Miss Thailand Anna Sueangam-iam might not have won the Miss Universe crown, but she won the hearts and minds of millions of people around the world by one of the most inspirational gown choices in Universe history.
The 24-year-old walked across the stage Saturday night wearing a gown made entirely of pop tabs. That's right, those pop tabs you rip off so your kid's school can raise money for things like playground equipment. But in the case of Sueangam-iam, this dress wasn't for raising money, it served as a tribute to her parents and as an f-you to those who've called her a "garbage beauty queen" because of her upbringing.
"This gown was inspired by the familiar surroundings of my childhood," she wrote on Instagram. "Growing up with garbage collector parents, my life as a child was among piles of garbage and recyclables. This unique gown was purposefully tailored-made with discarded and recycled materials, namely the ‘Can Tab’ to present to the UNIVERSE that what’s considered worthless by many actually possesses its own value and beauty.
"Thank you all for seeing it, hearing it, and hopefully being that message of self-worth."
Sueangam-iam was born in Bangkok, Thailand and life was definitely not easy. At an early age, she was sent away to be raised by nuns at a Buddhist temple and lived a life of poverty. There were missions to collect plastic bottles to raise money to live along with jobs like cleaning bathrooms and donating blood to make life a little easier.
You'd think that kind of story would be enough to lock down the crown, but that honor went to Miss USA R'Bonney Gabriel, who broke a decade-long losing streak for the red, white and blue. The U.S. hadn't won the crown since 2012 when 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey's girlfriend, Olivia Culpo, won the title at just 20 years old.
Even though she didn't advance to the Sweet 16 of Saturday's finale, things aren't all bad for Sueangam-iam. Her story went viral and now she's up to a half-million Instagram followers and her posts are gaining over 100k likes. She's going to get work out of that pop-tab gown. She's going to make more money than her parents ever thought possible in life.
“You’re not the only ones facing despair. I used to be in despair too," Anna said Saturday night when asked what she would do to boost morale around the world. "We learn from our troubles to adapt and survive. I would call on all of you to have confidence in yourselves and rise to fight again. If I can, so can you.”
OMG, this is exactly what MY Cincinnati Bengals need to hear this morning after losing left tackle Jonah Williams to a knee injury during a Wild Card game against the Ravens.
Now go apply that advice to your own life.
Thank you for the inspiration, Anna.