag Act- which states that offenses against the Thai national flag can be charged a maximum jail term of two years or a fine of up to 40,000 THB or both (10).
Mr. Sonthiya said he did not want to seek any jail terms for Anchilee and that he was just protecting the prestige of the Thai national flag. He also said that Anchilee might not even be aware that standing on a national flag is considered an inappropriate act. The beauty queen was not charged but this controversy was a hot issue online between the pro-royalists and pro-democracy crowds.
Who Can Become A Miss Universe?
According to the Miss Universe website, the winner of the Miss Universe competition must be confident and understand the values of the Miss Universe brand and the responsibilities that come with the title. The winner must have the ability to articulate her ambition and should be able to demonstrate credibility and authenticity and show grace even under pressure (11).
As for the age requirement, the contestant must be between 18 and 28 years old when the national competition commences. And also, no one can compete in the Miss Universe pageant twice. In recent years, it has also been mandated that a Miss Universe candidate at least hold a university degree or be a working professional from the onset of their national pageant competition (12).
Miss Universe Thailand Contestants In Recent Years
Miss Universe Thailand 2021
Name: Anchilee Scott-Kemmis
Birthdate: July 30, 1999
The most recent winner of Miss Universe Thailand is Annchilee Scott-Kemmis. Born to a Thai mother and an Australian father, Annchilee Scott-Kemmis is a bilingual beauty queen. She spent her childhood in Thailand and then moved to Australia to pursue her bachelor’s degree. She was also the captain of three sports teams- volleyball, softball, and basketball, and even a part of Thailand’s national team selection (14).
Before joining the Miss Universe Thailand competition, Ann was active in Thailand mainly as a plus-size model, which can be considered a rare thing for Thai beauty pageant queens (14). This is because, in Thai society, girls with smaller body frames are considered “ideal beauty,” and Annchilee herself has also faced rejection as she was once considered “too big” with her 183cm height and 71kg body (15).
Annchilee wowed the audience and judges by challenging the perceptions of Thai beauty standards with her “#RealSizeBeauty” message and was eventually crowned the winner of Miss Universe Thailand 2021 (14). Annchilee is also known as a warm, passionate, and friendly person, and she is a strong advocate for body positivity. She has said that each person is built differently and what matters is how people take care of their bodies (13). With her outgoing and confident persona, it is not a surprise to see that many fans adore Annchilee.
Miss Universe Thailand 2020
Name: Amanda Chalisa Obdam
Birthdate: June 17, 1993
Before winning the title of Miss Universe Thailand in 2020, this Thai-Canadian beauty had competed in many other beauty pageant competitions, such as Miss Grand Thailand 2016 and Miss Thailand World 2015 (16). Amanda is an advocate for mental health issues, and her campaign ‘Have You Listened’ encourages people to become better listeners. And because of this, Amanda was appointed as the brand ambassador for mental health by Thai health authorities, although she was later fired due to political conflicts (8).
Amanda’s costumes during the Miss Universe 2020 were also loved by her fans, especially her evening gown, which became the center of attention in Thailand. According to the official Facebook page of Miss Universe Thailand, this Miss Universe Thailand’s evening gown was inspired by her background as an ‘island girl’ from Phuket, and the details of the gown were made to resemble the waves of the Andaman Sea (16). And despite not winning the crown for Miss Universe 2020, Amanda was able to reach the Top 10.
Miss Universe Thailand 2019
Name: Fahsai Paweensuda Drouin
Birthdate: October 12, 1993
Paweensuda, or ‘Fahsai’ as her nickname, was born and raised in Canada by a Thai-Chinese mother and a Canadian father. Later in her life, she moved to Thailand to work as a model and a DJ and entered several major beauty pageants in Thailand from 2013 (17).
