Opinion: Elizabeth as Miss Grand International & Paweensuda as Miss Earth?

The Miss Earth and Miss Grand International pageants are having overlapping schedules this year. Not withstanding the steaming rivalry between the two pageants, their finals night will be highly anticipated as to which lady is gonna run home with the titles. At this point, I can say I already have formed several favorites for the Miss Earth and Miss Grand International titles. But for this post let’s focus on just two: Elizabeth Clenci and Paweensuda Drouin.

If Elizabeth Clenci wins the Miss Grand International title (finals on October 26, 2017), this would be a huge win for the Bangkok-based pageant. Filipinos love to rally behind their queens and it would be a great way to reconcile Pinoy pageant fans with MGI. There would be a huge wave of support for Liz as the winner which would benefit the pageant. Elizabeth is nailing the fashion game spot-on and she knows how to command attention without asking for it. Add to that is her ability to win you over with her winsome personality, something that the Vietnamese fans are seeing as of late.
If Paweensuda Drouin Saetan or Fahsai wins Miss Earth? That would be to the delight of Thai fans as Fahsai is perhaps the strongest girl they have sent to ME in ages. No disrespect to the gorgeous Punika Kulsoontornrut, but Fahsai is far more ME winner material. Of course Fahsai’s win could usher more Thai fans for ME, also a win-win for the Manila-based pageant. Fahsai seems to be genuinely sympathetic to the ME cause. Add to her resume, public speaking skills, impressive face and tall stature, she seems to be quite a perfect candidate for the ME title. Miss Earth finals will be on November  4, 2017.

Don’t you think that this scenario could easily play out? That both Fahsai and Liz can be the bridge to bring the ME and MGI fans together? Or that it would benefit the ME & MGI pageants in the long term? 
Your thoughts, dear readers…


Are we Ready for A Transgender Miss Universe Winner?

Anita Green grabbed headlines earlier when she was named the first open transgender woman to compete in Miss Montana USA. The 26 year old beauty queen aspirant would only be the second transgender woman to vie for a state title in Miss USA after Arianna Wenzel in Miss California USA 2013. Back in 2012, then owner Donald Trump has openly allowed transgender contestants to compete in Miss Universe (and consequently in Miss USA & Miss Teen USA). This was after Jenna Talackova was initially barred from joining Miss Universe Canada that caused major uproar. While people may see this as a move towards the right direction, I thought that Trump did that just to gain publicity for the pageant not out of altruistic reasons.

Gabriela Isler, former Miss Universe 2013 from Venezuela (in a statement attributed to her) said that, “there is more to being a woman. We were born female, we experience menstruation cycle for decades, we struggle to be recognized in a mad men era too, we nurture life. That is what Miss Universe is about. You don’t buy womanhood.” The Venezuela beauty told Hufftington Post that transgenders “should have their own pageant, I think, and maybe they can realize [that] in this pageant, Miss Universe, or the other pageants [were] made for women.” Owing perhaps to the narrowing area of opportunities for women to excel, her statement can be deemed in support for naturally-borne females. On the other side of the debate was Miss Universe 2012 Olivia Culpo who had no issues against transgender women competing in Miss USA or Miss Universe.

I am on the fence regarding this issue. It is a bit difficult to allow transgender women into the pageant as it may alienate traditional pageant followers who still believe that natural-born females should compete. Yet with the “diversity” that the MUOrg seems to be shoving out on our throats lately, we have to be inclusive of all women of shapes and sizes, and yes of different forms. On a personal note, I think that transgender women should compete in pageants that are specifically designed for them and elevate it into a world-class competition like the Miss Universe pageant, although I do not have any problems seeing a transgender female in MU competing for the title. 

* http://www.elleuk.com/life-and-culture/culture/news/a38422/miss-montana-usa-first-openly-transgender-contestant/
* http://people.com/bodies/first-openly-transgender-miss-montana/
* http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/14/miss-universe-transgender_n_4276209.html?1384462830

Thailand: The Next “It” Country of the Miss Universe Pageant

With the Philippines nearing the peaking point of its popularity among pageant organizations, Sashes&Scripts is now under the assumption that Thailand would be the next “It” country from Asia.

