By Emma Victoria
SARWAWAKIAN Beauty Francisca Luhong James finally touched down in Hollywood, Florida in the United States yesterday (Friday), representing Malaysia in the 69th Miss Universe competition on May 16.
The Miss Universe Malaysia 2020 said it was a long journey and thanked her parents for their love and support which allowed her to achieve another milestone.
“I will always be your Luhong James, your one and only daughter,” she wrote on her Instagram with a photo of her and her parents at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Wednesday, before leaving for the competition.
The Kuching-born lass had made Sarawak proud after she beat 17 finalists in the grand finale, making her the first Dayak woman to have ever been crowned as Miss Universe Malaysia.
Although she was born in the state’s capital city, like many other Dayak children, one of her most memorable childhood memories were the days spent in the longhouse – taking boat rides, playing along the river, listening to bird chirping, watching boats pass, sending off people to their respective longhouse and everyone knowing everyone in the longhouse and surrounding villages.
The 25-year-old, who holds a degree in Public Relations, has been putting serious effort to showcase the unique culture of Sarawak – which she explained as “the other side of Malaysia which people don’t usually see” – via social media.
During the competition, the model will not only be strutting her stuff, she will also be managing a dress change and a 45kg kampung house during the National Costume category.
This costume was inspired by the traditional Malay kampung houses and aptly named “Kampungku”. Local couture designer Carven Ong designed the two main outfits, which are a black and white batik kaftan dress with a bicycle-shaped headpiece and an orange gown accompanied by the ‘Francisca’ doll headpiece.
The headpiece was supplied by Wesley Hilton of Borneo Doll. Wesley, who is also an Iban from Sarawak, a cabin crew who made headlines with his unique customised Borneo Barbie dolls – an idea that came about during the MCO last year.
For the evening gown segment, Francisca will be modelling an ombré turquoise gown. Designed by Rizman Ruzaini, the gown was inspired by the legend of the beautiful Princess Sejinjang who is synonymous with Sarawak’s folklore.
Francisca proudly revealed she even had a hand in the concept of the gown. “It’s the first time an indigenous girl is representing Malaysia on the Miss Universe stage, and I wanted the design to include elements from my culture,” she said, Hype MY reported.
In January, Francisca was tested positive with Covid-19 despite observing the pandemic’s standard operating procedures by wearing a mask, sanitising, washing her hands regularly and observing physical distancing.
She was unsure how she contracted the virus and “it was scary” to receive the result which came back “positive”.
“When I received the results, I realised it could be my fault (that I got it), but I did everything. I wore as mask, sanitised, washed my hands, but it (still) happened. I was shaking when it happened and didn’t know what to do,” she wrote on Instagram.
“It was scary to receive the results because I felt all okay, everything was fine. No fever. I had a slight back pain and a bit of flu, but other than that, all was good.”
She also said she informed all of her close contacts and they did their tests and all of them had negative results.
The beauty queen advised everyone to continue to stay home if there is nothing urgent and continue to adhere to the SOPs strictly.