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Meet Ris Low, safe-sex ambassador
by Dawn Tay

FORMER beauty queen Ris Low has morphed from being a wayward youth to a champion of troubled teens.

Miss Low, 19, who was appointed as a youth ambassador by a home-grown condom distributor yesterday, is taking a private course in counselling.

On her mission in life, she said: “I’m learning how to counsel people with problems such as depression, anxiety and even sexual problems. Someone they can relate to is me.”

To hone her skills, she is working part-time as a clinic assistant in an Aids clinic, spending three days a week counselling patients and teaching them how to use condoms correctly.

She will also conduct talks on safe sex in schools and other public arenas, and use her blog and other social media to spread the message in her role as youth spokesman for Singapore-based firm Zander Asia, distributor of Espire condoms.

She said: “I like to reach out to youths. I can counsel people very well and I can influence people.”

She has had her fair share of ups and downs in life to draw from in counselling others.

She is nursing a broken heart after a recent break-up with her boyfriend of five months, despite talks of marriage having been on the cards barely a month ago.

“He had jealousy issues,” she admitted to my paper, with a brave attempt at a smile.

Last August, the then Miss Singapore World had come under fire for her poor diction and her penchant for coining neologisms, such as “boomz”.

She gave up her crown less than two months after her win when reports of her credit-card fraud and two-year probation broke in the media. She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and ordered by the court to be on medication.

But the indomitable teen has since bounced back.

She was picked by United States news-network affiliate CNNGo as one of the top 25 most influential people in Asia last year, putting her in the company of Taiwanese pop star Jay Chou and Thailand’s former prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra.

Yesterday, exuding her usual poise in a purple dress, Miss Low read – haltingly – from a prepared speech: “First, we encourage abstinence among those who are unmarried. But if they choose to engage in sexual intercourse, they should be educated on safe sex and how to protect themselves.”

Asked why Zander Asia chose Miss Low as its youth spokesman, its executive director, Ms Joy Tan, said: “It’s not easy to find a spokesman for this issue. Ris was game and she believes in the message.

“Though there are people who dislike her, she also has a huge following on her blog. Many Singaporeans do take an interest in what she has to say.”

Student Sylvester Goh, 18, said: “If she’s a spokesman on this, she must know her stuff.”

But another student, Christine Lim, 16, said: “I won’t take her seriously, because of her past scandals. If it was someone like Zoe Tay, then yes.”

A third student, Nicholas Lee, 19, echoed: “After her scandal, I’m not sure if we could trust her.”

When told about her young detractors, Miss Low remained undaunted.

She will draw on her life experiences, current training and love for life to establish her street cred among the young, she said.

And sleazy poses with condoms are a no-no, because she is promoting a safe-sex message, not the products, she stressed.

She has not tried any of the products she is endorsing – no pre-marital sex for her, she said.

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