Lights, camera, smile » Manila Bulletin Lifestyle



The recent near-wins of Filipino beauty queens Elizabeth Clenci and Nelda Ibe in their respective pageants abroad didn’t make it any easier for Katarina Rodriguez, Chanel Thomas, and Rachel Peters, the three remaining Binibining Pilipinas beauties who are about to embark on their own quests for global crowns. In fact, it has increased the pressure on all three to win.

 With the exception of Mariel de Leon, who’s now in Tokyo trying to woo judges to give the Philippines a back-to-back win in Miss International on Nov. 14, Peters and company recently graced a send-off party thrown for them by Stella Marquez Araneta, chair of Binibining Pilipinas Charities, Inc., at Novotel Hotel in Quezon City.

By the time this story comes out, Peters, 26, will be on her way to Las Vegas to compete in Miss Universe. Coronation night will be in the morning of Nov. 27, Manila time.

  • Last three standing Binibining Pilipinas Intercontinental Katarina Rodriguez, Binibining Pilipinas Supranational Chanel Thomas, and Miss Universe Philippines Rachel Peters.

  • Positive energy during her time in Binibining Pilipinas, Chanel Thomas handily won Miss Friendship, thanks to her outgoing and disarming ways.

  • Read to lead Katarina Rodriguez isn’t only well-travelled, she also loves to read and has made it part of her training for her contest.

  • Bashers beware Rachel Peters doesn’t allow online detractors to affect her, but if they malign her family, they better be ready because she’s going to answer back.

Thomas, 27, a half-Filipino, half-Australian model, sees action next on Dec. 1 in Poland for Miss Supranational.

Rodriguez, 25, also a model with roots in Manila and Davao, will cap off this year’s beauty pageant season when she competes in Sri Lanka for Miss Intercontinental on Dec. 21, the same day in Manila, she pointed out, Pia Wurtzbach won Miss Universe in Las Vegas in 2015.

 “Probably the most asked question I get these days is if I am feeling any pressure right now,” said Peters, a half-Filipino, half-British marketing and events organizing graduate. “As Kat (Rodriguez) said, these girls (referring to Clenci and Ibe) have set the bar really high for us. That makes me want to work even harder and do even better than I ever imagined I could.”

The same was echoed by the bubbly Thomas who was voted Miss Friendship during the local contest last May, and Rodriguez.

 “I guess for all of us, we just have to be more humble,” said Thomas. “It doesn’t mean we would slacken off. We need to work harder. We also need you to pray for us.”

 Since she would be the last to compete, US-born Rodriguez “is looking forward to see all my fellow queens go through their experiences.”

Confident and well spoken as well as blessed with a naturally long and lean physique, the dusky Peters found doing her hair and makeup by herself the most challenging aspect of her months-long preparation.

Beauty queens these days are discouraged from relying on organizers’ makeup artists, stylists, and hairdressers. They have to learn on their own various looks, including contest makeup, because, as Rodriguez put it, in a beauty pageant, “the best person to trust with your face and hair is none other than yourself.”

There would be no surprises for now as far as Peters’ hair is concerned. It would be hair down, and smoky eye shadow, which she has perfected with the help of two leading “makeup artists to the big artistas,” for her.

For her gowns and national costume, she has entrusted her fate on former Dubai-based Filipino designer Val Taguba. He’s reportedly doing two slinky and partly beaded gowns for the beauty queen for the preliminaries and finals. Peters declined to reveal their colors.

“I’ve grown to enjoy it,” she said, referring to her hair and makeup routine. “Other than that, I’d say the most difficult part is staying in the right frame of mind. Sa social media, ang daming mga bashers. Ang daming mga negative (On social media, so many bashers, so many negative ).”

Even if she’s not in the habit of purposely seeking these bashers out, she gets tagged, especially on Instagram. She’s not immune to nasty, below-the-belt , but the effect on her would only last temporarily.

 “Such kind of make me sad for a day,” said Peters. “The next day, I’m okay again. The one thing that really ticks me off is when they talk about my family.”

 Someone who obviously has plenty of time on his hands, for instance, once posted a picture of Peters’ Filipino mom alongside a picture of an old, wealthy-looking Englishman. Apart from saying that the couple was Peters’ parents, the fellow even wrote that the beauty queen’s mother is a “gold digger.”

Not only was it annoying, it was downright malicious and untrue. Peters didn’t let it pass. She gave the person a piece of her mind before blocking him off on Instagram for good even before he could reply.

