The Day I Was Publicly Embarrassed…

by Patrick Liew on August 16, 2019

The Day I Was Publicly Embarrassed…

Please come back with me through time to 1974.

The scene: a grand ballroom in a 5-star hotel.

Crystal chandeliers were casting magical lights all over the room.

Beautiful music was dancing through the waves of the air.

The guests were dressed to the nines.

VIPs who sat in the first few rows looked almost like royalty.

Waiters and waitresses were moving around the room, serving delicious cuisines to excite different taste buds.

There was an electrifying excitement in the air.

The emcee took to the stage and made an announcement that drew everybody’s attention.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the Mister and Miss Beauty Contest!”

It was a beautiful scene to everybody present, except one.

It was a nightmare that lived in the mind of that person for a long time.

That person was me.

That experience remains fresh in my mind until today.

I was one of the finalists in the beauty contest.

I know you’ll be scrambling to look at my photograph.

You will probably be wondering, “How can this face ever get into a beauty contest?”

In 1974, I was forced to enter the contest. It was part of our ‘Orientation’ by the older students, otherwise known as “Senior Ladies and Gentlemen.”

As a ‘freshie,’ I had to do what the seniors ‘adviced’ me to do, or else I was supposed to suffer hell in the days ahead.

I was literally dragged into the beauty contest.

They needed a “William Hung,” a freak to provide additional fun and laughter.

I was the perfect choice.

However, the judges made a mistake. They must have allocated points for other qualities, beside good looks.

In the Beauty column, I believe I still owed the organizers a substantial amount of points.

In the other columns, I managed to salvage myself.

It was more like I dug myself into a deeper hole.

To cut a long story short, I got into the finals. That was when my troubles started.

The organizers told me I needed to put on a nice jacket during the finals.

I had never owned a jacket until then, and probably never thought I would have one.

I came from a poor family.

My parents had to struggle to put me through school.

After searching for a solution – and failing to find one – I approached my father.

“Papa, I really need a jacket for an important occasion. Can you get me one or I’ll be in big trouble?”

That evening, my father gave me such a dressing down, it left me cursing poverty deep in my bones.

“You’re lucky to have food on the table,” he roared.

“If there’s anything left, most of the money will go into your education and it is barely enough to cover your school fees and pocket money.

Can’t you see how tired I am in trying to keep all seven of you alive?”

The last week before the finals was one of the worst periods in my life.

You should have seen me approaching almost everybody to beg for or borrow a jacket.

At the eleventh hour, I remembered that the head prefect in my secondary school had been given a jacket.

Thankfully, I managed to contact him and borrow it.

My head prefect was a tall and lanky person.

So, when I put on the jacket, I looked like a chimpanzee.

To make matters worse, the jacket was tailored as a student jacket and was made out of a bright turquoise material. It was the strangest looking jacket for a formal occasion.

I must be the first person in the world to wear a turquoise student jacket in a beauty contest.

Please come back with me to the beauty contest.

The Emcee was announcing to the audience, “The next contestant, Mr. Paatttrrriiicck Liew!”

I took to the catwalk amidst applause, whistles and catcalls.

I was told that the stronger the response, the more marks would be awarded to me.

The worst the response, the lower the marks – very much like what they do at the American Idol.

I walked nervously to the centre of the stage, embarrassed and struggling to keep my balance.

Suddenly, from the back of the room, a lady screamed,

“Eee! That is my former head prefect’s jacket!”

That moment will forever be etched in my mind.

I can still visualize the spotlights and all the lights in the room focusing just on me.

The music became softer and softer until there was complete silence.

Everybody seemed to move in slow motion until they froze and stared at me.

It was the most humiliating moment of my life.

After coming down from the stage, I ran all the way home with tears streaming down my cheeks.

“Why do I have to be poor?” I yelled into the darkness of the night.

“Why can’t I have a better jacket? Why can’t I live a better life? Why? Why? Why?”

I swore I would never be poor and I would be somebody in life.

At that young age, I thought if I were more successful, I could have more personal glory and material comforts in life.

This is a belief shared by many.

They measure success by the amount of money in the bank accounts.

They believe that position, profit, pleasure, power and prestige are the key traits of success.

Yet, these traits have never help anybody achieve sustainable happiness.

I learned the truth from one of the best teachers – Life.

Life plays interesting games with us.

The lessons that I thought I should learn end up to be different from the lessons that eventually changed my life.

As I journey through life, I found a more compelling purpose to be successful.

If you are more successful, you can give your loved ones a better life.

Help the needy, the weak and the disadvantaged to live a meaningful and fulfilling life.

Make more and better contributions to the community.

Be a blessing to the world and make it a better home.

And also do so much more for planet earth.

In case you don’t know, our planet is currently sick and dying.

The time has come to to join hands together and turn the tide of destruction.

Hence, there’s a need to move away from conventional definition of success.

In fact, success should have more than one definition.

Success is about developing and leveraging on your unique set of talents, strengths, positions, and other resources.

Cultivate sound characters, achieve worthwhile dreams, and make a positive difference to others and the environment.

So, why do you want to become more successful in life?

If you don’t know the “Why” for achieving success, you will not work hard to find out the “How.”

It is your purpose that will drive your performance and determine your pursuit.

If you do not have a compelling purpose to wake you up every morning and to motivate yourself to excel in life, may I suggest you do not sleep tonight until you can find that purpose.


I hope this message will find a place in your heart.

By the way, I have also recorded other reflections.

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Please read my reflections and continue to teach me.

Life is FUNtastic!


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