The ‘Olympics of beauty’: What you need to know about the Big 4 pageants

Big 4 winners of 2012

This article was first published on Rappler

FOR most people, Miss Universe, Miss World, Miss International and Miss Earth are all just beauty pageants.

But pageant enthusiasts call them the Big 4, or the most coveted titles for beauty queens.

The Philippines has managed to place in all 4 pageants in the last two years. 2012 was made even sweeter by the “bridesmaid (aka runner-up) finishes” of Janine Tugonon and Stephany Stefanowitz in Miss Universe and Miss Earth, respectively.

Bb Pilipinas International Nicole Schmitz and Miss World Philippines Queenierich Rehman, meanwhile, managed to make it to the Top 15 of their respective pageants. The pressure is now on the next set of Big 4 Philippine delegates to match or even surpass their predecessors’ victories.

Here’s a quick overview of the Big 4 and the country’s delegates to each competition:

Miss World: ‘Beauty With A Purpose’

Miss World prides itself in being the oldest surviving beauty contest. Launched by PR expert Eric Morley in 1951 as part of the Festival of Britain celebrations, Miss World was originally planned as a one-off event.

Morley decided to make it an annual event upon learning about the upcoming Miss Universe contest. The coronation night is managed by the Miss World Organization, which raises millions of pounds for its charity programs under the banner “Beauty With a Purpose.”

If the number of participants would be the sole basis, then Miss World is the biggest beauty pageant in the globe, attracting more than a hundred participants each year. Reigning titleholder Wenxia Yu of China will crown her successor on September 28 in Jakarta, Indonesia.

This 2013, the Miss World App for Apple and Android will be launched for exclusive photos and video of pageant activities. When you download the app, you will get two free votes to use on your favorite contestant. The girl with the most number of votes will be named the People’s Champion.

Miss World Philippines 2013 candidates
Miss World Philippines 2013 candidates © Dencio Natividad

Who’s wearing the Philippine sash? The Philippines has yet to crown its delegate for this year’s pageant, but some of the heavy favorites include Miss World Philippines 2011 3rd Princess Bianca Paz, actress-TV host Megan Young, reigning Miss Bikini Philippines Janicel Lubina and Bb Pilipinas alumna Patricia Ejercitado.

The Miss World Philippines coronation night is set for August 18, giving the winner less than a month to prepare. The MWP organization must crown someone who is already prepared to battle it out in Miss World’s various activities. These include the Sports Challenge, Top Model Competition and Talent Portion.

Hall of Fame. The Philippines has not won the Miss World crown. The closest the country has ever gotten was in 1973 when Evangeline Pascual placed first runner-up. This was repeated in 2011 when Gwendoline Ruais broke a 5-year drought and placed First Princess.

Follow the updates here:
Twitter: @MissWorldLtd

Miss International: ‘Love, Peace and Excitement to the World’

Long Beach, California served as host to Miss International’s first 8 years until the pageant moved to Japan in 1968 to 1970 to commemorate the Osaka World Expo. Since then, the pageant has been held annually in Japan.

Japan-based International Cultural Association organizes this annual event to promote “friendship and goodwill” among participating nations through international exchange. More than just a festival of beauty, the Miss International pageant expects its contestants to be “Goodwill Ambassadors of Beauty.”

There is no word yet on the date and venue of the 2013 pageant, but traditionally the pageant is held in October or November. The reigning queen is Ikumi Yoshimatsu of Japan.

Bea Rose Santiago, Bb Pilipinas - International
Bea Rose Santiago, Bb Pilipinas – International

Who’s wearing the Philippine sash? The Philippines seems to have mastered the art of placing in Miss International, with 4 crowns and numerous semifinals finish. It’s no surprise, given that the franchise holder for the country is no less than the first Miss International, Stella Marquez-Araneta.