The Miss Universe Thailand pageant, through its parent org Bangkok Broadcasting & T.V. Co., Ltd. (Channel 7), acquired the rights in 2000 to send a Thai representative to compete at Miss Universe. Despite moving channels  from 20112-14, it has still maintained its prestige at the premier national pageant in Thailand. Thailand has just recently started to have its Miss Universe renaissance and it bodes well for this ASEAN country. It started with Aniporn Chalermburanawong who made it in the top 10 last 2015 in Las Vegas. She was then followed by the top 6 placement of Chalita Suansane during the 2016 edition in Manila. Chalita, who made it into the semis via the online votes, was the highest placement of Thailand in Miss Universe since  Porntip Nakhirankanok won the title back in 1988. This year there are high expectations for the Thai rep Maria Lynn Ehren to crack the top 3 in MU.

As evidenced by the high votes of the Thai reps in MU in the past two editions, we are quite sure that the MUOrg have noticed this trend. And they should capitalize on that. We are under the assumption that Thailand would be in the list of countries that the MU could convince to hold the pageant once more. Surely a lot of pageant fans would be happy to see the MU back in Thailand after its magnificent hosting of the pageant in 2005. That year was perhaps one of the best set design and stages of the MU pageant in the past two decades. Sashes&Scripts is predicting that the pageant might revisit the Land of Smiles in the next 5 years.

Just like how the Philippines had to wait several years for a MU winner while having a string of runner up placements, Thailand for sure will be enjoying placement after placement in MU before securing its 3rd MU crown. I see that with the fan support, every Thai rep will be having traction on the online voting and social media presence. Surely that would help boost their campaign for another Miss Universe title. This is not a question of if, but rather a matter of when

Miss World/ Miss World Philippines BWAP: Beauty Without a Purpose?

The Miss World pageant thrives and succeeds on its Beauty with a Purpose ethos. At times it is that aspect that finally convinces Filipina uber-beauties and big name celebrities like Megan Young, Valerie Weigmann and Catriona Gray to join Miss World Philippines. BWAP is said to be the heart and soul of the Miss World pageant and by extension its national competitions. So we ask what happened with the BWAP fast-track in MWP? Was there even a BWAP judging this year?

It is a known fact that the BWAP project defines the MW competition. Yearly, millions are donated to charity via this aspect of the pageant. It is almost a guarantee that the winner of this fasttrack would place in the semis of the pageant. However, during the recently held MWP competition, the BWAP seems to be forgotten or even worse totally removed. The usual fast-tracks were there: Multimedia, Topmodel, Talent, Sports and even the Beach Body. To which was mind-numbing as this was something that the MW have removed in previous editions. Was the BWAP removed to be replaced by the Beach Body? If the reason for such removal is because of the weak BWAP projects of the vast majority of the candidates, then why should those that prepared for it not be allowed to get marks for it. Winwyn, Cynthia and Janela were the ones who had strong BWAP projects. If that fast-track was included would there been a different set of winners?

Then there was the anticlimactic visit of the MW org to the Paraiso BWAP project of Catriona in Smokey Mountain. With not much financial support from the MWP and MWOrgs, Catriona was able to single-handedly campaign for funds and donations to renovate a 3-story building to be converted into a school. IMHO Catriona’s BWAP should have garnered bigger points in MW as it didn’t look ‘manufactured‘. I was under the notion that the visit was for much less altruistic reasons but rather an opportunity to get media-mileage… or perhaps it would be used to add a ‘special footage’ on the MW pageant in China later this year, just so they can appeal to the good graces of disgruntled Filipino fans. I usually am one who is on the optimistic side, but this scenario brought out more nagging questions in me than I could have imagined.
But this should have not been a surprise as I was just as baffled with Stephanie del Valle’s win last year. After almost being non-existent at the fast-tracks to suddenly winning it all. That was like a mockery of what the MW stood for. And that would have made them look very superficial. It would not make both MWP and MW any different than other beauty pageants. Just the same old fanfare of entertainment like Miss Supranational, Miss Grand International or even Miss Universe.

If Beauty with a Purpose is indeed the heart and soul of the Miss World pageant and consequently its national counterparts, then what happens when it is removed or missing? What happens to a pageant if its soul and heart is gone from the equation? Has BWAP come to mean Beauty Without a Purpose?

