Not afraid to dream


The 18-year-old 2009 Putri Indonesia Qory Sandioriva is not afraid to dream.

In fact, the Aceh representative for Indonesia’s beauty pageant told The Jakarta Post that in the long run, she not only aspired to be a musician, but also a diplomat and the president of Indonesia.

But for now, it is all about being Miss Universe.

She was sitting in a classroom of the ILP language school after her public speaking class with Putri Indonesia runner-ups zukhriatul Hafizah and Isti Ayu Pratiwi.

The Putri Indonesia Foundation, organizer of the Putri Indonesia pageant, has been working with ILP since 2007 to teach winners of the pageant public speaking skills when addressing crowds in English.

The training was also part of Qory’s preparation for the Miss Universe pageant. In 2006, then Putri Indonesia Nadine Chandrawinata – who spoke limited English – mistakenly referred to Indonesia as a beautiful city, an honest mistake that made her a laughingstock on the Internet.

Speaking to the Post, Qory talked about how difficult it was to learn another language, the protests over her not wearing a headscarf in the Putri Indonesia pageant while representing the sharia-ruled Aceh province, her dreams and her role models.

“Honestly, I find it difficult to speak in public if it is not in my native language,” she said. “But, I am learning to engage with the audience through body language and eye contact.”

“I find my self-confidence is growing. In other words, whether I make mistakes [in English] or not, I keep going forward,” she said.

She will still have an interpreter during the Miss Universe pageant, she said, to make sure her messages come across the right way.

In her public speaking class, she had to present a PowerPoint slide show on Indonesian tigers to a group of native English speakers. She was also asked to discuss women issues such as the role of headscarves and women in Indonesian society.

Qory said her daily schedule was packed with all sorts of classes preparing her for the Miss Universe pageant, from public speaking classes at ILP to lessons at the Mooryati Soedibyo training center.

She follows local and international news to keep up with current affairs and as Indonesia’s Tiger Ambassador, she also has to monitor tiger conservation developments.

What else does Qory do? She regularly goes to spa for skin treatments and takes jamu (herbs) to stay healthy and slim.

“If you ask me whether I’m ready to be the Indonesian delegate for Miss Universe, then, yes, I’d have to say I am,” she said.

And while she of course aspires to win the international pageant, she said she wouldn’t push too hard. “I’ll just walk through it naturally.”

“I am hoping I will do better than Artika Sari Devi. Mba Artika ended up in the top 15 [in the Miss Universe pageant]. Hopefully, I can reach the top 10 or top five,” she said. Artika Sari Devi became Putri Indonesia 2004 and represented Indonesia in the 2005 Miss Universe pageant.

While senior clerics in Aceh have criticized her for “misrepresenting” her home province by not wearing the jilbab or Muslim headscarf, she is still the first woman representing the province to have won the Putri Indonesia title. Born and raised in Jakarta, Qory, of Aceh Gayo ethnicity, has in fact never worn a jilbab.

“I’m from Aceh. A lot of people say I have to wear a jilbab. I stick to my principles. I’m a Muslim. The choice to wear a jlbab is personal,” she said.

Aceh is the country’s only province that applies Islamic sharia law, and in September the local legislature endorsed a set of strict Islamic codes, or qanun, including a controversial ruling allowing the caning and stoning to death of adulterers.

“Thank god, I managed to stay calm about the controversy [surrounding her representation of Aceh]. I appreciate everyone who gave his or her opinion. Indonesia is a democratic country, everyone is free to have an opinion,” she said.

“Even though the comments were negative, I’ll still take away the positives. I’ll learn from what people have given me,” she added.

“I love Indonesia. Whatever people say, I’ll stay positive. I will not let myself feel down,” she said.
Qory said she would be herself when representing Indonesia in the Miss Universe pageant.

“In my view, Indonesian women have had the freedom to choose, be independent, even before Indonesia was free from colonial rule. I want to keep that image,” she said.

Her role models include Acehnese heroine Cut Nyak Dien and former president Megawati Soekarnoputri.

“They are humble women who are true to themselves. They love their family and home country, and they have a strong sense of struggle to fight for their country – jihad in the right way,” she said referring to the Islamic term for struggle.

“I want to be the president of Indonesia,” she said.

Currently studying French Literature at the University of Indonesia, Qory also has plans to study International Relations to become a diplomat.

Her dream is to promote Indonesian art and culture through diplomacy. She added that she chose French Literature because France is a country where art is highly appreciated.

Politics aside, Qory said she had a musical side to her as well. Having learned classical, jazz and pop piano, she is currently taking singing classes.

“I want to sing while playing the piano…That will be my life long passion.”