Meet Kimi: The Inspiring Disabled Beauty Queen Who Represented Malaysia Internationally

In 2022, Kimi mustered the courage to compete in Miss Wheelchair World, an international pageant held in Mexico, where she advanced to the final round.

Cover image via Nur Ashikeen Iqbal (Provided to SAYS)

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Despite being run over by a drunk driver when she was 18 years old, Nur Ashikeen Iqbal never gave up on her dreams

Ashikeen, more known by her nickname Kimi, started using a wheelchair after the 2008 incident in Singapore that left her physically disabled for the rest of her life.

She awoke in the hospital bed feeling numb from the waist down, with a chest tube placed inside her to help with her internal bleeding.

"I asked my dad why couldn't my legs move. After more than three weeks in the hospital, I discovered he kept a secret from me, that I couldn't walk like normal again," she said.

"At first, I thought the world was over, but thankfully I wasn't sad for too long, only a day or two," she added.

Kimi was hospitalised for six months while receiving physiotherapy treatments to help her adjust to her new life as a disabled person (OKU).

Even though the accident forced her to use a wheelchair, Kimi held no grudges against the driver who hit her, believing that forgiveness is the key to a happy life

Nonetheless, Kimi urged the government to take strict measures such as prohibiting drunk drivers from driving and revoking their licences.

Kimi also did not let the incident deter her from achieving her goals.

In 2022, she mustered the courage to compete in Miss Wheelchair World, an international pageant held in Mexico, where she advanced to the final round.

SAYS conducted a sit-down interview with Kimi to better understand her journey and the struggles she had to endure in order to compete in this prestigious competition.

Joining the pageant was an eye-opening experience for Kimi as it was her first time travelling to Mexico

"It was a great experience for me because it was the first time I'd gone to Mexico, which was also the farthest country I've ever travelled to," she told SAYS.

"I got to experience their culture, how they travel there with their vehicles, and I also got to experience all types of food," she added.

Kimi's journey was not only amazing because of the food and culture of the country, but also because she was able to form close bonds with the other contestants, whom she even considers as her sisters from different parts of the world.

According to the beauty queen, all the pageant contestants are still in contact even now, making the experience even more valuable.

"I met different types of people from different cultures who all came together to represent our respective countries. We wanted to build a lifetime bond with each other," Kimi shared.

While competing in the pageant, Kimi also learned to be more confident

She said that before the pageant, she had very low self-esteem and was concerned about how others perceived her beauty.

"I used to worry whether people would think I'm fat if I wore certain dresses, but when I went there I saw how other participants didn't care what others had to say and just wore whatever they felt was sexy. I started doing whatever I wanted, whatever made me happy, and I saw my confidence grow," she said.

Now, Kimi works hard to achieve her goals and sets self-discipline standards that she believes she is capable of meeting.

Interestingly, Kimi also noted that her mother was the person who inspired her to participate in the pageant.

"It was my mother who pushed me to just go and compete as this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. My mum used to be Miss Singapore Photogenic in the year 2000 and I followed in her footsteps with this dream," she explained.

After seeing the world and meeting other disabled beauty queens, Kimi said that she realised the importance of the OKU community being represented in modern media

She stated that representation could help open more doors and opportunities for the disabled community, as well as allow their voices to be heard in order to educate the public about their struggles.

"There are many different types of disabilities in the world, and representation of each type could allow them to voice their opinions and let the world know what they are fighting for," she explained.

Kimi also used Barbie to demonstrate the importance of representation.

"I remember Mattel releasing a Barbie doll in a wheelchair. At the time, a lot of kids in America and Malaysia were happy to get their own Barbie dolls that look like them," she said.

"From that itself, you can see that these kids were able to look up to someone who is similar to them. They could see that person as their source of inspiration and motivation, as well as a mentor. They will look up to that person and think, 'I am going through this but I can do it too'," she added.

Image via Free Wheelin'

Lastly, Kimi hopes that young people with disabilities aren't afraid to reach for their goals

"We all have dreams to be successful, and I hope they (the younger generation) are disciplined with their dreams and work hard to achieve them," she said.

"Don't be afraid to fail or drop in life because that's how we stand back up and fight our way back to being successful," she added.

Kimi also highlighted that beauty is much more than one's outer appearance. To her, beauty is all about the heart.

"Beauty is within your soul, it's what's inside a person's heart. It's one's actions in everyday life, it's your kindness, and your respect for one another," she shared.

What is inclusive beauty? Be part of the conversation here:

Image via SAYS

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