Modern Day Beauty Queens: More Diverse & Accomplished

Are we moving towards a change in the modern day beauty pageants? Are modern day beauty queens more than just surface?

Rolene Strauss (a medical student when she won) and Kylie Verzosa (a pre-school teacher and a part-time model)…

In the efforts to modernize and re-brand modern day beauty pageants, four of the biggest pageants around have updated their pageant to reflect changes in times. All four Alpha pageants have an advocacy to speak of: Miss Earth has the environment and climate change advocacy, Miss International has the Japanese Tourism Board pushing for cultural understanding among nations, Miss World has the Beauty with a Purpose ethos and Miss Universe has HIV-AIDS, Women Empowerment and various other children’s social welfare programs to support.

Deshauna Barbers (a US Army Officer) and Katherine Espin (a Lawyer)

In order to ride together with the times, each pageant has upgraded how they select their winners. Miss Earth has always had the ground breaking no-make up rounds and close door interviews, and now they have added the public transparency of judging the girls in several areas of the competition. Miss International has adapted the Women’s Forum as a gauge to see how candidates perform in public speaking. Miss World recently has adapted the head to head challenge which is much more likened to a death match between candidates. Then Miss Universe earlier this year emphasized the closed door interviews having the biggest weight to make it to semis. 
With these changes, we can also see how the winners selected are evolving. The recent winners of Miss USA is proof the change as women with diverse background and meaty resumes are crowned winners: a US Army officer and a Nuclear Scientist. Miss Philippines Earth also is seen with its revolutionary winner, Karen Ibasco, who is a multi-hyphenate winner being a physicist, a medical practitioner, a Latin Honors graduate, a professor and now a beauty queen. She is aiming to succeed reigning Miss Earth Katherine Espin who is a Lawyer by profession. Binibining Pilipinas has crowned a pre-school teacher in the person of Miss International Kylie Verzosa, a strong willed, independent person who happens to also be an events manager in Rachel Peters, an opera singer in Mariel de Leon…and their list goes on. Miss World, whose winners are mostly in their early twenties and yet to achieve much career-wise, have a medical student Rolene Strauss as one of its winners in recent years.

The Scientists: Kara McCullough and Karen Ibasco

It is not enough to be just beautiful nowadays. Pageant girls who aspire to become full-fledged beauty queens has to have more weight in their resumes and achievements. Substance and surface must go hand-in-hand nowadays, and that is just fitting as pageants have to change with the times. 
Beauty pageants are still viewed as archaic institutions by majority of the world. But if it is able to redefine itself through its winners to become more relevant, more modern and of more social value, then we can just see a renewed Renaissance for pageantry around the world.

Should Unwed Mothers be Allowed to Join Pageants?

One of the most common beauty pageant requirements is that the participant is single, has not had a child not is pregnant. She should neither been married or annulled/ divorced. Why is that so? Why aren’t single women with child/ children cannot be allowed? With the rise of acceptance in more diverse backgrounds and ethnicity in pageant winners, why couldn’t we have this rule overturned?

This is one of the oldest and most common requirement in most beauty pageants. So let’s break it down bit by bit such rule:
1. Single/ Not Married – this is simple. If the title has a “Miss” attached to it then it should follow that the girls who are participating should be unwed. This shouldn’t be up for much debate. Though those who have a common law partnership without children can easily slither into the loophole/s of this rule. Not the case for those that are legally married. There are a number of “Mrs. pageants” that married women can join.
2. Not Pregnant – another no brainer here. If candidate or even a winner gets pregnant she shouldn’t be allowed to compete or finish her reign. Pageant candidates and winners, specially the 4 Alpha pageants, have strenuous activities like constant public appearances,  charity work and sponsor commitments. Add to it are the extensive travels during their reign should they win. Such stress may not be healthy for the mother and child, so it is just natural to have this rule imposed. This also protects the organization from future lawsuits that may arise regarding miscarriages during the pageant proper.

3. Has not given birth or have a child – another no brainer as motherhood is a whole different commitment altogether. Pageant reigns typically lasts 12-16 months.  To raise a child while serving the requisite contract period is going to be a challenge. You can take a break from being a Miss but not from being a mother. However, on a personal note, I believe unwed mothers should be given an opportunity to join. They may be able to bring in other life experiences to the title that single candidates could not. Thankfully we have the Miss Global pageant that allows unwed mothers to compete in their contest.
4. Has not been annulled or divorced – this is a gray area because technically, those who are annulled or divorced can be termed single (or at the most single parents). This is where I am a bit on the fence as it can be confusing how to delineate the lines on this part.

