Question: What is one big mistake that you’ve made in your life and what did you do to make it right?
Answer: A few years ago, I made a joke which I thought was hilarious, but which actually ended up hurting my friend’s feelings. Upon realizing my faux pas, I was mortified and overcome with guilt. Seeing my friend again a short time after that, I did what I felt I needed to do, which was to apologize sincerely. In life, mistakes are inevitable, so we have to be careful with our words and actions to avoid hurting other people’s feelings. Thank you, Las Vegas!
Q: Hello, Miss Philippines! Would you change your religious beliefs to marry the person you love? Why or why not?
A: There would be no need for either myself or my beloved to change religion just so we’d be spiritually compatible. Two people who are truly in love will find ways to live harmoniously amidst the many differences that they may have between them. After all, true love transcends religion. And more than ever in these modern times, there should be acceptance of and respect for the fact that we live in a diverse world. Muy obrigada, Brazil!
Q: Hi there! Listen. As an international ambassador, do you think that speaking English should be a prerequisite to being Miss Universe? Why or why not?
A: That should not be so since one of the ideals of this pageant is to promote a mentality that is all-embracing and all-accepting. These past few weeks, I’ve been listening to all the languages spoken by my fellow candidates (looks to the left and smiles at the four other finalists, Miss Venezuela, Miss Australia, Miss USA and Miss Brazil), and I think that they all sound uniquely beautiful. For me, all languages, like people of whatever nacionalidad (spreads arms and faces the audience), are equal to each other. Salamat po and Merry Christmas!
My answers (each one within 30 seconds). Bow!
I’ll say it out loud: I want to join and win the Binibining Pilipinas contest in a few years and compete in the Miss Universe pageant. Since 2012, when my favorite beauty queen Janine Tugonon (fellow Thomasian!) placed (only!) second in the Miss U (she was robbed!), I’ve been inspired all the more to join the Binibining Pilipinas when I’m 23 or 24. I used to be embarrassed about sharing this aspiration with others, fearing that some might think I’m narcissistic, shallow, or vain. But then Mae Valdez’s article got published in the Inquirer, and reading it emboldened me to be honest about my dreams in my own piece.
In “Why I quit modeling” (Young Blood, 7/14/15), Valdez expressed her unfavorable sentiments about her former job, which, in her opinion, perpetuates superficiality among women to a certain extent.
I, too, am a model—smiling, acting or projecting on TV commercials and print ads, and walking on ramps wearing the creations of some of the country’s top designers in fashion shows. My involvement in such activities ignited my pageant dreams. It also made me appreciate being tall at 5’9”. (I was constantly teased in grade school by four male classmates who called me names—“higante,” “tikbalang,” “brontosaurus,” and the most annoying and popular name of them all: “Cherifer.” I can laugh and be amused as I recall that now, but … Grrr! I hated them with a passion then. In grade five, I almost stabbed Paco in the shoulder with my well-sharpened pencil.)
I’m very fortunate and grateful to be part of this industry (I say this, not with arrogance or smugness, but with sincere appreciation). I’d be an ingrata if I ranted about this job, which has been a source of income that I use partly to pay for my tuition, just as Valdez’s own income from modeling helped cover her tuition during her college years at the University of the Philippines. This part-time job enables me to be of help to my parents (hardworking and provident, they gave in to my insistence that I take care of my own tuition when I entered college two years ago). As the saying goes, Do not bite the hand that feeds (has fed) you (or helped finance your education).
I do not mean to come to the defense of the modeling industry against those who hold unfavorable views of it. That’s too much to take upon myself. All I want to say is that I have a good sense of who I am and know what my various capabilities are. So to hell with their judgmental nature and closed-minded views! Oops! I got carried away there, sorry. Let me retract all that unnecessary angst because, in all honesty, I have not (yet) experienced being put down by anyone because of the fact that I’m a model.
That brings me to how I react to people’s compliments about my looks. When someone tells me I should be joining beauty pageants (this happens occasionally), just as Valdez’s colleague told her that once, I would not feel ticked off. I will take the remark at face value, consider it flattering and, of course, as my mom would always remind me, graciously say “Thank you.” I won’t think of it any differently; not think that the person is limiting me; not think that I am “being stereotyped.” As it is, I have many concerns (as a student foremost), and I do not want to unnecessarily complicate my life by developing a malicious or suspicious personality that constantly doubts what people say about my physical appearance. Being that way would be unfair to those who may really just want to compliment me, plain and simple, as well as tiresome for me to always second-guess the true meaning of their statements. It is not fun to live life that way. And it’s not hard to say “Thank you.” Try it. Just two syllables.
Besides being a beauty queen, I do have other aspirations, two of which are teaching and, later, starting my own preschool, for which my course is preparing me. But I will not write about that here because it’s a different story altogether. I want this essay to be focused on my pageant dream, inadvertently opening myself up to the possibility of being (mis)judged or criticized by readers based mainly on that. Yes, others’ putdowns or mockery of me might sting, but I’ll be okay, because as I said earlier, I know who I am and what I can do.
To end, let me paraphrase Valdez’s closing line in her article: I will neither quit modeling nor give up on my pageant dreams because I don’t care about whatever stereotype is bestowed on me by this society, and I refuse to be defined by anyone else but me.
So I’ll go about doing my thang, girlfriend. Now what’s next? Oh, yes! Time to practice my “tiger walk”… or “prowl.”
I thank you. MWAH!
Alea Kristelle Gallego, 20, is a third-year student of secondary education (major in English) at the University of Santo Tomas. She is training with Aces and Queens, “the beauty camp that trained Venus Raj, Shamcey Supsup, Janine Tugonon, Megan Young and other beauty queens for the Miss Universe and Miss World pageants.”