This 2013, the country will be sending the eloquent and statuesque Bea Rose Santiago to the competition. At 5’9″, it was easy for her to standout during the national finals. Bea was glowing and well-received by the crowd. It was Hirofumi Hashimoto, chairperson of the Miss International Beauty Pageant, who asked her the question during the final round.

So far, this 23-year-old lady has been very consistent. She nails every photo, whether posed or candid. She exudes so much confidence in her interviews. Aside from these, Bea is very articulate and talks with so much intellect and sincerity, one thing the Miss International Organization needs for an effective ambassador.

Hall of Fame. Four Filipinas have managed to win the Miss International crown: Gemma Cruz (1964), Aurora Pijuan (1970), Mimilanie Marquez (1979), and Precious Lara Quigaman (2005).

Follow the updates here:
Twitter: @MissInterOrg

Miss Earth: ‘Beauty and Responsibility’

Launched in 2001 by Carousel Productions, Miss Earth is an annual beauty pageant that focuses on environmental awareness, building its reputation as “the most relevant and worthwhile beauty event in the world.”

Candidates and winners of this pageant engage in activities focused on the preservation of the environment and the protection of the Earth: school tours, tree-planting activities, costal clean-ups and environmental seminars, among others.

The Miss Earth Foundation and its winners work with various environmental agencies around the globe, including Greenpeace and World Wildlife Fund. No word yet on when and where the pageant will be held this 2013.

Angelee delos Reyes, Miss Philippines Earth
Angelee delos Reyes, Miss Philippines Earth

Who’s wearing the Philippine sash? Gunning for a 3rd consecutive top 4 placement is Olongapo City’s Angelee Claudette delos Reyes. This 25-year-old wowed when she said she would add “a good heart or a genuine heart to take care of the environment…not just for ourselves but for future generations.” (She was asked the question, “If you could add another criteria to pick a beauty queen, what would it be?”)

Angelee is no stranger to beauty pageants, having joined Mutya ng Pilipinas and Miss Philippines Earth before but went home empty-handed. In the 2012 Bb Pilipinas pageant, she made it to the top 12 and was awarded Best in Evening Gown. She, however, failed to make it as one of the winners.

Angelee won Miss Internet Popularity and made it to the semifinals of the 2011 Miss Bikini International. She was named Continental Queen of Asia in the 2012 Supermodel International held in Thailand. Her experience in minor international pageants will surely work to her advantage when she competes in Miss Earth.

Hall of Fame. Karla Henry won the Philippines’ first Miss Earth crown in 2008.

Follow the updates here:
Twitter: @theMissEarth

Miss Universe: ‘Confidently Beautiful’

From a local “bathing suit” competition in 1952, Miss Universe has now become the most popular beauty pageant in the globe. A joint venture by tycoon Donald J. Trump and NBC Universal, this pageant “has evolved into a powerful, year-round, international organization that advances and supports opportunities for these young women,” as written in the Miss Universe website.

The pageant night might seem focused on beauty, figure and glamour, but during her reign, the winner champions the causes of the Miss Universe Organization: HIV/AIDS and breast and ovarian cancer awareness.

The reigning queen is USA’s Olivia Culpo who won in December 2012 in her home turf. The 2013 competition is set for November 9 in Moscow, Russia.

Ariella Arida, Miss Universe Philippines 2013
Ariella Arida, Miss Universe Philippines 2013

Who’s wearing the Philippine sash? Ariella Arida has big shoes to fill, following Janine Tugonon’s first runner-up finish in 2012. Much is expected of this 24-year-old Alaminos, Laguna native to finally bring home the country’s 3rd Miss Universe crown. The momentum is already there after the country’s 3 consecutive top 5 finishes. The journey, however, won’t be a piece of cake.

Rigid training and preparation as well as the drive to succeed will help Ara ace the competition. She has been hitting the gym regularly to achieve the body and has been doing rounds of photo shoots, make-up and styling sessions and pasarela (runway walk) exercises.

Ara might be wearing the Philippine sash in Moscow, but she will not be the lone Filipina in the competition.

