KOKILAM Kathirvailu, 35, made waves recently when she was crowned second runner-up in the Mrs World 2019 pageant held in Las Vegas, the United States. Currently pursuing the Bachelor of Psychology (BPSY) at Open University Malaysia (OUM), the mother of three discovered a new passion when she decided to participate in pageantry, even though she had to learn everything from scratch.

“I have 17 years of work experience in banking, marketing, call centre and human resource management. Never did I picture myself being crowned in a beauty pageant! This amazing experience would not have been possible without the support of my two sisters.” The winner of Mrs Malaysia World 2018- 2019, Kokilam represented Malaysia in the worldwide edition of the competition in May this year. It was daunting, but her strength guided her towards success. “No matter what life throws at me, I never give up. I’m inspired by many influential and successful people around the world.

The more I look up to them, the humbler I feel. I realise that I need to move forward and become my own inspiration,” explains Kokilam. This Kuala Lumpur-born beauty had previously pursued a law degree, but never got the chance to complete it. Nonetheless, her quest for a tertiary qualification led her to OUM’s Petaling Jaya Learning Centre in 2016.

“There is no age limit to pursuing tertiary education. Everyone deserves the right to learn because education is essential for building a strong nation,” shares Kokilam. Available under the Faculty of Education and Social Sciences, the BPSY programme covers various aspects in psychology, including the social, cognitive and crosscultural perspectives of the discipline.

“My previous career revolved around reaching out to and serving customers for business growth. This programme allows me to understand human behaviour and my surroundings better,” Kokilam says. “Studying on a part-time basis using online learning materials has also been very helpful as I am busy juggling the demands of my family and career.” Tied to pageantry activities for a year, Kokilam manages her hectic schedule by planning ahead. “Planning is essential for me. With the help and support from my family, everything seems easy and manageable.”

Her newfound passion in pageantry has also shaped her personality and point of view. “I am lucky to have struck gold in pageantry as it is highly competitive. This competition has taught me how to deal with stage fright. I have conquered that fear and am now comfortable dealing with people and the media.

“I believe that pageantry can be a platform to address stereotypes against women and even bring the society closer together,” says Kokilam, whose hobby is playing a musical instrument called the veenai.

Although she has gained fame and mass appeal for her achievement, she remains down-to-earth. “I always remind myself to be humble as this world is just a temporary place for all of us,” concludes Kokilam.