Nathalie Dekker is Miss Tourism International 2011 but back home in The Netherlands a beauty queen is hardly a celebrity.
Pragmatic: ‘I love being young and beautiful but I know this is temporary and age will limit my future projects,’ says Nathalie Dekker.
FROM the start, Nathalie Dekker’s astonishing resemblance to a Barbie doll made her a favourite. Everywhere the 75 international beauty queens went in Kuala Lumpur and elsewhere when they were in the country for the Miss Tourism International pageant earlier this year, she stood out with her blonde tresses, pretty features, svelte figure and brilliant smile. Her English is perfect as if to match her physical assets.
Even her size is doll-like. At 168cm, she is among the shortest to win an international title, giving hope to those who are neither flagpole tall nor towering over most men like Miss Malaysia Universe Andrea Fonseka 2004; Miss Malaysia International Chantelle Chuah 2011 or Nathalie Glebova, Miss Universe 2005.
Small but perfectly formed, she is such a vision that upon meeting her I automatically start scrutinising for flaws, cover-ups and cosmetic enhancements. As if reading my mind – or more likely due to my clumsy attempts to stare at her chest in secret – she laughs: “Everything about me is real. My eyes, nose, teeth and cheekbones are genuine. I have not done any surgery. I don’t have hair extensions. No Botox. But then I am only 21 so I don’t need it. No fake nails. Even my eyelashes are real as I have naturally thick and long lashes! I only use mascara and make-up!”
I comment politely that her pair of assets up front must be real too since they are not spectacularly big. She flutters her lashes as she looks down at her cleavage, and chuckles. “No silicone! You can get a doctor to verify!”
Being so formidably armed in all departments except height, one can forgive Nathalie Dekker for looking like the classic dumb blonde. But here the resemblance to a doll ends. She was among the most academically qualified of the contestants and passed her law degree just three months before her arrival in Malaysia!
Miss Tourism International 2011 is now a notary and will graduate in July with a Master’s degree in law. “After winning the title I had to work extra hard to make up for lost time and the days I had to take leave from studying to fulfil my obligations,” says Nathalie who launched Panasonic’s new Lumix cameras in Kuala Lumpur.
This PR-savvy dynamo seems adept at promoting everything she touches. “I am studying at University of Utrecht, the best university in Holland. I finished my Bachelor’s degree last August and embarked on my Master’s in September. Law is so important as everything in life involves law. Just buying a drink has legal connections! I was always curious to learn how the legal system works as it is an integral part of our daily existence.”
As The Hague is home to the World Court where international trials and disputes are settled, she is bound to cause a sensation but this will have to wait. “I can always work behind a desk for the rest of my life. Now I plan to enjoy my reign which is just into its third month. Once it is over, I will continue to model, act and do promotional work for charity. I am open to all offers and plan to travel the world.”
Born in the southern Dutch city of Breda, Nathalie is the second of four children.
“I love being young and beautiful but I know this is temporary and age will limit my future projects. So I decided I would have law to fall back on when I am old and grey and no longer in demand,” beams the 21-year-old unconvincingly.
Participating and even winning the crown tend to receive a lacklustre reception in pragmatic Holland where the Queen is often seen riding a bicycle. Just compare Amsterdam’s functional Town Hall with the flamboyant and magnificent ones in Paris and Brussels and you get the drift.
“Yes, the Dutch mentality is down to earth, simple and straightforward. They don’t like too much glamour and frivolity. The Miss Netherlands contests are never broadcast on TV in Holland! I wish we are more like Venezuela, Colombia, Brazil or Philippines where people love beauty pageants and beauty queens!”
This was not Nathalie’s first foray into beauty pageants. In 2009, she came across former Miss Benelux’s Facebook page. “She mentioned the contest was still open. So I looked at its website and submitted my particulars. ‘Benelux’ is an amalgam of Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg and only citizens from these three countries can participate. The finals were held, strangely enough, in Turkey! There were 20 contestants from The Netherlands, 14 from Belgium and three from Luxembourg with a winner from each country. I won for the Netherlands.”
Part of the prize was taking part in the Miss Earth finals. This time, Lady Luck frowned on her. A new franchise holder had consolidated the franchises for Miss Netherlands/Universe, World and Earth and informed her they were sending someone else for the Miss Earth finals.
Distraught, the law student even checked the fine print to no avail. “I was shocked and upset. As a little girl, I had dreamed of being a princess and wearing beautiful clothes and being crowned. My world fell apart. I cried for a week.
“Then I dried my tears and approached the Miss Tourism Netherlands Organisation which held the franchises for Miss Tourism International and Miss International. Its director Katia Maes helped me get back on my feet. The various pageants were looking for different types of girls and I was chosen to be Miss Nether-lands/Tourism International.”
Her triumph was spot on and had an uncanny touch. “The last time a Miss Netherlands won was in 1989 when Angela Visser became Miss Universe. I was born in 1989! Everyone says I was fated to win!”
Upon her return to The Netherlands, Nathalie was interviewed by the Dutch media. What was unexpected, however, was that she and Miss Tourism Netherlands Organisa-tion had to approach the media.
“The Dutch journalists were not fawning over me and we had to ask them and offer interviews! Not the other way around, like in Venezuela and the Philippines where national beauty queens are constantly promoted. In Holland, I had to do my own public relations and promote myself. The media and local authorities did not make a big fuss.”
So she embarked on a PR blitz on her own. “I decided I should be seen publicly in high profile events and do the party circuit to get noticed,” she says.
“I want to bring back the excitement of beauty pageants so I have to take the initiative. I wear my sash and crown proudly at events, which encourage the TV crew and journalists to interview me. People have an excuse to talk to me and ask questions, which allows me to change the perception of beauty queens in Holland.
“I am in constant touch with Miss Tourism International president Datuk Danny Ooi and Irene Liong (of D’Touch Promotion Sdn Bhd, which organises beauty pageants) in Malaysia for advice.
“Miss Netherlands 1976 Nanny Nielen helps me and she has a website, misshollandnow.com, so people can follow what we are doing. I have appeared as celebrity guest at Amsterdam Fashion Week and Sapph lingerie show.”
Nathalie is 47kg but loves pizza, Malaysian steamboat and nasi lemak. “I love eating but I also swim so I don’t put on weight. I have 18 swimming ‘degrees’ or diplomas in Holland!”
It is a joy to talk to Nathalie, and yet, some contestants griped that she had an unfair educational advantage. Her response to that is curt: “What is wrong about being well-educated and articulate? As representative of your country, you must speak well and be well-informed, especially about your host country!
“A beauty queen must have something interesting to say as a Miss Tourism International is involved in building bridges and promoting tourism.
“A finalist should maximise her skills and assets. I speak well to compensate for not being 180cm!”