Beauty pageants are nothing new to Macao’s Emily Yau. She earned the title of Miss Congeniality at the 2015 Miss Chinese Toronto Pageant and was first runner-up at the 2019 Miss Macao Pageant. Last month marked another milestone. She was crowned Miss International Asia Pacific at the 61st Miss International Pageant in Tokyo, becoming the first person from Macao to win the title.
After seven years of study in Canada, Yau returned to the SAR in 2018, where she earned a master’s degree and pursued a varied career as a model, actress, livestreamer and MC. She also has a philanthropic side, involved with charities such as the Everyone dog rescue group and Oxfam.
Hot on the heels of her 28th birthday celebration, Yau sat down with Macao News.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
How does it feel to win this award for Macao?
Before I went [to Tokyo], a lot of people would tell me it would be hard for Macao to win an international award and I believed myself that it would be. It’s not because of my lack of preparation, education or prettiness; it’s just that internationally, Macao is very small. But, the dream did come true. So, don’t let anybody stop you. When you have a dream just go and chase after it. If you don’t take the first step, it’s never going to happen, but if you take the first step, sometimes there’ll be a surprise.
What was the most important lesson you learned from Miss International?
Believe in yourself and that you can overcome all this. It’s not about what you wear or whether you have the prettiest makeup or the best dress. Nobody actually remembers that. They only remember what kind of personality you have; that’s the impression that you can leave behind.
What pressures did you face during the competition?
Before I went to this Miss International, I only had a month and a half to prepare for it. That was the time I really was stressed out. I think the stress was coming from [the desire] to really represent well, because I was representing my own home city and not just Emily. I wanted everything to be well prepared.
Tell us about the national dress you wore at Miss International
It is from Guangdong and the designer, Tang Xiaoru, is a craftsperson who has inherited the art of embroidering qungua (the traditional two-piece Chinese wedding dress) with gold metallic threads, part of the intangible cultural heritage of Guangdong. That piece actually cost 20,000 yuan and it took her two years to finish. Her design is a combination of Western and Chinese culture. She decided to use blue [instead of] the traditional red and she also put a Western wedding veil together. This kind of Chinese and Western culture together, I think really resembles Macao.
What is one thing that you would change about yourself?
It’s kind of arrogant to say this, but I don’t want to change anything. I believe that what is meant to be is meant to be. I feel so blessed already, and as a person, I think you can’t be too greedy and you shouldn’t have too many desires.
What’s at the very top of your bucket list?
I want to be a cultural exchange ambassador for Macao – to travel all around the world and also bring different Miss Internationals from other countries to Macao to have this kind of [cultural] interaction.
What is something that no one knows about you?
I had [several] stitches at my right eyebrow when I was a kid. I wanted to buy McDonald’s with my aunties and when I came back, I bumped into a shopping cart and it bled like crazy, so I had stitches.
What are your guilty pleasures?
If I don’t have work or if I don’t have something to do, or if I feel stressed, I like to sleep a lot. But when I don’t want the night to end, I will sleep at 3, 4, 5 or 6 [o’clock in the morning].
Who are your role models?
My mum and dad. My mum is actually a businesswoman, but she’s not strict at all and is like my friend. There aren’t any secrets between her and me. With my dad, he’s a really wise man who’s very intelligent and humble. He’s almost seventy, but he keeps wanting to learn. I would say my confidence, positive personality and love of life come from my parents.
What’s next for you?
I’ll be going to Thailand for Loy Krathong – the festival where you put [illuminated floating offerings] on the water. Miss Thailand just invited me to be one of the guests for the opening, so I’ll be heading over to Thailand at the end of November.