She was selected as the 1st runner-up during the 2013 edition of Miss Thailand and as the 2nd runner-up for 2017 Miss Universe Thailand and chosen for the Top 8 list of Miss Earth 2017 (17). Due to her previous experiences, Paweensuda was considered a fans’ favorite during the 2019 Miss Universe Thailand competition and won the crown.
When questioned about being the representative of Thailand when she has a western-looking face, Paweensuda answered that despite her features, she is a Thai on the inside and believes she can be Thailand’s representative on the world stage to make her country proud (18). And she did make her country and fans proud, as Paweensuda was chosen as one of the Top 5 finalists for Miss Universe 2019.
Miss Universe Thailand 2018
Name: Sophida Kanchanarin
Birthdate: March 31, 1995
This 2018 Miss Universe Thailand had created a lot of stirs online when she bested Paveena Singh, a Thai-Indian beauty who had been an online favorite to win the competition that year. Many fans complained that she was favored due to her wealth and educational background as she was a finance student from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and a bank manager at TMB bank (19).
However, many also came to Sophida’s defense, including Miss Universe Thailand 2016, Chalita Suansane. Chalita commented that beauty is not just on the outside, and since the judges’ decision is final in the competition, they must have seen something in Sophida, and that people should give her a chance to prove herself (19). Sophida ended up in the Top 10 finalists at the Miss Universe 2018 competition.
Miss Universe Thailand 2017
Name: Maria Poonlertlarp / Maria Lynn Ehren
Birthdate: January 18, 1992
Maria was 25 years old when she was crowned the Miss Universe Thailand 2017 (20). Born as a half-Thai, half-Swedish, Maria is 183cm tall and was active as a model before joining the competition. She is also a postgraduate in marketing from the Stockholm Business School and is fluent in Thai, English, Swedish, and Mandarin languages.
Maria represented Thailand at the Miss Universe 2017 pageant, where she was ranked among the Top 5 finalists. Currently, Maria is active as a model and an actress and recently starred in the hit drama F4 Thailand: Boys Over Flowers as Tia, the elder sister of the main character Thyme.
Miss Universe Thailand 2016
Name: Chalita Suansane
Birthdate: December 24, 1994
Chalita became a massive inspiration for many Thai women when she displayed strong character and stamina during the tough competition of Miss Universe Thailand. Ever since a young age, Chalita had dreamed of becoming the beauty queen, and thanks to her brave and bold personality, she was crowned the Miss Universe Thailand 2016 (21).
After winning the title of Miss Universe Thailand 2016, Chalita represented Thailand at Miss Universe 2016 pageant held in Manila. She was placed in the top six at Miss Universe 2016 and received a warm welcome home from her fans and the media upon landing back in Thailand. At that time, Chalita even received an appreciation expressed by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha for her representation of Thai culture on the international stage (22).
Who Will Be The Next Miss Universe Thailand 2022?
Although not much has been announced about Miss Universe Thailand 2022 preliminary competitions, guesses are that it will more or less follow the same process as the previous ones. According to a 2019 press release by the competition, the process of choosing the Miss Universe Thailand is stated as below: (23)
1. Online applications opening
2. Online applications closure
3. Final auditions
4. Announcement of candidates
5. Swimsuit Competition
6. Preliminary Competition
7. Final Competition
And while the official delegates for the 2022 competition are yet to be announced, it is said that Prepetua Sermsup Smith will be applying for the Miss Universe Thailand this year. Prepetua is an international model who has worked in various countries like France, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Thailand (24). Whether she will take the crown or not is something beauty pageant fans should watch out for during the competition this year.
Looking at the recent winners of Miss Universe Thailand and their final ranks at the Miss Universe competition, it’s safe to say that Thailand is a strong contender for Miss Universe almost every year. And while it is still a bit early to get excited for the next Miss Universe, beauty pageant fans are certainly looking forward to meeting the new Miss Universe Thailand 2022!
Want to learn more about Thai beauty queens? Check out our article on the Miss Thailand and Miss Thailand World competitions.
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