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Chelsea Manalo: A Milestone in Filipino Beauty Pageantry

Filipino-American Chelsea Manalo made history on Wednesday by becoming the first Black woman to be crowned Miss Universe Philippines. Born to a Filipino mother and an African American father, the 24-year-old’s victory was celebrated across social media for breaking traditional beauty norms that have long been entrenched in the country.

“Chelsea’s win challenges our ingrained preference for Eurocentric beauty features and lighter complexions in our nation,” one user commented on an Instagram post of her win on the Miss Universe Philippines’ official account. Another exclaimed, “Filipino beauty standard shattered into pieces.”

Representing Bulacan, a province to the north of Manila, Manalo outshone 52 other contestants from around the archipelago and overseas to clinch the title. The competition took place at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay.

During the final round, when the competition had narrowed down to the top five finalists, Manalo was asked on stage how she would use her beauty and confidence to empower others. Her response was both personal and profound.

“As a woman of color, I have always faced challenges in my life. I was told that beauty has standards, actually,” she said. She further added that she was taught to “believe in my mother, to always believe in yourself, uphold the vows that you have.”

“Because of these, I am already influencing a lot of women who are facing me right now,” she said, looking out at the packed arena.

Manalo’s journey to the crown was marked by her resilience and determination. Starting her modeling career at the age of 14, she faced numerous challenges related to her appearance. In a YouTube video on Empire Philippines, which livestreamed the event, she recounted her struggles growing up.

“I grew up having insecurities as I was always bullied because of my skin and my hair type,” she shared, crediting her friends and family for helping her “realize that I am beautiful in my own extraordinary way.”

A New Era for Beauty Standards in the Philippines

Manalo’s win is part of a broader conversation about diversifying beauty standards in the Philippines, a country where Western ideals have long influenced perceptions of attractiveness. This influence is rooted in the country’s colonial past, which has perpetuated a preference for lighter skin and Eurocentric features.

In the Philippines, lighter-skinned actors and models frequently dominate major TV shows, movies, and fashion campaigns. As is common in other Asian countries, skin lightening treatments and products are widespread.

Manalo’s victory is a significant step towards redefining beauty standards in the country. Her win is a powerful statement that beauty transcends color and ethnicity, encouraging a more inclusive perception of what it means to be beautiful.

Looking Ahead to the Miss Universe Pageant

Chelsea Manalo will represent the Philippines at the Miss Universe pageant in Mexico in September. She aims to bring home the fifth Miss Universe crown for the country, following in the footsteps of Gloria Diaz (1969), Margie Moran (1973), Pia Wurtzbach (2015), and Catriona Gray (2018).

The upcoming Miss Universe pageant will feature over 100 countries. Notably, this year’s competition will be the first to remove any upper age limit for contestants. Previously, participants had to be between 18 and 28 years old.

This change is part of a broader effort by the Miss Universe organization to modernize and become more inclusive. The organization has faced scrutiny in recent weeks, especially after the parent company of the Miss USA organization was accused of mismanagement and fostering a toxic work environment. These allegations led to the resignation of both Miss USA and Miss Teen USA earlier this May.

The Importance of Representation

Manalo’s victory is not just a personal achievement; it is a triumph for representation. Her success sends a message to young women of color in the Philippines and around the world that they too can aspire to and achieve greatness in fields where they have historically been underrepresented.

The significance of her win extends beyond the pageant itself. It challenges societal norms and promotes a more inclusive definition of beauty, which is crucial in a world where media representation plays a significant role in shaping perceptions.

Historical Context and Future Implications

The history of beauty pageants in the Philippines is deeply intertwined with the country’s cultural and social dynamics. For decades, beauty contests have been a platform where societal ideals and norms are both reflected and challenged. Manalo’s win represents a shift towards a more inclusive and diverse representation of beauty, aligning with global movements advocating for greater diversity and inclusion.

This victory also highlights the evolving nature of beauty pageants. Once criticized for promoting narrow standards of beauty, these contests are gradually becoming more inclusive. The removal of the age limit in the Miss Universe competition is a step towards recognizing that beauty and talent are not confined to youth.

Inspiration and Impact

Manalo’s story is a source of inspiration for many. Her journey from a young girl facing bullying due to her appearance to becoming a national beauty queen is a testament to the power of self-belief and perseverance. Her victory encourages others to embrace their unique features and to challenge societal standards that do not define their worth.

Moreover, her win is likely to have a lasting impact on the beauty industry in the Philippines. It could pave the way for more diverse representation in media and advertising, encouraging brands to feature a wider range of skin tones and hair types in their campaigns.

Conclusion

Chelsea Manalo’s historic win as the first Black woman to be crowned Miss Universe Philippines is a landmark moment in the country’s beauty pageantry. It signifies a move towards more inclusive beauty standards and offers hope to many who feel marginalized by traditional norms. As she prepares to represent the Philippines in the Miss Universe pageant in Mexico, she carries with her the aspirations of a nation eager to embrace a broader and more inclusive definition of beauty.

Manalo’s story is a powerful reminder that beauty knows no bounds and that with determination and confidence, barriers can be broken, and new standards can be set. Her legacy will undoubtedly inspire future generations to continue challenging and redefining beauty standards in the Philippines and beyond.

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