Beauty queens, especially in pageants-obsessed Philippines, are perched on a pedestal for their elegance, intelligence, advocacies, and glossy personas. But before these beauty titlists got into the pomp and pageantry, most of them lived life like regular people, going through puberty, an awkward stage and more.
While some beauty queens are open about this phase in their life, there are some who choose to hide their past for whatever reason. Because of this, people begin to wonder why some beauty queens looked a certain way, say, when they joined a pageant in 2011, and looked entirely different when they joined a different one a few years after.
The newly crowned Miss Universe Philippines 2020 Rabiya Mateo recently responded to bashers after her old yearbook photos circulated online. “Stop calling me ugly. If that’s how you see things and maybe then, it’s your soul that needs a surgery.”
Real beauty never fades and there is nothing more beautiful than embracing what one is and was. Here is a glimpse of beauty queens before they had their glam squads and fashion stylists (and who knows what else) at their disposal, and bloomed into regal beauties they truly are.
Rabiya Mateo, Miss Universe Philippines 2020
Rabiya’s recent win at the inaugural staging of Miss Universe Philippines did not come without drama. As her old yearbook photos circulated online, the ugly side of social media came out to attack the 23-year-old Ilongga for her looks when she was younger.
In an Instagram story, she responded to her bashers, “This is me 11 years ago. I still did not have my braces. I don’t (know) how to put makeup. I’m not aware of what angle flatters me most. But that is still me.”
Rabiya, who is of Filipino and Indian descent, believes that investing in yourself allows you to function at your best and eventually fulfill your purpose. As she said in the pageant’s preliminary interview, “You need to invest in yourself. As of this moment, there are a lot of distractions, a lot of bashers or backlash, but at the end of the day, when you practice self love, you get to know the right weapon in order for you to win in life.”
Megan Young, Miss World 2013
The public saw Megan launch her showbiz career as a contestant on GMA-7’s reality TV show Starstruck in the early 2000s and then witnessed her bloom when she joined Miss World Philippines 2013.
Megan was eventually crowned as Miss World 2013 in Bali, Indonesia. She is the first Filipina to win the title since the pageant’s inception in 1951.
In an undated photo she posted on Instagram in 2019, a young Megan is seen wearing a white camisole top, looking innocent and awkwardly posing for the camera. The photo drew various reactions from netizens, some even pointing out Megan’s resemblance to Eat Bulaga! host Maine Mendoza a.k.a “Yaya Dub” of the AlDub love team.
Today, Megan is married to TV host Mikael Daez, who co-hosts their podcast Behind Relationship Goals.
Venus Raj, Miss Universe 2010 fourth runner-up
Venus may have been forever marked for her “major, major” answer during the Miss Universe 2010 pageant but she is also known for being able to rise from the challenges of her humble beginnings growing up in Bicol.
Born to a Filipino mother and an Indian father, Venus opened up in an interview that she was bullied as a child, where her peers would call her names, which shattered her self-confidence.
In 2019, Venus posted a throwback photo on Instagram showing her younger self. “I am posting this to encourage all of us to never look at a person for who he/she is at the moment, instead, look at a person for who he/she can become.”
According to Venus, the first photo was taken when she was in first-year college. “I had dreams but never thought that those small dreams would flourish into reality. I had no idea that one day, I would represent the country on the international stage. God is in the business of transforming lives. Never underestimate how God can transform yours. He can write better and bigger stories.”
After her Miss Universe stint, she became a TV personality, events host and brand ambassador. She is also active in community work under a ministry in Christ Commission Fellowship. Venus earned her master’s degree in Community Development from the University of the Philippines in 2017 aside from her Communication Arts degree from Bicol University in Legazpi City, where she graduated cum laude.
Kylie Verzosa, Miss International 2016
Kylie is the sixth Filipino to win the Miss International title. Prior to her beauty queen life, she graduated from the Ateneo de Manila University with a degree in Business Management (minor in Marketing).
While in school, she did modeling jobs, which allowed her to pay for her own tuition fee in college. She was a member of the Professional Models Association of the Philippines.
She worked as a pre-school teacher and as an advocate for mental health, she volunteered for the Natasha Goulbourn foundation, which aims to educate people about suicide and depression. She eventually founded Mental Health Matters organization.
Kylie is currently an actress, a brand ambasssador and events host.
Ariella Arida, Miss Universe 2013 third runner-up
Ariella Arida grew up in Alaminos, Laguna and graduated with a BS Chemistry degree at the University of the Philippines in Los Baños. Having been raised by educator parents, it is embedded in Ara, as she is fondly called, that “education is more important than having a beautiful face.”
In an interview with The STAR’s Allure in 2013, Ara shared that after being spotted by a local fashion designer Noli Pilapil at a coffee shop in San Pablo, Laguna, she became a model and did modelling a side job from her work as a chemist/flavorist for a food grading chemical company.
From there, she joined Miss Earth 2012 and Binibining Pilipinas the next year. She eventually snatched the crown to represent the country to the Miss Universe 2013 pageant, where she placed third.
Ara is now a TV host, a brand ambassador and she joined other beauty queens as a judge at the recently concluded Miss Universe Philippines.
Shamcey Supsup, Miss Universe 2011 third runner-up
A proud “promdi,” Shamcey never hid the simple life she grew up in, in Iligan City, Lanao del Norte and General Santos City. Her father raised her while her mother worked overseas.
When her mother came back from abroad, their family moved to Manila and Shamcey attended Makati High School where she graduated salutatorian of her high school batch and valedictorian of her elementary batch.
She also eventually got accepted at the University of the Philippines, where she graduated magna cum laude. She also topped the 2010 Architecture Licensure Examination.
In a photo Shamcey posted on Instagram recently, she detailed in bisaya her “probinsyana” story together with a high school photo when she was accepting her diploma. In her post, she poked fun of her skinny figure and relayed that she was the tallest in the class. She became the country’s representative in the Miss Universe 2011 pageant, where she placed third runner-up.
She wrote, “Kaya sa tanan na Promdi diha, ayaw mo maulaw o mahadlok kay world class pud mo, ako gani niabot sa universe! (Kaya sa lahat ng promdi dyan, wag kayo mahihiya or matakot kasi world-class din kayo. Ako nga nakarating sa universe!)”
She added, “Pero sabi nga, why blend in when you are born to stand out? Kaya stand proud wherever you are because there is no one exactly like you in this world.”
Today, she is the national director of the newly formed Miss Universe Philippines Organization. She is married to businessman Lloyd Lee and they have two kids.