Miss Universe Singapore finalist Lila Tan shares her love for the beautiful game

The 18-year-old Singapore women's national football team player talks about her idols and her aspirations.

Brandon Leong

Compulsive playlist maker.

Published: 14 September 2021, 1:00 PM

With a bubbly and cheerful character, it wasn’t much of a surprise that Lila Tan, 18, was named as one of the Miss Universe Singapore 2021 finalists.

But the French-Chinese Singaporean, who lived in Shanghai for 14 years, isn’t just a pretty face who yearns to make a living in the fashion industry when she gets older. She’s also a footballer, and a capable one – considering her recent call up to the Singapore senior women’s national team for the upcoming Asian Football Confederation Women’s Asian Cup qualifiers.

Lila’s immense love for the beautiful game was influenced by her father and brothers.

“They have always been passionate about football, that inspired me to pick up the sport. I like to think that I am a very sports orientated person, and that is what drives me to work harder everyday. I have always known that I wanted to be a footballer,” she shares. 

Lila’s journey has been nothing short of a whirlwind, having played for her school, a boys club and as well as the Lion City Sailors – although the COVID-19 pandemic meant that she hasn’t taken part in a competitive match for the club yet. 

A midfielder, Lila says she’s capable of playing on the right wing as well. She also hopes to have a chance to play in goal one day. Like most professional footballers, Lila’s goal for the future is to follow her footballing idols – Paris Saint Germain’s Lionel Messi and Jordyn Huitema, and challenge herself overseas.  

Having spent her formative younger years growing up in a biracial family (Singaporean father and French mother) in Shanghai, she speaks of the experience as one of being exposed to many different cultures and languages, which she describes as “beautiful and an insightful feeling.” However, there have been times that she found herself not being able to fit in with her peers and often feeling excluded. 

When I asked her what she thought was the most pressing issue in women’s development in Singapore, she responded by reiterating gender equality and the way women’s sports can be perceived as being neglected in the country.

 “Women’s football in Singapore is treated very differently from men’s football. We are not given equal resources and opportunities, and I believe this needs to change rapidly,” she shares.

“As a society we underestimate women and their incredible talent… But as long as we keep fighting, believing and pushing we will evolve and shock the world.”


Lila is seen here with Lion City Sailor’s Amirul Adli (left) and Diego Lopes (right). PHOTO CREDIT: LION CITY SAILORS

She also adds that it was her uncle who actually encouraged her to apply for Miss Universe Singapore 2021, although she had always laughed it off.

“I could never envision myself in a beauty pageant competition, but now, I have come to understand that it is so much more than that!” exclaims Lila, enjoys spending time with her family every weekend, indulging in good food and catching up on Netflix.

Lila plans to use her newly elevated platform to raise awareness on social issues, particularly the issue of the treatment and well- being of migrant workers. She says: “Seeing migrant workers transported in a group at the back of an open truck is a common sight and it is not only inhumane but completely unacceptable. I hope to be able to raise awareness on this issue by using my platform, making petitions, and raising money for migrant workers.” 

She also intends to work on her newly launched clothing line – aiheartyou – a play on the word, 爱(ài) which means love as she pays homage to her Chinese roots.  

“Both fashion and football are huge passions of mine. They’re very different, but both brings me great happiness,” Lila shares. 

The Miss Universe Singapore 2021 finals take place on Sep 17. Catch it here.

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