Besides her stunning good looks and remarkable grace and poise, the Philippines’ Pia Wurtzbach worthily claimed the name of world’s most beautiful woman for essentially reinstating the perception of the physical paragon as a force for good. With but a single line, even the most unyielding critics of pageantry paid attention to this perfect moving mannequin who declared to all the world, “I am confidently beautiful, with a heart.”
And indeed, Miss Universe 2015 was true to her word and beautifully thrived through her reign, passionately advocating causes close to her heart, and of global magnitude. From speaking at an anti-bullying forum for young students in Canada — where the perfect beauty confided in them a shared experience and how she eventually conquered her fear —, to serving with the International Red Cross, all the way in South America, as a vessel of hope and compassion among victims of devastating earthquakes and unjust poverty. More that the tangible aid this perfect vision brings, it is her very presence gives them relief that the world has not forsaken them.
A national pride — and affectionately regarded as a famous daughter of Iligan City and Cagayan de Oro (Wurtzbach, along with her mother and sister, lived part of their lives in Northern Mindanao following her parents’ separation), and of Quezon City where she ultimately pursued a career in modeling, acting and pageantry —, the Philippines, of course, remained a priority during this title holder’s reign. Back then and even well into the present, Miss Universe 2015 has touched lives of countless Filipinos, young and old, through her work in diverse charities, including Smile Train (which is devoted to helping children born with cleft lip and palate problems), Cordaid (an anti-poverty group that specifically reaches out to communities caught in violent conflict), Caritas Philippines (the advocacy, development and humanitarian arm of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines), and Unicef, where she likewise raised HIV Awareness among the youth, following her involvement in a high-level meeting of the United Nations calling for cooperation to end AIDS.
For all the good her reign achieved around the world, not to mention how the smart, beautiful and compassionate Filipina effectively restored the relevance and dignity of pageantry as a whole, it comes as no surprise that up to now, Pia Wurtzbach is still regarded by many as “The Best Miss Universe Ever.” In fact, years after her reign, the Miss Universe Organization couldn’t bear to let her go, and kept her under contract for quite some time, giving the truly triumphant beauty queen a platform from which to further her invaluable contribution to the global campaign for AIDS/HIV Awareness.
Today, six years since her truly providential win, Pia Wurtzbach remains grateful for every exceptional experience and every outstanding opportunity that the world’s most prestigious beauty title bestowed on her crown and even after she passed it on to Iris Mittenaere of France. Nevertheless, over a Facebook Live catch-up to celebrate the first anniversary of her Ace family (see sidebar), she candidly talks about her decision to “take a break from pageantry,” partly to pursue a number of personal interests she had long left in the back burner, but still on the whole, to stay on the path of beauty as she had historically defined it.
“But,” as she emphatically qualified, “without the crown and the [public’s] expectations of a perfect beauty queen.”
Every bit as beautiful and as confident as before, Pia Wurtzbach, now 31, is eager to dress down, remove all filters — figurative and literal — and even make mistakes. For at this crossroads in her life — from all she has seen in the world, now in chaos and yet driven by competition and endangered by the pressures of social media — she knows she can do more good, deliver more inspiration and effect more change outside that perfect mode.
Certainly with more heart than ever before, the imperfect woman declared, “I want people to see me as I am — someone just like them, who go through what they go through, and someone who can be their friend.”
Here’s more on how Pia Wurtzbach plans to remain as force of good within distance from the crown.
What does it mean to “take a break from pageantry?” and what new plans do you have right now?
It’s been a few years since Miss Universe, so I think it’s just a natural thing to progress into other things. It’s not that I’m leaving pageantry altogether, like I’m never going to judge or watch a pageant because that’s where I came from and it really changed my life.
But then I’m also interested in different things now, like I really want to get into business, and it’s something I’m slowly starting to learn. I’m working to build my own brand and it’s giving me that same excitement I had when I was first competing. [Personally], that’s what I’m trying to look for — something that will get me passionate again.
On the other hand, [in terms of my public life], I’m slowly starting to reintroduce myself to my audience because they know me as Pia, the Miss Universe from [six years ago]. So, I feel like I need to speak to a new audience now, and reintroduce myself as a real person, which is also why I’ve been [uploading] more natural posts on my Instagram, where I don’t wear a lot of makeup but still be very natural and engaging with the audience.
My goal, is not as big as an astronaut’s or a president, but still want to make a change; to be in a position where I can still make a difference and become an influence for the good.
That’s also why I enjoy doing my podcasts [“Between Us Queens” with fellow titleholders Bianca Guidotti and Carla Lizardo, streaming on Spotify] because I get to connect with a new set of people who probably couldn’t relate to me or find me interesting before. Maybe now, they can see themselves in me more. [Her podcast where she admitted going through a quarter life crisis went viral.]
So yeah, I just hope that’s enough to make a difference today.
Given this re-introduction, a lot of women like you somewhat lost the drive to “be beautiful” because everyone’s always at home. A year since the pandemic started, do you think women should at least bring back a little more effort in the “beauty department,” maybe with start with a little lip gloss and so on?
I think so. The thing is, you have to be doing it for yourself. I mean, I understand — I went through that phase also where I just stopped caring about what I look like. I stopped straightening my hair, wearing makeup because I don’t go out.
But I mean, don’t you put on lipstick on yourself to make yourself feel good? Don’t you fix yourself to make yourself presentable when you’re at a meeting? It’s not for the other person really; isn’t it for you to make yourself feel confident?
And if it means just picking up the brush, that’s enough for me. It’s OK if you don’t want to push yourself too much but when you do, do it for yourself.
Since we’re celebrating International Women’s Month, in your continued passion to make a difference and inspire within distance from your Miss Universe title, what is your shoutout for them today?
I feel very lucky and very grateful that I live in a day and age where our voices matter, our opinions matter, and that we have a place in society. So, I think the focus now should be more of supporting each other. Maybe we’re being too competitive, maybe even towards each other. I mean, there’s plenty of space for everyone.
This Women’s Month, I want to focus on empowering other women and encouraging them, calling on them to stop comparing ourselves with one another. What I really want to see is that we make it to the finish line all together — and finally overcome this pandemic.
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