Photo: The New Paper
The lights wrap around the structure, which fans out via a backpack, and are just one of the architectural elements in the Miss Universe Singapore 2017 winner's two-piece national costume inspired by Gardens By The Bay's Supertrees. It also consists of a green bralet and matching hipster panties worn over flesh-coloured tights, with Vanda Miss Joaquim flowers cascading across her left shoulder and down her right leg and making up the headpiece.
This is also the first time LED lights are used as part of Singapore's national costume for Miss Universe. They even change colours whenever Manuela walks.
Photo: The New Paper
Designer Moe Kasim told The New Paper at Manuela's final fitting at his costume store Moephosis Concepts last week: "Most of the time, when we want to present Singapore at Miss Universe, it's usually a multi-racial costume, but nothing has been done that is architectural or structural." Mr Kasim has been creating costumes for various pageants for about eight years, including the Peranakan-inspired one worn by Miss Universe Singapore 2016 winner Cheryl Chou The 47-year-old hopes the LED lights will garner the votes of the judges determining the winner of Miss Universe national costume segment.
"So far, I haven't seen LED lights that change colours on any of the Miss Universe national costumes, so I really hope they like it," he said.
"Last year, the costume was mostly covered up, so this year we'd like to show a bit more skin and show off Manuela's figure."
Photo: The New Paper
The costume took about 40 man hours to construct, with the bulk of the time going into making the structure that symbolises the Supertree branches. The costume costs over $1,500. The entire ensemble weighs 6kg. Made of wire and wrapped in maroon velvet, the structure is equipped with two 12-volt battery packs on either side that allow Manuela to turn on the LED lights herself.
Not surprisingly, it proved to be Mr Kasim's biggest challenge. "I had to consider that the LED lights require quite a strong power point, but it couldn't be too heavy for Manuela," he said.
Manuela was thrilled when she saw the finished product.The 24-year-old artist, who flew to Las Vegas last Saturday, told TNP: "When I first saw the sketch five weeks ago, it was beautiful but I didn't know what to expect. I was definitely excited that Singapore was presenting something that wasn't a dress or a typical skirt. It is nothing like we've ever seen before. "The most exciting part for me is the structure... to see it transform into the idea of the Supertree."
She added: "I think we've taken the whole idea of a national costume to another level, which is something Singapore doesn't usually do. This year, we're really doing something outstanding."
Gearing up to do Singapore proud
With less than two weeks to the Miss Universe finals, Manuela Bruntraeger has been gearing up for her international debut. This includes waking up at 6am daily so she can clock in one to two hours of exercise at the gym or at home, before she gets "dolled up" to start her day at 9am. Apart from working out, she is also watching what she eats.
Manuela, who has been cutting down on carbohydrates and increasing her protein intake, told The New Paper: "If I want a piece of chocolate, I'll have a piece of chocolate... It's not so much about losing weight, but more of watching what goes into my body, and becoming stronger."
She added: "Obviously, I don't want to just do the national costume justice, but also the whole of Singapore and myself proud. I want to be in the best possible shape to present the costume the best I can."
The Supertrees-inspired costume is close to Manuela's heart because she feels that certain parts of the costume are very much like her.
"It's different, the same way I'm different and I'm not the stereotypical idea of what Singapore would represent and that's what will make me stand out," she said.
Ironically, the 1.64m-tall beauty, whose father is German and mother a Singaporean of Portuguese descent, hopes that her height will allow her to stand out.
"Amongst all the tall girls, (my height) will draw attention to me... I'm also all about breaking the idea of what the stereotypical beauty queen is," said Manuela, who will be packing four- to six-inch heels for the trip as it is standard practice.
"I think that's the beauty of Miss Universe - being able to find your strength and playing to it," she added.
While in Las Vegas, Manuela will also be wearing a fully Singapore-designed wardrobe sponsored by eight to 10 local designers, including Joanna Lim, who presented at the Swarovski X LASALLE graduation show earlier this year, and jewellery brand Charmed Forces.
"It's about giving young Singapore talent the opportunity to place their work and designs on an international scale," she said.
On what she is most looking forward to in Las Vegas, Manuela said: "Knowing that I have a place beside all these beautiful women from every single country."
This article was first published at The New Paper.