Filipina Beauty Queens Through The Years: Where are they now?
After pageants came to a standstill due to the global pandemic a year ago, the world of beaucons (beauty contests) is now buzzling again.
Just days apart, Binibining Pilipinas crowned a 24-year-old Forensic Science graduate as the new Ms. International Philippines, while the Miss Universe Philippines Organization released the top 100 delegates competing for its 2021 edition.
Filipinos are known to be huge fans of beauty pageants, and it is not puzzling to know why. Undoubtedly, we are a country to beat, churning out winners in every pageant imaginable, domestic and global. The Philippines is in fact the second most-crowned country after Venezuela, with 15 crowns in big four pageant league: six Miss International, four Miss Universe, four Miss Earth, and one Miss World.
We follow the queens’ journey from their local to international stint, but what happens after their reign? Where are they now after the glitz and glam? Here is a look at the 15 beauty queens who stamped the Philippines as a pageant powerhouse and what they are up to now.
Miss Universe is arguably the most prestigious of all international pageants with an estimated audience of 500 million viewers worldwide, according to Reuters. Since its establishment in 1952, four Filipinas took the helm as Miss Universe.
After finishing at Top 5 in Miss World 2016, Filipino-Australian model and singer Catriona Gray went on to become Miss Universe two years later. Fans and pageant enthusiasts dubbed Catriona as the most prepared delegate the Philippines has ever sent. All her Miss Universe looks, from her walk to outfits, tells a story about the Philippines.
Before becoming a queen, Catriona has already been involved in the entertainment industry as a commercial model. Hence right after her reign, she continued her career as a multi-faceted artist, singer, and host.
Her advocacy, meanwhile, remains at heart and in action. She was vocal against the controversial Anti-Terror Law, released a song called Raise Your Flag to encourage people to stand up to their beliefs, and partnered with non-profit organisations to raise funds for mass testing, typhoon victims, children with serious medical conditions, among many others.
Most recently, she announced the launch of The Catriona Gray Academy via Nas Academy. In this course, Catriona will join other content creators who have turned educators and teach empowerment among their students.
Arguably the most talked about winner in the Miss Universe history, Pia Wurtzbach ended the Philippines’ 42-year drought after a dramatic mix-up with Miss Columbia who was mistakenly announced as Miss Universe 2015.
And just like any other stories of victory, hers did not come on a silver platter. Pia joined Binibining Pilipinas thrice, placing in her first try as first runner up, finishing at top 15 during the second time, and finally winning in her third attempt.
After letting go of the crown, a string of projects came underway from becoming a model, endorser to actress and host. She is currently the World Wildlife Fund and United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS Ambassador, and hosts a podcast Between Us Queens with fellow queens Carla Lizardo and Bianca Guidotti.
MARGARITA “MARGIE” MORAN
Margie Moran was the second Filipina crowned as Miss Universe in 1973. Recently, a clip during the coronation night made tractions online after Margie was seen peeking at the card before the host announced the winner and smiling. In an interview with Interaksyon, she happily reminisced about that moment but clarified she was not 100% sure until the announcement, and it was all just presumed.
Prior to becoming Miss Universe, Margie was already a model and danced in productions at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP). So it did not come as a surprise when she returned to what she used to do. She is now the CCP Board of Trustees chairperson after serving Ballet Philippines as president. She is also a peace advocate for the Mindanao Commission on Women Organization and ambassador for Habitat for Humanity Philippines. She also writes for The Diarist.PH.
Gloria Diaz was the first ever Filipina Miss Universe, a historic feat for the Philippines. The 18-year-old morena beauty was crowned in 1969, thanks to her witty repartees when asked how she would entertain the man from the moon.
Now at 70, she enjoys her private life with friends and family after a successful career as a multi-awarded film and TV actress.
Among all the pageants, it’s in the Japan-based Miss International where Filipinas have stood out, with four runner-up finishes and six titleholders. Since 2010, two Filipinas bagged the Miss International with Kylie Versoza being the most recent one.
In 2016, Kylie bested over 69 ladies and took home the Mikimoto crown with her winning speech that tackled cultural sensitivity and international understanding. Before becoming a beauty queen, the Baguio native was a preschool teacher.
Fast forward to 2021, Kylie is now an actress, commercial model, and vlogger. She has starred in several television shows and movies namely Los Bastardos, Sons of Nanay Sabel, and Love The Way U Lie, and started her Youtube channel.
Apart from her showbiz career, Kylie has stayed true to her advocacy. In 2017, she founded an online emotional support group Mental Health Matters that provides a safe space for people battling depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses.
BEA ROSE SANTIAGO
Filipino-Canadian Bea Rose Santiago was the fifth Filipina to be crowned Miss International in 2013, a victory she dedicated to victims of Super Typhoon Yolanda.
