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Beauty queens should also be fashion icons

Miss Universe 2016 (from France) Iris Mittenaere sashayed with supermodels Erin O’Connor, Coco Rocha, Gigi Hadid, Jourdan Dunn, Estelle Lefébure, Noémie Lenoir and Farida Khelfa during the final couture show of Jean-Paul Gaultier at the Paris Fashion Week.

A beauty queen that went toe to toe with runway queens rarely happens on the international stage. In the Philippines, pageant queens are permanent fixtures on fashion shows, giving more glamor to the clothes they’re modeling.

One time, MJ Lastimosa was forced to wear a gown unworthy of her front-runner status at Miss Universe 2014. We learned that painful lesson, when the Pia Wurtzbach-Albert Andrada delegate-and-designer alliance proved instrumental in winning our third title. Maxine Medina and Rhett Eala, and Rachel Peters and Val Taguba followed after her.

Catriona Gray’s choice of Mak Tumang as her evening wear designer cemented couture’s place on the pageant stage. Gray’s collaboration with Jearson Demavivas was a part of a wave of resurgence for indigenous dressing.

On its first edition, the Miss Universe Philippines (MUP) Organization will ensure that being fashionable is an integral part of the search, which will culminate on May 3, 2020, at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.

“Fashion is \ as important as makeup and hairstyling for a queen. She plays an important role in inspiring other women, so it is equally important that she has to be a fashion icon, as well, a queen who could strongly promote Filipino fashion to the international stage,” declared Andrada, who is head of designers for the inaugural pageant.

With queen-maker Jonas Gaffud, Miss Universe 2011 third runner-up Shamcey Supsup-Lee and Miss Universe 2006 Miss Photogenic Lia Andrea Ramos at the helm of the MUP Organization, the search is anchored on #inspiringwomenwithaction, #beautifultransformations, #beyondthecoastlines #onephilippines and #sustainabletourism.

An aspiring candidate with a modeling résumé, such as Alaiza Malinao of Davao City, has an added advantage. At the press presentation of candidates, which I closely followed vicariously, the former Binibining Pilipinas 2015 and Asia’s Next Top Model finalist, displayed a confident sense of personal style in her modern Filipiniana by Mark Bumgarner.

Mindanaoan damsels came prepared, Vincy Vacalares of Cagayan de Oro in a bespoke white cocktail by Bea Bianca Mackey, and Caroline Joy Veronilla in a red dress by Juniel Doring. Binibining Pilipinas alumnae Sandra Lemonon of Taguig was sensational in a barong-inspired outfit by Benj Leguiab IV, while Michele Gumabao of Quezon City scored stylish points in her gorgeous terno jumpsuit by Pablo Cabahug.

The vivacious delegates from the Visayas were Rabiya Mateo of Iloilio City wearing Ram Silva, Skelly Ivy Florida of Biliran in Jeanom Ursua, and Apriel Smith of Cebu province in an off-white Filipiniana crop polo and neoprene slitted pants by Yves Camingue. Florida and Smith are hoping to imbibe that “Black Girl Magic” exemplified by reigning Miss Universe Zozibini Tunzi.

Ysabella Roxas Ysmael, the ballerina from Parañaque, is a delegate who is a grand throwback to that bygone era when girls from a de buena familia joined pageants. From her regal bearing can be gleaned the genes that she shares with Miss Universe 1973 Margarita Roxas-Moran, the veteran actress Marita Zobel, and the legendary fashion icon Chona Ysmael Kasten.

But she downplays her “royal” provenance, as evident in her “irreverent and subversive” choice of dress, a “custom Filipiniana tutu with deep V neckline with exposed corset for that modern edge” by Mara Chua, and by boldly asserting that “to become a phenomenal woman, she must be willing to do everything to achieve her dreams and make it into a reality.”

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