Canada will be sending Riza Santos to the competition. Santos was a runner-up in “Pinoy Big Brother Celebrity Edition 2” and had acting stints in the Philippines. She is no stranger to pageants as she already represented Canada in Miss World and Miss Earth.

Santos initially placed as runner-up to Denise Garrido in the pageant held last May 25, but the results were declared invalid after 24 hours when a typo was discovered while validating the computerized scoring result. Santos, 26, was then crowned the rightful winner, while Garrido was relegated to 3rd runner-up.

Hall of Fame. The Philippines has won the Miss Universe crown twice: first by Gloria Diaz in 1969 and second by Margarita Moran in 1973.

Follow the updates here:
Twitter: @MissUniverse


2012’s Fifteen Beauties of Ageless Splendor


This is the word that would best describe the ladies that truly made an impact in pageant world in 2012. They are timeless, “not affected by the passage of time or changes in fashion”. Years will pass and but their names – and faces – will surely be remembered.

My understanding of a “timeless beauty” is that first, the lady should be facially beautiful. She need not be what others call as a “goddess”, but she should be generally accepted as beautiful. Second, she is phenomenal. She should have made an impact in the pageant arena with her beauty, wit, charm and skills or even her shares of controversies. For instance, would you call a boring beauty timeless just because she is facially sublime but she failed in other aspects of beauty pageantry?

This is a personal list of the girls who I consider as the most memorable in 2012 pageantry. I only followed two criteria. First, the girl should have been included in my final choices for the Big4 pageant where she competed. Second, she must have made a nice impression for me to remember her always.

So after weeks of working on this (I was too busy with work and other stuff), I finally present to you the fifteen beauties of ageless splendor for the year 2012.

15 sSophie Moulds, Wales World
I have to admit, I wasn’t a fan of Sophie before the pageant kicked off. I really thought she was just eyes (which I consider her lucky charm), but I was immediately swayed when I saw her in bikini. Wales definitely had the best body in the competition, and placing in the Beach Fashion top 10 confirmed that. Aside from that, she was very enthralling and her facial features were so striking. I said she could also pull a big surprise come finals night, and indeed she was named first princess.

14 Blanca Aljibes, Venezuela International
If MI pageant night started on the first day of arrival, Venezuela’s Blanca Aljibes definitely would have won the race. She was the most prepared delegate, and was definitely ready to defend her country’s successful streak in MI. She had improved and matured in terms of beauty and personality. She was a charming and alluring beauty. Her eyes were very expressive and her smile was just electrifying. Her body was jaw-dropping and when coupled with a polished catwalk, she surely was a head-turner. A lot of criticisms had been thrown at her, but she remained unfazed. Blanca indeed gave them girls a run for their money.

13 Jessica Kahawaty, Australia World
Name it, she can do it! Making it into four challenge events is already a feat in itself, what more making it into the top 10 of Beach Fashion and Top Model. Her experience in Miss International (where she represented Lebanon), might have played a big role in honing Jessica into a good pageant girl. She was good on the ramp, always styled well, and she knew exactly what she was doing. Her face may not be flawless, but she had the allure and intellect to make her a well-rounded beauty. She seemed determined to win, and so she was named second princess.

12 Rochelle Maria Rao, India International
Underestimated, but determined to leave a lasting impact – that was India’s Rochelle Maria Rao. Not a lot believed that Rochelle can be a threat in this year’s pageant. Many thought she was just hyped by her countrymen. Plain Jane, naysayers claim. But Rochelle did not take matters sitting down. She underwent intensive training and look how she had transformed. She was just stunning in every photo, even nailing the official portraits. Her face, though not as stunning as the others, was just beautiful. However, history has it that MI does not always appreciate Indian beauties, so it was still be a bumpy road ahead for Rochelle. But with her determination, she made it and opened hope for her country.

