In the 2022 edition of Miss Universe, we learned the story of Anna Suengam-iam, who had humble origins, as she grew up in a family of garbage collectors in Bangkok.
She went from being “Miss Garbage” to becoming the representative of Thailand in the world pageant.
Her parents, who worked as garbage collectors for the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, could not spend as much time as they wanted with her daughter. This was due to the nature of her occupation, which involved laborious hours from 3 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day.
Anna says that she spent most of her childhood alone since her parents only came to her house to sleep after a hard day of work.
She said that the few times she was able to leave the house, it was to take a quiet ride in the garbage truck with her father. And when she was left alone, she played with toys that her parents rescued from landfills and repaired for her to use.
Anna grew up in poverty and was constantly picked on by her schoolmates, who called her “Miss Trash” because of her parents’ jobs and her humble background. She had to rummage through the trash looking for plastic bottles to earn some coins and contribute to the family budget.
After her parents’ divorce, Anna was adopted by her grandmother, because her parents could not take care of her. The grandmother took her to a Buddhist monastery, and there she survived on food from the alms that people gave to the monks.
During her childhood and adolescence, she absorbed the Buddhist teachings of her grandmother and then applied them throughout her life.
Years later, and thanks to her determination, Sueangam-iam was able to obtain a bachelor’s degree in hotel and tourism management at Kasetsart University in Bangkok. She had to get by by scrubbing public toilets and donating blood every six months to get a little money.
Around that same time, she began participating in beauty pageants. She always had the dream of reaching the Miss Universe pageant.
In 2022 and based on her determination, she managed to be crowned Miss Thailand. Thanks to that she was able to travel around the world in the preliminary rounds of Miss Universe, in which she managed to be one of the finalists.
At the preliminary competition, held in New Orleans, the model took the stage in a shiny metallic dress. But the outfit contained another message: it was made from parts of soda cans combined with Swarovski crystals.
“This dress was inspired by my childhood family environment,” she wrote. “Growing up with parents who were garbage collectors, my childhood was spent among piles of garbage and recyclable materials. This unique dress was custom made with discarded materials to present to the UNIVERSE that what many consider disposable actually has its own value and its own beauty.”
Although Anna did not win first place in the Miss Universe pageant, she won the Transformational Leadership Award, an award given to stories that generate a social impact on the audience.