MGI 2018: Read an exclusive interview with Mr. Nawat Itsaragrisil, president of MGI
We had the opportunity to have a candid talk with the man behind Miss Grand International, Mr. Nawat Itsaragrisil. He is very sincere and open about his pageant and the ideas behind it, clearly working with passion in one of the beauty pageants that grow the most in this complex industry. Here it is:
GB - Where do you see Miss Grand International ten years from now?
Nawat - In 10 years, speaking as a businessman, I want to see my brand in the stock market. I work hard to build up a solid business and in the future I want to give people the opportunity to actually be part of it by buying shares. For this reason we work harder and harder, so that it becomes more and more profitable, after all, it´s a business. I know it´s a challenge, but it´s a dream of mine, to make Miss Grand International the only beauty pageant part of the stock market. Every year you strive for improvement in all senses, I look for new host countries, I get more experience. Production quality can always improve as well, and I make the necessary investment for it to happen, even if the host country is not top of the notch in terms of technology and modernity.
GB - We see that MGI puts a lot of emphasis on social media. Do you think today social media are more relevant than news media?
Nawat - Of course. Social media is part of mostly everyone´s lives today. Perhaps in the near future news media and television will lose a lot of its power. They will never end, but its more difficult for them to get sponsors. The contrary is happening to social medias. Specific products tend to get a faster and better response selling when announced in the righ social media tool. Today you see everyone with a mobile phone in their hands. With their mobiles, they don´t need to go to the bank, they connect with friends and family without charge, they watch whatever and whenever they want. Up to not long ago, people had to wait for the 8 PM news telecast to know what´s going on in the world. Now they have access to news and information at any time. Social network plays a fundamental role in beauty pageants already, and I believe that in 10 years from now, pageants won´t need the television anymore. This is the tendency. So my answer to your question is: absolutely yes!
GB - Last year Global Beauties chose Miss Grand International as the “Pageant of the Year” for the Global Beauties Awards. It was the first time Miss World or Miss Universe did not win this award, Were you surprised or you expected it to happen so “soon”?
Nawat - First let me thank Global Beauties for picking our pageant the Best of 2017. It was a big honor and a good surprise. I have full respect for Miss World and Miss Universe, and I know we are much younger. They are better known and have so much aspects better than Miss Grand International, but we have ourselves as our main adversary, not other pageants. We want to improve our production and always make sure that the results are fair. This is very important for those who are following and watching our competition: credibility. But of course I respect and accept Miss World and Miss Universe´s position in the market, this is something they conquered over many decades of hard work and popular acceptance. We do the best we can, like making the fans feel close and inside the pageant with the use of social medias, and investing in production. This year we are building the stage for the preliminaries and final from scratch, paying attention to all important details. But thank you, it motivates us to always improve!
GB - Can you tell us anything new about the final show?
Nawat - As I told you, my team is working to transform the venue, starting from ground zero. We are creating a production which will combine Myanmar´s history and tradition with modernity. Music and dance are very good, they are very important to keep those watching entertained. We will keep our format and identity: Top 20, Top 10, peace speech, and so on. Something new is that the event will be broadcast live on tv in serveral countries in Asia by satelite, including China, where social medias are not always available. We expect around 2000 people to watch the show at the venue. It´s already sold out. It will also go live on tv in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar, India and even Indonesia. In Indonesia they will skip the swimsuit competition, but the remaining of the show will be shown on tv there. Next year we shall exted the possibility of a live telecast to Latin America as well.
GB - How would you define Maria Jose Lora´s regin?
Nawat - She is nice! She´s very mature, you know, she´s 27 years old. She has her own ideas, so always before traveling, she shared with us her thoughts. I like that. She was different from the others in the sense that she is very independent. As a matter of fact, she will spend 6 more months in Thailand and we have supported her with the documents. She also promoted the pageant and made it grow in Latin America, and when we traveled to Venezuela, Colombia, and Peru, she helped me with the language. She was a very good queen, now part of MGI family and sisterhood.
GB - How many countries have you visited this year?
Nawat - Around 15. In addition to the three South American countries I mentioned, we´ve been to the USA, Spain, China, Japan, Indonesia, India, Cambodia, Netherlands and a few others. I like to travel to help our national directors to improve their pageants. Now we have our own pageant in some 20 countries, including Japan, Korea, Paraguay, China. In 2019 we will have Brazil, Venezuela, and some others. I want to go to these countries and support them. It´s important that people know our name and follow our pageant in the short term.
