Monday, August 27, 2012

Veteran pageant organiser Tracy Lee, 50, dies in sleep

The "queen" was finally crowned at her funeral on Friday, after crowning many local beauty queens over nearly 20 years.

Ms Tracy Lee, who was also known as the "queen" of pageants among colleagues and beauty queens for being the woman behind the scene at many glitzy pageants, died in her sleep on Thursday.

She was 50 years old.

Her body was found by her caregiver in her three-room flat in Toa Payoh early on Thursday morning.
Ms Lee, who lived alone with her caregiver, is believed to have suffered a heart failure.

She leaves her elderly mother and three brothers, all of whom live in Malaysia.

Said long-time working partner and friend Alex Liu, the managing director of ERM World Marketing:

"She said she always wanted a crown, so we decided to get her a tiara to send her off."

The tiara, which was adorned with crystals, cost about $280 and was placed in her casket, to be cremated with her body.

Her funeral at Mandai Crematorium yesterday was attended by close to a hundred people, including her church friends, past pageant winners and colleagues.

Ms Lee was the events consultant of ERM, which has been organising pageants such as Miss Singapore Intercontinental and Manhunt Singapore.

Friends, colleagues and previous pageant winners describe her as stern, professional and no-nonsense, someone who demanded nothing but the best from her pageant girls.

Ms Lee, who suffered from diabetes, had been wheelchair-bound for the past six months.

But that did not stop her from working tirelessly behind the scenes at the beauty pageants.

Her most recent event was just two weeks ago - the Miss Singapore Beauty Pageant 2012 held at the Inter Continental Hotel ballroom.

News of her sudden death is still a huge shock to everyone close to her.

Ms Rocher Ang, 25, who was crowned winner of Miss Singapore Chinese World at the Saturday event, attended Ms Lee's funeral just several hours before speaking to The New Paper.

She was close to tears as she spoke about Ms Lee's death.

"I still cannot accept the fact that she is gone. The winners were supposed to meet at her place today for a gathering," she said.

"I love baking and Tracy was complaining that I never baked for her before.

"She never got the chance to try my cupcakes. I was going to take some for the gathering," she said.

Ex-beauty queen Ris Low, 22, was also distressed to hear the news from TNP yesterday.

"I am shocked and sad. I don't know what to feel," she said.

Like many others, Ms Low recalled Ms Lee as someone who set very high standards for pageant contestants.

"But I learnt a lot from her. During the rehearsals, she would be the one shouting things like, 'Posture!'

"She expected everything to be perfect."

She also has many fond memories of Ms Lee.

Said Ms Low: "She remembered my birthday, and she was always holding dinners and parties to keep everyone together."

Ms Lee saw ERM through many episodes, including the "Ris Low saga", where the beauty queen was stripped of her Miss Singapore World title.

Following criticism of the poor image of the Miss Singapore World franchise, the Miss Singapore World pageant was handed over to businessman Raymund Ooi in 2011. ERM had run the contest for seven years.

ERM is still the regional franchise holder for many international beauty pageants, including Manhunt International, Miss Tourism Queen International, and runs local contests such as Manhunt Singapore, Miss Singapore Chinatown and Miss Singapore Tourism Queen.

Mr Liu, who has known Ms Lee for 26 years, said he now has to find a "left hand to replace his right hand".

"It will be difficult to find someone to fill her shoes. "

Still working

Mr Liu also said that Ms Lee was still working as usual on a few projects, such as the Mrs Singapore pageant and the Little Miss Singapore Cinderella pageant before she died.

Entertainment lawyer and talent agency owner Samuel Seow, who has judged beauty contests such as Miss Singapore World and Miss Singapore Beauty Pageant, recalled that Ms Lee had a strong zeal for life despite her disabilities.

Aside form having trouble moving around, she was also blind in one eye, believed to be a result of her diabetes.

Mr Seow said: "Before meeting her, I heard stories of how she could be fierce and unreasonable, but I think people tended to misunderstand her.

"She has been a good friend to me for the past five years. She would call me occasionally to ask me how I was. She loved food and I would take her out to eat at Shangri-La hotel," he added.

Ms Yang Lay, who was recently crowned Mrs Asia International Community Queen, had worked closely with Ms Lee for the past four years.

She was the one who placed the crown on Ms Lee's casket.

In her eulogy, she said: "Tracy has organised and been involved in pageants for a long time. In all these pageants, many queens have been crowned.

"She has always wanted a crown. So here is the crown from Alex and all of us in ERM to Tracy."

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