To some, Daryl Pang is a Singapore go-getter.
The resilient 35-year-old is the business and promotions director of Derrol Stepenny, the events company that has organised the Miss Singapore Universe pageant for the past eight years.
Thanks to him, young girls in Singapore who dream of becoming a beauty queen have a pageant to aspire to - a local competition that would give them a leg-up to the biggest international beauty contest of all, the American-organised Miss Universe.
But some people wish Mr Pang would just get real.
The Miss Singapore Universe contest has fallen on hard, even ridiculed, times.
Last month, the grand finals was axed from TV by MediaCorp, which cited declining ratings and sponsorship.
Then last week, howls of protest greeted the eye-popping Merlion-inspired dress that the reigning queen has to wear at the international contest in Vietnam next month.
A spokesman for MediaCorp said ratings for the show have dropped by up to 32 per cent over the last three years. For the last two years, the viewership has numbered an average of 248,000, according to market research firm Taylor Nelson Sofres.
After major companies such as Canon, Swarovski and Triumph withdrew their sponsorships over the past few years, the pageant is now propped up by smaller companies such as KCS Dental Group, This Fashion and Beneath The Stars Jewellery.
Swarovski Singapore's marketing operations manager Tricia Tan explains that the move came about because changes in the company's marketing strategy have led it to focus its activities elsewhere.
A spokesman for Canon Singapore says the company has stopped sponsoring beauty pageants because it has 'found other synergies that are stronger and better aligned with the company's marketing directions'.
The drop in sponsorship has also hammered the final nail in the coffin for the pageant - the shrinking prize money.
Ten years ago, Ms Alice Lim won $71,000 worth of prizes, including $10,000 in cash, when she was crowned Miss Singapore Universe 1998.
In contrast, this year's winner Shenise Wong took home about $25,000 worth of prizes, including $5,000 in cash.
'During our time, the prizes were way more attractive,' says Ms Teo Ser Lee, who was Miss Singapore International 1986 and Miss Singapore World 1988.
'The scale of the competitions has gone down, so people are not interested anymore. The prizes are a big incentive. Why would a girl expose herself like that otherwise?' she adds.
Still, organiser Pang is unfazed.
'We will keep doing it every year because we paid for and own the franchise,' he tells LifeStyle.
He bought the franchise in 2000 from Miss Universe International for a five-figure sum.
At this year's finals, held in a ballroom at the Singapore Marriot hotel last month, he gushed about how the show would still go on despite being dropped from TV.
When asked about the negative reception his pageants has received in recent years, he says that there will always be people who are still interested in such shows.
'It's very demoralising because here we are trying to do our part for Singapore, and yet we have people slamming us,' he says, sounding frustrated.
Then he retorts: 'If these people think they are so good, why don't they come forward and do it?'
When contacted by LifeStyle, ERM Singapore, which holds several other pageants including Miss Singapore World, declined to comment.
But Ms Woo Choon Mei, president of the Singapore Women's Association, which has been organising Miss Singapore International since 1975, says it will continue with its contest.
She says that she believes pageants are important as they deepen relationships between countries and benefit individual participants.
One pageant that did bite the dust, however, was Miss Singapore Tourism.
Organised by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) since 1985, the contest faded out of the scene quietly in the mid-1990s.
STB's communications director Rostam Umar says it was canned because it was not an investment that reaped maximum tourism returns.
'Beyond raising the profile of a destination, events such as international beauty pageants do not bring about as much direct tourism benefits, such as visitor arrivals and tourism receipts, as compared to other types of international events,' he says.
Should Mr Pang take a cue from the scrapping of Miss Singapore Tourism?
Understandably, pulling the plug on something you love is never easy. But when the death knell sounds this loud, maybe it's time to just let go.
This article was first published in The Sunday Times on June 15, 2008.