11 Wenxia Yu, China World
She was not at par with Zhang Zilin in the beauty department, but Wen Xia had the sophistication fit for a queen. Her placement in four challenge events may be partly attributed for being the host country’s delegate. However, it can be safely said she made it on her own merits. Competitive as they really are, China won’t settle for anything less. Indeed, Wenxia bagged the crown on her home turf.

10 Queneerich Rehman, Philippines World
Queneerich was the perfect choice for her country because she was well-rounded. Despite having only three weeks to prepare, she came to Ordos well-prepared and refined. This was very evident with her set of clothes and styling. She also brought her greatest weapon: beat boxing! Her video performance had gone viral over the net, even reaching the pages of The Huffington Post and TIME. If not for the row between China and the PHL over the Scarborough Shoal, it was easy to conclude that Queenie has a strong chance of becoming the Philippines’ first Miss World.

09 Natalia Pereverzeva, Russia Earth
If there was a medal for the most controversial delegate, Natalia Pereverzeva will win the gold for sure. She hit the headlines twice: first, because of her nude photos and second, for her statement regarding her country which appears on her profile page at the Miss Earth website. Despite the controversies, she made it to the Top 8. In terms of facial beauty, she was the best among the European delegates. Her styling and wardrobe was good, and she seemed well-versed in ME causes, too. It was hard to pay no heed to a candidate like her.

08 Atong Demach, South Sudan World
Since her stint in Miss Earth 2010, Atong had already captured my attention. She failed to place then. When she joined Miss World, where black delegates are given better chances of placing, my thoughts stayed the same. Armed with her inimitable complexion and height, she managed to make waves in Ordos. She did not disappoint, and placed in the top 10 in Top Model! Without a doubt, Atong was the best from Africa.

07 Tamerin Michelle Jardine, South Africa Earth
At a young age, Tamerin Michelle Jardine was told by her doctor she might not be able to finish schooling because she has dyslexia. But with her determination and hard work, she was able to finish two law degrees. This back story could be a good indicator that South Africa’s delegate is a woman of substance and firmness of purpose. True enough, she nailed every part of the competition from the start, bagging medals left and right. Facially, she was not the best, but she possessed an endearing charm that made her face a sight to behold. Her willingness to take part in making the Earth a better place to live in make a real woman of the Earth. In her own words: “I want to be the voice and the leader who acts what she says not just for my country but globally for the Miss Earth organization. I want to win Miss Earth and commit to it wholeheartedly as it is embedded in my DNA to be the aid that people need…”

06 Janine Tugonon, Philippines Universe
Bashed ’til kingdom come, Janine Tugonon could be considered as the most distrusted delegate during pre-arrival. Pressure was on her to continue the two-year placement of the Philippines in the top five, but many believe this won’t come true. Her official shots were a little underwhelming, but the preliminaries served as the real deal breaker. Despite having an unflattering gown, Janine was able to pull that number off. She glided with so much class and finesse fit for a queen. I’m no fan of ponytails, but I have to say it emphasizes her strong exotic facial beauty. Her body has indeed improved a lot, with those shoulder blades helloing and toned legs. But what really set her apart among the rest was her determination to succeed. For that, she must be commended.

05 Melody Mir, Dominican Republic International
Many thought she was in the wrong pageant, as her ferosh look and sex appeal fits perfectly for MU. She was a vixen but in the long run, has proven that she deserved to be in MI. She was very classy, wore appropriate clothing, and always came out prepared. What really convinced me that she had “it” was when she went out to mingle with the locals. I saw the sincerity in her, her eyes showed that she loved what she was doing. Also, she possessed a good face for a worthy cause.

04 Mariana Notarangelo, Brazil World
Many did not consider her as someone to beat, but being a total performer throughout the competition justified the top 7 placement of Mariana. She definitely turned critics into believers when she placed in three challenge events, most especially when she was called in the top 10 of both Beach Fashion and Top Model. This also meant height didn’t play a disadvantage to her because she got noticed, most probably because of her adorable face and magnetic aura. In the end of the pageant, she has proven that she is the best of Americas. Indeed, no one can put a good candidate down.

