Maiko Itai, 25, of Oita Prefecture, who was crowned Miss Universe Japan 2010 this month, beat out about 4,000 applicants. Until December last year, she was a civil servant working at a municipal office in her hometown. A graduate of Sophia University where she studied, and fluent in English and Portuguese, one would think she must have stood out at her former workplace.
Not so. Says one former coworker, “She wore little make-up and came to the office in gray suits every day. We never even saw her wear shoes with heels. And she didn’t seem to care much about accessories either.”
The young woman who will now represent Japan in the upcoming Miss Universe beauty pageant used to bring her home-cooked lunch to the office, which she ate at her desk. There were no rumors of boyfriends and her job as secretary to the superintendent of municipal schools consisted mainly of attending to visitors. Needless to say, colleagues at the city office were flabbergasted when she submitted her resignation letter to concentrate on preparations for the final selection.
Those who knew Itai from her high school in Oita commented that they couldn’t believe how much she had changed. While she excelled in her studies, she was not involved in extracurricular activities. Even as a teenager, she certainly was not what one would describe as a colorful figure.
Her transition from a low-keyed civil servant to Miss Universe Japan has truly been amazing.