Just like how most beauty queens shift to show business, Bea also became an actress after winning the crown. She appeared in ABS-CBN shows A love to Last and Beauty and the Bestie.
Her showbiz career, however, was cut short in 2018 when she was diagnosed with an incurable chronic kidney disease. In a recent interview, Bea revealed that she is currently in the end-stage renal failure and awaits for a kidney transplant. She has since taken a break in the spotlight and moved back to Canada. She started her own Youtube channel where she shares snippets of her life and experiences as a kidney failure advocate.
PRECIOUS LARA QUIGAMAN
Lara Quigaman ended the Philippines’ 26 year wait for a new Miss International when she won the title in 2005.
After her stint as Miss International, Lara entered show business and has since starred in various movies and TV shows. Lara is also a writer and maintains a blog where she shares stories about her faith and personal reflections.
The beauty queen-turned-actress now lives a more precious life, married to fellow actor Marco Alcaraz and mother to three sons.
Melanie Marquez made history when she became the youngest Miss International in 1979, after being crowned only at age 15.
But more than anything else, she was most loved by Filipinos with her iconic and quotable lines including her answer in Binibining Pilipinas 1979. Asked if she would insure her legs for a million dollars, she wittingly answered: “I won’t change my legs because I am contented with my long legged.”
Thanks to her “long-legged”, Melanie made a living as a model. She placed first runner-up in the Supermodel competition in 1986. She went on to become an author, actress, and personal development coach for aspiring beauty queens.
Furthermore, becoming a beauty queen runs in their blood. Her daughter Michelle Dee was crowned Miss World Philippines 2019, while her nephew Winwyn Marquez became the country’s first Reina Hispanoamericana in 2017.
Aurora Pijuan was the first Miss International sent by Binibining Pilipinas. Her win in 1970 allowed the Philippines to be the first country to win the title twice. During the competition, Negros’ pride stood out from the rest of 47 candidates as she wore a midi dress over pants instead of a long gown.
Aurora has a short-lived showbiz career after her stint, starring in two movies, before marrying her first husband businessman and former PBA coach Tommy Manotoc and had two children. Unfortunately, their marriage did not last. She married a second time but the marriage failed as well.
At 71, Aurora is an activist who strongly speaks her mind on social issues.
GEMMA CRUZ ARANETA
The first person to cement the name of the Philippines in the international stage of beauty pageants was Gemma Cruz Araneta. In 1964, she was hailed as the first Filipina and Asian to win Miss International.
A descendant of national hero Jose Rizal’s family, Gemma’s roots were composed of journalists, historians, and diplomats who were against her joining beauty pageants, but she resisted and won the competition anyway.
The beauty queen remained a public figure as a public servant. She became the national director of the National Museum in 1968 and Tourism secretary from 1998 to 2001. As a heritage conservation advocate, Gemma serves as the Chairperson Emeritus of Heritage Conservation Society at 77, after serving as the chairperson for 12 years.
Despite being the oldest surviving beauty pageant, the Philippines only had one Miss World crown in Megan Young.
Megan’s win in 2013 started the Philippine’s winning streak across all major pageants, which it held for six years until Catriona’s coronation as Miss Universe 2018.
After her win, the Filipino-American continued her career as an actress in GMA, starring in the 2015 remake of Marimar. In 2020, she married her fellow actor Mikael Daez and currently hosts their podcast Behind Relationship Goals. Megan is also embarking on a new career as a video game streamer.
Since its establishment in 2001 in the Philippines, four Filipinas have reigned the earth.
Medical physicist and former UST instructor Karen Ibasco held the title in 2017. During her reign, she was involved in various environmental advocacies.
The 30-year-old is now busy as a WWF Philippines ambassador, host, speaker and image consultant.
Angelie Ong made a historic feat when she scored the Philippines back-to-back win in 2015, the only country to do so. During the question and answer portion, Angelie was asked to make a slogan for the next 15 years in which she answered, “we will, because we can.”
Today, she works as a host and model, travelling from time to time.
The Cebuana beauty was the second Filipina to be crowned Miss Earth in 2014.
After a year of reign, she became a TV host, model and dancer. In 2019, became a news anchor for One News. She is also an entrepreneur and established an affordable footwear business called Isla7107. Most recently, the 27-year-old announced on Instagram that she graduated from University of San Jose – Recoletos Cebu, majoring in marketing and communications.
KARLA PAULA HENRY
The Filipino-Canadian bested 84 candidates to win the Philippine’s first ever Miss Earth crown in 2008.
She went on to become a TV host and model, while still advocating for environmental causes. Today, she is now a wife and mom to two kids.
About the Author
Jillian Velasco is an intern from the University of the Philippines Diliman. As a journalism major, she was part of her local college publication for three years, serving as the sports editor for two consecutive years. When she has time to spare, she spends most of it reading entertainment articles and watching crime documentaries. Jillian is also a mom to four fur babies.