Pageant veteran Francisca Luhong James was crowned the new Miss Universe Malaysia (MUM) during the e-gala held September 5 in Damansara, Petaling Jaya.

The 25-year-old public relations and marketing executive and part-time model from Kuching, Sarawak bested 17 other candidates for the title and the right to represent the Southeast Asian nation in the next edition of Miss Universe. She received the crown from last year’s winner Shweta Sekhon. She also bagged the Best in Evening Gown and Miss Auto Bavaria Elegance awards.

Charissa Chong, who previously represented Malaysia in Miss International 2013, placed first runner-up. Serene Chai and Neha Verma were second and thurd runners-up, respectively.

James, who was the only Sarawakian to make the MUM 2020 Top 18, previously competed in Miss World Malaysia in 2016 and 2018. She placed in the Top 5 in both editions. She was also second runner-up in Miss Cultural Harvest Festival (a Malaysian ethnic beauty pageant, in 2015.

“I am much more ready now mentally and physically compared to when I joined before. Miss Universe Malaysia has always been my dream, but I understand how huge the responsibility is and what an honour it is to carry the title as they are known to be the spokesperson and ambassador for the country they represent, and they need to work really hard to help the community,” she was quoted by The Borneo Post days before the finals.

The MUM 2020 finals was supposed to take place in March but was postponed to September due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The finals was streamed live on the pageant’s website. To ensure safety, only the candidates, staff, and judges were allowed to enter the finals venue. Miss Universe Malaysia 2011 Deborah Henry was one of the judges.

Malaysia has yet to win the Miss Universe crown. It currently ranks 54th in Missosology Big5 Ranking. Missosology.Org; Photos from Francisca Luhong James Instagram page