03 Tereza Fajksova, Czech Republic Earth
One might mistake her for Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty, because every photo and video and even a personal encounter with Tereza Fajksova for those who met her in person were indeed encounters with inimitable beauty and charm. Right from the start, she has been touted to be a real contender for the crown, and true enough, Tereza made Czech Republic really proud of her.

02 Irene Esser, Venezuela Universe
Irene emanated a jovial and energetic vibe, which seemed to have worked very well to her advantage. It can’t be denied she had a commanding presence that made her standout from the rest.

01 Melinda Bam, South Africa Universe
Melinda had been a clear standout since day once. Upon setting foot in Las Vegas, Melinda sashayed her undeniable charisma and beauty. She nailed every official photo with her natural charm and class. Melinda showed off her well-sculpted body during the swimsuit round. She looked healthy with her body that is proof of years of discipline and hard work. She was literally shining on stage as she walked in that shinning gold ensemble during the finals. She may have failed to make it to the top five, but she sure will forever be etched in our hearts.

The Philippines’ glorious moments in 2012 pageants

Year 2012 will surely go down in history as one of the best years for the Philippines in the international pageant arena. The country placed in all of the four major female pageants for the second consecutive year, even bagging two bridesmaid finishes. Surprisingly,  it also managed to dominate the male pageant scene, with a major title and a runner-up finish. Not only that. Pinay representatives also shone in other pageants across the globe.

As 2013 unfolds, let us look back at the defining moments of the Philippines in last year’s pageants.

1-2_zpsa0a02b50Upon her crowning as Miss World Philippines, Queneerich Rehman had been touted as a “girl to beat” in Miss World. Despite having only three-weeks to prepare, hopes were high that she could take home the country’s first Miss World crown. Many thought she was the perfect choice because she is a well-rounded beauty. True enough, she came to Ordos, Inner Mongolia well-prepared. She placed in the Beach Fashion Top 40, Performing Talent Top 5, and Top Model Top 46. Her Michael Cinco gown also made it to the Top 10 of World Fashion Designer Dress.

However, it was clear from the beginning that she had slim chances of getting the elusive crown given the row between China and the Philippines over the Scarborough Shoal. Despite this, she managed to standout. Her greatest weapon: beat boxing. Her video performance has gone viral over the net, even reaching the pages of The Huffington Post and TIME. She was expected to win the Talent round but lost to China’s Wenxia Yu (who eventually took home the crown).

Still, Queenee’s Top 15 finish, against all odds, is a feat for the Filipinos.

2-1_zps3faab033Who would have thought Filipinos will finally get noticed in the male pageant arena?

June Macasaet, 29-year old commercial and ramp model, defeated 52 other contestants at the Manhunt International pageant held in Bangkok, Thailand. He wasn’t a heavy favorite during the competition. But one can’t deny his competitiveness . He behaved well, and seemed very focused on his goal: be the first-ever Pinoy to win the Manhunt title. True enough, with his determination  he shone during the finals. He even bagged the New Urban Male Award.

Meanwhile, model and athlete Andrew Wolff finished second at Mr World 2013 held in Kent, UK. His experience as a member of Philippine Volcanoes since 2007 played an advantage to him as he placed in the Sports fast track. But his main advantage came in the Multimedia fast track where the candidates were tasked to make video. He won the award “with his energetic and engaging creations on his social media pages. He was deemed to have created the most exciting, informative and inventive news stories.” Joining the pageant made us know the other side of who was once a controversial celebrity. Andrew is actually involved with Tuloy Foundation, an advocacy group that supports marginalized children.

3-1_zpsa26351d1After so long, a Filipino finally bagged a title in a pageant for transsexual and transgenders in the person of Kevin Balot. Kevin Balot bested 20 other contestants from 15 countries en route to bagging the Miss International Queen 2012 crown. Two other Philippine representatives in the pageant made it to the top 10: Michelle Montecarlo and Miriam Jimenez.

