It’s a tough road ahead for Maxine Medina, the Philippines’ representative to the upcoming 65th Miss Universe pageant. But the 26-year-old beauty queen from Quezon City is ready to face the challenge.
Going in, Maxine already knew she had big shoes to fill. Her Binibining Pilipinas-Universe predecessor Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach is the reigning Miss Universe. All eyes are on her to try and claim the Philippines’ fourth Miss Universe. It’s not exactly a fool’s errand; Venezuela managed to claim a victory in the pageant in 2008 and 2009.
But last July, Philippine Department of Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo announced that the Miss Universe pageant will be the held in the Philippines, to give Pia the chance to crown her successor in the country.
The Miss Universe Organization hasn’t officially announced the venue of its next pageant, but sources in Manila say it’s only a matter of time. Teo said their agency would need around $12 million to mount the event in the country, and President Rodrigo Duterte said the government will not spend a single cent for the event. The funds must come from private sector. Former Ilocos Sur Governor Chavit Singson announced recently that he has come on board as a major sponsor.
So the question remains: Can the hometown candidate secure a win?
Pageant pundits — and there are many in the Philippines, it being widely-regarded as beauty pageant-obsessed — are already claiming that Maxine may not stand a chance. Home court advantage isn’t really a thing in Miss Universe. But Maxine believes otherwise.
“It’s an advantage for us because, as you can see, everyone will be cheering for Philippines, not the other countries,” she said. “Before, I felt the pressure. But now, I’m excited. And now that I’m in the process of preparing for these things, I get to understand how these pageants work. It’s really different. Before, you would think it’s all about beauty. Now, I know the relevance of this.”
Maxine was criticized online when she won the local Binibining Pilipinas pageant due to her less-than-articulate response during its question and answer portion. It does not help that Pia is regarded as a good speaker. So she said communication is the area she’s preparing for the most.
“This is the most important thing to learn. Everyday, I read. At least three articles in one day. And I make sure I write something in my diary. That’s where I write all my opinion about all these issues. That’s how I practice, especially for the Q&A,” she said.
“They can see if I improved or not,” Maxine said of her bashers online. “But it’s their choice if they want to criticize me or not. At the end of the day, I will still be the representative of the Philippines.”
She also does not want to think about the probability of winning the Miss Universe crown in the Philippines. “I think that’s up to me,” Maxine said when asked if bagging the title will be more difficult in the Philippines. “It’s not that hard because they already saw how one can be confidently Filipina with a heart. I will probably be continuing with that.”
Confidently beauty with a heart is Pia’s now-popular statement from the the 64th Miss Universe question and answer portion. And with statements like this from Maxine, Filipino pageant fans can’t shake off the feeling that Pia is miles ahead of Maxine in the pageant game.
Maxine doesn’t want to say how she is better than Pia. The two are close friends and were trained by the same people, after all.
“Pia is different. Maxine is different. So you should love me for who I am,” she said.
In fact, the reigning Miss Universe even gave her a piece of advice.
“Right now, she told me: be strong and be yourself. And she said: it’s a big responsibility. Of course it is. And right now, I feel the responsibility because the crown is very heavy,” Maxine joked. “That’s the biggest responsibility, so for me I will do my best and I will give the best of me.”(Chuck Smith)