From beauty queen to fitness instructor, Rathi Menon talks about helping other women take care and treasure themselves.

“In the beauty industry, the first thing you fix for the camera is your nose because that determines your facial symmetry. It’s a no-brainer. Once you get it sharp and nice, everything else is secondary – your lips, boobs, etcetera. 

When I first won Miss Singapore Universe – this was back in 2014 – someone told me to get nose surgery. This was suggested before I represented Singapore in Miami at the Miss Universe competition. I was not forced by anyone; it was just an option given to me.

I was curious, so I looked up rhinoplasty online and maybe considered it for a split second. If surgery will make me look pretty, why not? It’s like makeup. But then I saw a video, and I thought it was extreme!

You’re guaranteed a very good nose, but I didn’t know if it’s worth it. I’m not against cosmetic surgery, but I’m also not someone who would inflict pain for beauty. If I didn’t have to thread my eyebrows, I wouldn’t.

I can tell you you’re beautiful, but if you feel a certain element has to be fixed for you to feel beautiful, then it’s entirely on you. I’m in no position to say you must feel beautiful or okay with how you look, if you’re not okay with how you look.

But I personally didn’t think there was anything wrong with my nose. I didn’t want to ‘fix’ it and then live with a nose that I didn’t like for the rest of my life. Whatever I have, I’m thankful for. I’m a simple person and I’m happy with how I look, so please don’t try to change me.

After the competition ended, I deferred my studies and went to Milan for three months. I wanted to experience modelling overseas. I always appreciate the opportunity to travel out of Singapore, so I enjoyed myself thoroughly.

I had Spontini almost everyday from this one place in fear that I might not come back. I was overseas and I wanted to experience the local foods and culture. But we were monitored very closely by our modelling agency, so my roommates were always eating salads.

I felt blessed to have the opportunity to model, but I reached a point where it felt like I was going mad. There was a lot of waiting around involved, and through all the shows that I had done, I felt like my brain cells were dying. I’m an active person, so I went into fitness.

When I made that transition, I obviously grew bigger because of the increased muscle mass from all the weight training. One day, I had a sit-down with my agency, and they said I should stop because my thighs were getting bigger, which was obviously good news to me. *laughs*

I said, ‘Listen, I’m not at home sitting on my ass all day eating McDonald’s. I’m working out at the gym.’ I wasn’t wrong, and neither were they. To be a model, you have to look a certain way. I had to choose a body type, so I made the decision to leave my modelling agency.

Today, I work as a fitness coach. My clients are mostly women. Compared to men, our bodies change more dramatically. Not that I’m a feminist or anything, but I’m very passionate about helping women who suffer from low self-esteem because of the way they look. 

Their number one concern is how their bodies change and look different before and after marriage, pregnancy and childbirth. After having kids, there will be weight gain, hormonal changes and added responsibilities. Fatigue kicks in and they have less time for themselves.

The first question I ask them are their goals, and 90 percent of them say they want to look like me. Initially I would say thank you, but after so many years in the industry, it’s not even a compliment anymore. The answer I want to hear is, ‘I wanna look better for myself!’

Comparing yourself to others is just wrong. It’s really unrealistic and damaging. Looking at all these influencers and fitness models on Instagram, I understand how they cheat to make themselves look better in pictures, because I’m a model myself.

I’ve never looked at someone on social media and said that I want her butt or that body. Because firstly, it’s totally different genetics. And secondly, what she does day to day, God knows! How would I ever know whether she’s suffering or really happy? 

Saying that beauty is nothing to me contradicts the person that I am, especially being an ex-beauty pageant contestant. But as Miss Singapore Universe, I stood for being your authentic self. Maybe that’s why I didn’t win; for being too authentic! *laughs*

My advice is to accept yourself for who you are and be the best version of yourself. Love yourself, because if you don’t, it will be very hard for others to love you. And enjoy yourself! Life is too short to be obsessed and unhappy about the way you look!” – Rathi Menon, 31

Interview by: Arman Shah