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Fame and celebrity

The Miss Hong Kong pageant runner-up who was big winner when victor’s crown slipped, and how it changed her life

2008 contest winner Edelweiss Cheung’s contract was frozen after she was photographed smoking and kissing her boyfriend in public. Runner-up Skye Chan had to step into the role, and it kick-started her television career 

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 May, 2018, 7:47am
UPDATED : Monday, 21 May, 2018, 11:01am

It’s been a decade since Skye Chan Sin-yeung was crowned first runner-up in the Miss Hong Kong beauty pageant, only to find herself becoming the de facto winner. 

Edelweiss Cheung took the crown in 2008, but pageant organiser TVB froze Cheung’s contract following criticism of her behaviour in public, which it deemed unfit for a Miss Hong Kong champion.

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Asked how she felt about officially placing second that July evening, Chan, now 34, says she was surprised because it was a competitive line-up. “And I was just way too innocent about how to make myself look better and shine on stage,” she says.

That’s why she can’t bear to look back at the photos taken of her 10 years ago. “I just had no idea about make-up, hairstyling, posture and all those pageant practises,” she says.

Chan assumed the winner’s duties after Cheung became the victim of bad publicity. A university student, and one of the tallest competitors in the history of the pageant at 180cm, Cheung was photographed by paparazzi smoking and kissing her boyfriend in public, and went into hiding.

TVB explained Cheung’s absence from the limelight by saying she was ill, but Cheung later denied that.

Miss Hong Kong favourite Samantha Ko also came under scrutiny, when semi-nude photos of her surfaced before the pageant. However, Ko took fourth place and was named Miss Tourism Ambassador. (Pageant manager Rosa Chan was quoted saying the shots of Ko were acceptable because of her previous modelling work.) 

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Neither Ko nor Cheung responded to requests for an interview.

For her part, Chan simply says she feels lucky to have experienced so much after being crowned the runner-up. Despite taking over the duties from the winner, Chan has not dwelled on what it would have been like wearing the winner’s crown.

Chan describes Cheung as “adorable … very true to herself and friends”, and says they still meet occasionally to spend an afternoon together or have dinner.

After taking over her friend’s pageant duties, Chan represented Hong Kong in the 2008 Miss World contest, but did not win a place. She then competed in Miss Chinese International 2009, which was less stressful but still gruelling to prepare for.

I’ve liked imitating people speaking in different languages since I was young. And, most importantly, I just love talking.
Skye Chan Sin-yeung 

“I tried my very best to stay in shape, exercising every night before sleep,” she says. “Titles are not the most important thing but you need to give [it] your very best. I needed to demonstrate the best of Hong Kong to the contestants [and judges],” she says.

Again, Chan was crowned runner-up, and was happy to be also named Miss Friendship.

Chan remained under contract with TVB after the pageant, and worked with the broadcaster for almost a decade as a television programme host and actress, while also doing independent language translation work. However, she never managed to get a big break in her acting career, playing only supporting roles in a number of dramas.

Chan dismisses suggestions she did not fare well as an actress, adding that over the years her time was taken up by her job as host of TVB’s celebrity and entertainment news programme Scoop, and appearing at commercial events.

Chan says she feels very lucky to have had the chance to participate in dramas such as Line Walker and Raising the Bar. “They remain amazing memories from my career so far,” she says. Each acting role has contributed to making her the woman she is today, she says. 

Chan also feels lucky to have been able to partner on air with stars such as award-winning Hong Kong film and television actress and host Do Do Cheng. 

Outside the entertainment industry, Chan also still takes on translation work. She speaks English, Japanese, Mandarin and Cantonese. “I’ve liked imitating people speaking in different languages since I was young,” Chan says, adding that she likes to read news in different languages. “And, most importantly, I just love talking.”

The chatterbox is the daughter of an entrepreneur and a housewife. Her fondest memories from her childhood are from visits to Tsim Sha Tsui, Victoria Harbour and The Peak, because on weekends and holidays her father would take the family out on local day trips.

After finishing secondary school, she was admitted to the Chinese University of Hong Kong, where she majored in Japanese studies. After graduating, Chan worked as a flight attendant for about three years with Cathay Pacific, which she describes as “a tough job”.

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Mental and physical agility are crucial at 35,000 feet as cabin crew have to deal with different professionals and personalities on every flight, from supervisors and cockpit crew, to passengers and “teammates”, she says.

“It makes a huge difference if you are with a good team. Life is a lot easier, even though the work up in the air is tough. We are multitasking up there – not only when [we are] serving meals. We need to have medical and safety knowledge,” she says. 

 

A post shared by Skye Chan 陳倩揚 (@chansinyeung) on Oct 13, 2016 at 5:33pm PDT

It was during a long break from flying that she saw an advertisement for Miss Hong Kong entrants on television, and decided to give it a go.

It struck Chan that it would be her only chance to apply before she turned 25, so she downloaded the form and asked her mother to be her nominee. She thought it would be a chance to enjoy an extraordinary experience before returning to the skies, but it never occurred to her that she had any chance of reaching the podium.

In 2010, two years after the pageant changed her life, the starlet married her scientist boyfriend of eight years, Chan Ho-yin. She has been quoted saying she recognised him as her “Mr Right” as soon as they started dating.

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The couple had their pre-wedding photos shot on a grand yacht. For one set of pictures, Skye wore her Miss Hong Kong crown and her fiancé wore his green doctoral degree gown.

For their wedding, Chinese media reported that the couple had a 15-table banquet at the InterContinental Hong Kong hotel. Chan was wearing sponsored jewellery worth HK$3 million (US$382,000), and later told reporters she had cried a litre of tears that day.

The couple now have two sons: Auryn, who was born in 2011, and Audrick, born in 2015.

 

A post shared by Skye Chan 陳倩揚 (@chansinyeung) on Mar 15, 2017 at 7:10pm PDT

In December 2015, Chan was cut from TVB’s Scoop after the broadcaster decided to reform the programme. She confirmed the news on Facebook, in a post titled “Time to Say Goodbye”, stating that she only learned about the development two days before it was announced. 

Last year, Chan returned to broadcasting, hosting a show about kids and cooking on the new i-Cable free-to-air channel Fantastic TV, and an RTHK women’s talk show. She currently hosts a health show on RTHK Radio 1 every Tuesday.

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Chan’s advice to young women with aspirations to enter a beauty pageant is to be responsible for your words and actions. And, importantly, remember: when you feel you have nothing to lose and that there is no pressure to win the crown, you are in a position to enjoy yourself. “Be yourself and stay true,” Chan says.

Mad moments in pageant history

Beauty contests have been known to get messy, or even descend into farce. In 2015, pageant host Steve Harvey mistakenly named Miss Colombia, Ariadna Gutierrez, the winner of Miss Universe. Gutierrez remained queen of the universe for only about four minutes, when the crown was taken off her head and put on that of the real winner, Miss Philippines, Pia Wurtzbach. 

In February this year, a Brazilian beauty pageant took a twisted turn when the first runner-up snatched the crown off the winner of the Miss Amazon contest, refusing to accept defeat. 

The same month, it emerged that a glamorous finalist in a Kazakhstan beauty contest had been disqualified after confessing to being a man. 

Last year, in a similar incident in neighbouring Russia, male student Andrey Nagorny, 20, joined a lingerie modelling contest and won. The brunette, using his girlfriend’s make-up and underwear, called himself Ms Avocado.

Then there’s animal shenanigans. In January, 12 camels were disqualified from Saudi Arabia’s annual camel beauty contest after being given Botox injections to make their pouts more attractive.