GB - What is the most important quality you look for in a winner?
Nawat - The key expression here is “ready to work”. I don´t care about skin color, where she´s from, tall or short, rich or poor. She must be someone willing to work for the MGI organization with professionalism for one year. For this reason, we observe them at all times, from day 1. We watch who´s on time, what and how they eat, how they relate to other people and to the other candidates. Does she have that “star quality”? These are all important aspects. Our pageant would never pick a winner because such country will host the following year, or something like that. Credibility and crystal clear results are fundamental for a beauty pageant. They all come here with dreams and hope, so we must respect that. Also very important to us are, in order: 1) A good figure. This is a beauty competition and we do have standards. She will appear on TV and in the internet everywhere, so they must have a good body, to be in shape. 2) Personality. She must be nice, pleasant, charismatic. She must also be elegant and have that celebrity quality, you know? When we travel around the world, when we go to an event, everyone must look at her. This is very important. 3) Facial Beauty. It´s not the most important quality, but it is still important. It´s hard to judge a face because each culture or ethnicity has its own features, and they all look beautiful.
GB - Will the venue for 2019 be announced during the final show?
Nawat - Perhaps, but I am not sure yet. Some documents must still be signed, but we already have a different host country for 2019. If not announced on October 25th, it will happen soon after. The host country must have time to get the promotion it deserves, this is the idea and our pay back.
GB - What is your “dream country” to host MGI?
Nawat - Venezuela. It used to be a very rich country and now it faces many political and social problems. However, the strong pageant tradition there continues. I want to go one day and have Venezuela to host Miss Grand International, I will support it. I like a good challenge.
GB - Do you plan to take the pageant back to Thailand?
Nawat - Not in 5 or even 10 years. I want MGI to go to different places, one of the pageant ideas is to show different countries and their tourism potential, like Myanmar, which is now opening to the world.
GB - From the business point of view, is MGI profitable, or you must invest your own money to produce it.
Nawat - It´s been profitable since the very beginning. I am a businessman so I must also look at this aspect. In Thailand I made more money than in most of the other countries, but I work in a way that we always at least have some profit. Vietnam in 2017 was very good, Myanmar, although less, is not too bad. But it´s OK, I wanted MGI to be the first Grand Slam pageant hosted by Myanmar. For example, I have had offers to sell part of MGI, to have partners, but for now, I am not interested. Having partners means listening to their opinions and will as well, and I know it could go against my principles and believes when running a pageant. So I prefer to see it growing in my own hands, the way I believe it should happen. So maybe I don´t make 12, 15 million a year. 1 million at this point is enough, you know what I mean?
GB - What do you have to say about Myanmar, your host country for 2018?
Nawat - I want to thank Myanmar and my partners here for making this possible. Not everything is easy, Myanmar has opened to the rest of the world not long ago, so we had to overcome some obstacles together, and together we learned a lot. Also many thanks to the local political authorities who supported MGI. You have always helped us the best way possible. To the rest of the world, I say: come and visit Myanmar, a beautiful country with so much to be seen and appreciated, plus, the people here are very hospitable and welcoming.
GB - Is there any special trip or memory with a Miss Grand International winner that you would like to share with us?
Nawat - I have many good memories, but visiting Kobani, in Aleppo, Syria, with Lees Garcia right after 5000 people had been killed by bombung, was a dramatic and special one. Their prime-minister invited us to support those people, and although it had just happened, we decided to go. We saw the destroyed areas, with dead people still under the rocks. It was very moving, very said, but it was the reality of that people and region, and we could not ignore it. Lees Garcia could not hold her tears. By the way, she was very corageous. Lees has an American passport, so it was hidden at all times, only key people knew about that. She knew the risk she was running, but yet, she wanted to be there! So while there we visited refugee camps, we played soccer with the kids, donated some food, sat to eat with them. We spent at least half a day in a different camp. Those were special days and Lees did so well as a queen, bringing hope to the people of Kobani. But what makes me said is that it continues, even with people not talking much about it anymore. Miss Grand International cannot stop the war, of course, but the winner and all Grand contestants can take hope, a smile, a message of peace and tolerance wherever they go, or through social medias, videos, photos, etc. This is the spirit and idea of our pageant.
GB - Thank you very much, Mr. Nawat!
Nawat - Thank you for always supporting us! And don´t miss the preliminary show on the 23rd and MGI final gala event on the 25th of October. Another great show is being prepared!