Miss Universe Organization President has this to say regarding the topic: “You’re an employee for us for the year, so you have to be able to commit to us. If you have a family, or those commitments, it’s gonna be [difficult]. It was probably pushing the envelope for the Army Reserve [with Barber]. You shouldn’t be raising a family while also having to… there are other events for that.”*
While I am open for changes to reverse this “singles only” rule, it should all boil down to commitment. Should the candidate/ winner be able to do her commitments while being pregnant, being a single mother, etc… then she should be able to compete/ finish her reign. But then he old adage “you cannot serve two masters” applies. Somewhere along the line something has to give and they could be forced to face the reality of the situation and stick to one commitment. Everyone can be anything and do it all but not all at once…

* http://www.refinery29.com/miss-usa-trump-changes-feminism-diversity

6 Reasons Why the Best Filipino Pageant Fans Can also be The Worst

I first listed and posted Reasons why the Filipinos are the Best Pageant Fans several months ago. However despite being that, we are also vulnerable to the pitfalls of our own shortcomings.
I urge everyone to read this with an open mind, with reflective/ pensive thought. It will not be easy to read (or in my case to write) these as we are all guilty of one or some of it (yes you and I). Here are the six characteristics that Filipino pageant fans’ best traits could be overshadowed by their worst traits.

Quick to Judgement –  at times Pinoy pageant fans tends to make judgement without knowing all facts first or without making thorough investigations. We are far more inclined to believe what others say because it is easier that way. Sometimes we do not take context into consideration and only judge by the content. We don’t bother to ask tough questions like: why does she say that? What is her perspective on it? Where is she coming from?
Mob Mentality – just because one says a person is a hypocrite/ dumb/ narrow-sighted/ unfit everyone is easy to say the same thing and jump into the bandwagon. Worst of this is how we are quick to make viral other people’s mistakes on social media without taking clear facts first. Worst of it is how we insult other nationalities without realizing that we are just as guilty of flaws as they are.
Egoists (When Pinoy Pride Goes Wrong) – ever heard of the old adage “gracious in defeat, humble in victory“? We seem to get the first part right but not the second. This is most evident when arguing with other nationalities with less crowns as the Philippines. We seem to forget that there was a time that we haven’t gotten any major titles in the past. Life is a wheel, we may have passed the bottom and are now back on top…but we have to remember that what goes up has to come down. 

Labeled for Life – case in point the matter of Mariel de Leon on the Reproductive Health issue where the country is running out of contraceptives (except for condoms). People are easy to bash her because of her previous ideology on Mocha Uson being fit (or unfit) for a 6-figure salary by the government. People tend to forget the issue was not about Mocha but RH. Then the case of Pia Wurtzbach being on the curvy side when she won Miss Universe Philippines. Of course we all know how she was called a “pig” only to be on top shape come MU. People change and evolve, that simple fact is easily forgotten by most of us.
“Them Vs Us” Mentality
– this is the proverbial “if you are not with us, then you must be against us”. For a number of Filipinos, there is no gray area, it’s simply black and white. This is very evident during the national pageants where fan groups seem to delineate those that support their girl against those who doesn’t. And if you happen to support more than one, then you must be a “spy”.
Crab Mentality – one of our worst traits as a people. We maybe the ones who would exult our reps to the highest of pedestals but we are also the same ones who would bring her down if she doesn’t suit our taste/ preferences/ ideologies. It should be a simple matter to support anyone that carries the Philippine flag or the Philippine sash because that person/s is a representation of us, collectively as a people.   

While no pageant fan can claim to be perfect, it certainly helps to know our own dark side and decide which side do we choose to be. These are all very hard pills to swallow, but we have to know both our good and bad sides to know how to balance.
This blogpost is not meant to insult or invalidate Filipino pageant fan’s contributions to pageantry, far from that. This post is to serve as a reminder that despite our good sides, we also fall prey to our own bad sides… that sometimes our worst enemies are our own selves.