With her success, Kevin’s only one wish is “acceptance” from her family. “I’m very proud to be the first here, and I hope my dad will accept me. Because in the family I’m the only boy, and my dad has big expectations of me. I made it. I won the International Queen Pageant, and I believe that my dad will accept me not only as his son but also as his daughter,” Kevin said in an interview after she won. And her winning answer: “I believe my dear friends that all the candidates are equally beautiful and talented but the best word that describe me as a Miss International Queen is being simple because being simple makes me simply the best.”

6_zps64cbad21Outside the Big4 pageants, Filipinos continued to excel.

Elaine Kay Moll, BBP 2012 first runner-up became the first Filipina to place in the budding Miss Supranational pageant. Defying beliefs that the pageant is anti-Filipinos, Kay made it to the Top 20 and even finished as third runner-up. Ayelee Dasalla was 2nd runner-up, Miss Humanity International. Angelee Claudette de los Reyes and Bea Rose Santiago made it to the top 10 of Supermodel International and Miss Tourism Queen of the Year International, respectively. Clarise Marie Obvio won Miss Teen Universe 2012 First Runner-up. And the best way to cap the year is to bag a crown! Rizzini Gomez won the Miss Tourism International 2012 title last night.

4-1_zpsebaed236They were both heavily bashed: Janine Tugonon right after her crowning, Stephany Stefanowitz during the Miss Earth pageant. But in the end, they both proved their detractors wrong by almost clinching the crowns.

Janine could be considered as the most bashed Philippine delegate in history. Her body was a disaster when she competed earlier this year. Many thought her win was fixed. Despite the negativities, Janine focused on her goal. That is to continue the Philippines’ two consecutive years of top five placement. Her determination to prove her detractors wrong was very evident when she came out on TV weeks weeks before the MU. She has remarkably lost weight; her shoulder blades helloing. Her styling has improved as well as her catwalk skills. When in Vegas, Janine didn’t take matters sitting down. She was always in her A-game. During the prleiminaries, she showed off her well-improved body. Despite her gown not being aesthetically beautiful, she was able to work it well. Those sealed her Top 16 fate. During the finals, Janine was obviously among the best performers. Her evening gown performance was very classy. And her final answer? It will go down in history as among the best.

For the second-straight year, the host delegate turned out to be the most bashed candidate in ME. Stephany could’ve averted all the bashings had she undergone a very rigid training to tone her body. She was obviously not in her perfect form so placing second in the swimwear competition shocked and disappointed many fans. However, it can’t be denied that Stephany is a catwalk diva. She may not be the thinnest or the sexiest, but she sure knows how to work her curves when walking. She is also facially better than her predecessor. Stones may have been cast on her, but Stephany surely proved naysayers when she came out in a better body during the top 16 swimsuit presentation. She also had a decent evening gown performance. Her answer, albeit lacking in sincerity in my opinion, is acceptable.

5_zpsde45a472The best way to wrap up 2012 is to remember the wise words from our candidates:

“For me, being Miss Universe is not just about knowing how to speak a specific language, it is being able to influence and inspire other people. So whatever language you have, as long as your heart is to serve and you have a strong mind to show to people, then you can be Miss Universe. Thank you!”

– Janine Tugonon, when asked if speaking English should be a prerequisite for Miss Universe.

“Peace, love, unity, these 3 words are the Miss International pageant. Having spent the past 3 weeks in Okinawa, I have witnessed the special connection it has with the world. Globalization and multi cultural diversity can exist. We can be uniquely global and globally unique. This is my mission. I want people to appreciate that we not only belong to local communities but world at large. By this understanding we can contribute to global goals. I am standing here in front of you open to offer my heritage and myself, as a strong compassionate responsible and independent woman in this quest for global harmony. And I can stand here proudly and consider myself an international citizen.”

– Nicole Schmitz’ heartwarming speech in Miss International