 “Apart from the bashing,” said Peters, who was born in Bahrain and moved here in Manila with her parents when she was two before leaving again for abroad with her family as she was about to enter high school. “I think being really levelheaded and managing my time have been the real difficult thing for me.”

We asked her to answer two “classic” Miss Universe questions to see how prepared and spontaneous she was.

All those months of reading up and Q and A training under mentors at Kagandahang Flores and even Boy Abunda have definitely paid off. She aced both questions right off the bat.

What do you think are the three best qualities of a Miss Universe and why?

“I would say the three most important qualities of a Miss Universe is a woman who is hardworking, who is kind, and who is humble because she needs to be ready to take on a great deal of responsibilities,” said Peters. “She [also] needs to be a role model to most of the people around her, and most important, she needs to understand that she needs a heart to serve because of the position she is in.”

And why would she be, among the more than 80 delegates this year, the best and the most ideal woman to be Miss Universe?

“I believe I would be an ideal Miss Universe because I come from a close-knit family who has taught me important values such as hard work, kindness, generosity, and perseverance. These are all the qualities necessary to be the next Miss Universe,” she said.

It’s too soon to say who her toughest rivals for the crown would be, but based on pictures and video clips she has seen so far of the other girls, Peters considers Misses Thailand and South Africa as formidable contenders.

 Since she would be shunning wigs and hair extensions during her contest, Rodriguez also had a challenging time learning how to do her own hair.

 “I have so much hair,” she said with a shrug. “Doing it myself has become like a virtual arm workout. You have to know these things because you can’t rely on their makeup artists and hairstylists.”

Like Peters, the past few months have also been a test of her time-management skills. On top of endless hours in front of the mirror, Rodriguez has also been training hard at the gym as well as her pasarela or walking routine. Enough sleep, lest a beauty queen forgets, is also very important, she said.

And to prepare herself for the Q and A, she supplements her training with one of the oldest, most effective methods there is: reading. She makes it a point, she said, to read one book a week despite her killer schedule.

Rodriguez’s go-to designer would be Francis Libiran, who also did her gown in Binibining Pilipinas. Even if she wanted to, she said, “I don’t know how to describe my gown.” Like Peters, she was also mum about her gown’s color.

One thing is certain, Rodriguez, who has a sweet, doll-like face that seems made for show business, wouldn’tbe wearing a costume inspired by a warrior princess or Muslim royalty. Libiran is doing a traditional Filipiniana costume for her.

 “The fact that I’ve traveled a lot, makes me an ideal Miss Intercontinental,” she said. “I’ve been to almost all the continents and the fact that I’m able to connect all the cultures together and the awareness that there are differences in every country’s culture despite being in the same region or continent. I love traveling.”

Most Filipinos may be unfamiliar with Miss Intercontinental, but the three Filipino beauty queens who have joined the contest before did very well during their respective years. But none of them was lucky enough to bring home the crown. With a little luck, the youthful looking Rodriguez might finally bag the elusive title this time.

What is it between Pinoy beauty queens and their gowns? If Rodriguez and Peters are keeping the inspiration behind their gowns and their colors a secret, Thomas wouldn’t even reveal who her chosen designer is.

“It’s a surprise,” she said merrily. “I just want to surprise you all. My dresses are already finished. I will be packing by the end of the week.”

To prepare herself for the contest, Thomas, like the other two, also did a bit of research by talking to past Binibining Pilipinas Supranational winners, including Johanna Eden, who, like she is, is also half-Pinay and half-Aussie.

 They told her to prepare, but also to enjoy herself since the contest has a “fiesta-like” feel to it. It’s also known for making its delegates model and even dance a bit while doing the huge stage several times in their two-piece swimsuits. Last year, organizers also added a Q and A portion.

“To be honest, I think I have myself,” she said when asked how she plans to stand out. “I’ve been told by other people before that I have this happiness and energy on stage that comes from me. And that’s what my pageant is all about, happiness and positive energy. They don’t just want a beauty queen. They want somebody who could instantly connect with people.”

Peters also promised herself to simply enjoy the experience in Miss Universe while still being mindful of the competition. But all three beauty queens are also beginning to feel the weight of the entire nation’s hopes on their shoulders.

 “I’ve put in the hardwork here,” said Peters. “When I get there, it’s time to enjoy. For me, the most important thing is to enjoy and be myself. If you’re stressed with every little detail once you’re there, they won’t be able to see you in a positive light. You’re not going to give off a good aura. And that would be very unfortunate because we’ve all worked very hard for this.”

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