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Richel Xie’s DreamGirl SG is shaking up the pageant industry, empowering women by focusing not just on their beauty but a full range of capabilities and talents.

What’s your story?
My name is Richel Xie, Director of OTwo Inc Private Limited, Creator/Producer of DreamGirl
DreamGirl SG is about finding beautiful, intelligent and passionate ladies out there who do not fit the conventional height requirements for pageants (1.65m and below) or modelling. Not only does the competition aim to give these ladies a chance to showcase and further develop their talents, we also hope to open doors and opportunities for them to do more for themselves and their community.
DreamGirl SG emphasizes not only the beauty and poise of our contestants, but more importantly, their attributes like their character and personality and their work ethic. We aim to shift away from the idea that women should only be judged by how they look or their figure – as is traditionally done through beauty pageants – but rather, by their efforts and the results they are capable of achieving. Through a unique format where the contestants will be awarded points based on how well they do in a wide range of activities that test their writing skills, patience, teamwork and physical coordination.
DreamGirl SG aims to differentiate itself from the other pageants by giving our participants a sustained platform to showcase the full range of their capabilities and talents.

What excites you most about your industry?
Pageants in Singapore have a really bad name. Ever since Miss Singapore Universe got pulled off the air and the Ris Lows of many other pageants started getting notoriety, very few people – businesses, sponsors and contestants alike – wanted anything to do with pageantry and though many other unique, smaller pageants started springing up (Miss Scuba, Miss Mermaid, etc), they were just rehashing the same formula over and over again, just with slightly different agendas and tweaked execution methods.
Dreamgirl SG is about taking that formula and turning it on its head. Instead of having a group of ladies being judged by how they look, this competition has no category for looks, beauty, makeup or catwalk. Instead of having the ladies spend hours posing for pictures like mannequins, the contestants are sent to learn Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu, catch wrestling, flow-boarding, Burlesque dancing and pilates and they are given points according to how much effort they put into each activities and how well they do.
Instead of having them just go on stage dressed in different outfits and giving a short introduction of themselves, this competition allows everyone to truly understand who each of the contestants are through constant interviews during and after each activities; what their hopes and dreams are; what kind of emotions they are going through; and how determined they are to fight for what they want.
This to me, is truly exciting because no longer will these females be judged as little more than walking vases, with little to no personalities or intelligence displayed. To me this is both demeaning and embarrassing for both the competition and the contestants. To have a platform where ladies can truly show their abilities and their strength, where they can truly be empowered and enriched, where they can embark on a journey of true self discovery, this to me, is exhilarating. This industry needs a shake up, and Dreamgirl SG is here to rock the boat.

What’s your connection to Asia?
At the moment, there is not much connection to Asia per se, except in terms of planning. We plan for this competition to first take South East Asia, and then slowly but surely, move into Asia. We have a huge demographic of petite, fun sized, strong and intelligent women here, not just in Singapore, but in the whole of Asia, and I believe this platform is the ideal stage through which all of them can shine.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Definitely Singapore. Although operating, logistics and manpower costs here are very high, the legal framework, safe environment and the building and online infrastructure in Singapore is of a decently advanced level for everyday business operations to be executed in a fast and efficient manner. Although, I wish there was less red tape for entrepreneurs to access funding.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
To never give up, no matter how steep the hill is. Every movement upwards, no matter how slow, is still an upgrade of your current situation. Honestly I can’t remember where I heard this, but I guess this sort of repeats itself through many different mediums and in different forms.

Who inspires you?
Cliched, but it’s my mum. She brought me and my brother up through sheer grit and determination after my father passed away when I was 5, leaving her at 24 with two kids and no idea how to properly raise them. Without advanced education (just O’levels), she went through long hours and days of absolute misery just to bring the two of us up, and on just one pay cheque. It took a lot of tears, a lot of putting aside thoughts of giving up and ending her life, and even a nasty divorce, but she succeeded. The sacrifices that she had to make and all the life experiences she had to put aside just to raise us was what inspired Dreamgirl SG, and set the standard for my ideal girlfriend.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
That people who are the closest to you, are the ones who could actually hurt you in the worst possible fashion. I recently ended a business relationship with a former business partner whom I helped earn a lot of money for. It was really eye-opening to see how devious, petty and vindictive a person with whom you used to share so much with, can be. But it was even more heart-breaking to see, that when everything goes sour, people with whom you have done so much for, and on whom you thought you could count on for support, just disappear.
I have heard about the cruelty of mankind before, but experiencing this myself, just blew me away.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Nothing really, every experience helped shaped me into what I am today.
Oh, maybe be kinder, bolder, and take even more risks than I have already taken. Some experiences are worth dire consequences.

How do you unwind?
Intellectual shows that push the boundaries of what’s acceptable, are my passion. I can binge watch Suits, House of Cards, Preacher, Legion and House for days if my schedule allows me to. Otherwise, there is always Moscato and Football Manager (weird combination, but that’s me!)

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
I absolutely love the Phi Phi Islands in Thailand. Pristine beaches, no cars, crappy food, sunburn. I love all of it! Nothing like having to deal with nothing for a couple of days on white sandy beaches with friendly monkeys.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Sun Tzu’s Art of War, because business is war, no matter what anyone will tells you.

Shameless plug for your business:
Be part of something truly different, unique, and representative of how women should truly be gauged – by their character and capabilities. Your participation as a sponsor or investor could mean everything to these contestants, and to your business as well. Dreamgirl SG is a platform dedicated to female empowerment, to strength, to dedication, and it’s a platform that is only going to get bigger and bigger every single year. This competition is now Singapore’s most social media active, female-centric competition, with a fan base on Facebook numbering close to 40 thousand.
As we set our sights on Malaysia and Philippines, we are also looking for partners who can come on board on this exciting journey and help take up arms together with us in this revolution against dull, appearance obsessed, demeaning pageants. Women should be celebrated for who they are, how hard they are willing to fight and all the wonderful things they are capable of achieving.
Help them achieve their dreams. Let us help you achieve your business goals giving you access to reach out to thousands of strong beautiful and independent women on our platform.
#fightforyourdreams

How can people connect with you?
Email me — [email protected], or search for Dreamgirl SG on
Facebook — https://www.facebook.com/DreamGirlSg/,
Instagram — dreamgirl_sg , and
Youtube — https://www.youtube.com/dreamgirlSGandasia/

This interview was part of the Callum Connect’s column found on The Asian Entrepreneur:

CallumConnectsCallum Laing invests and buys small businesses in a range of industries around Asia. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is the founder & owner of Fitness-Buffet a company delivering employee wellness solutions in 12 countries. He is a Director of, amongst others, Key Person of Influence. A 40 week training program for business owners and executives.

Take the ‘Key Person of Influence’ scorecard <http://www.keypersonofinfluence.com/scorecard/>

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twitter.com/laingcallum
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Callum Laing has started, built, bought and sold half a dozen businesses in a range of industries across two continents. He is a partner in the Private Equity firm Unity-Group. Co-founder and non-exec director of The Marketing Group PLC and is CEO of Key Person of Influence (Asia). He is author of 'Progressive Partnerships'.

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