Chelsea Manalo Becomes First Black Miss Universe Philippines

by Joseph Omoniyi
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Chelsea Manalo has become the first Black woman to be crowned Miss Universe Philippines. The 24-year-old’s win is being hailed as a significant step toward challenging and redefining long-standing beauty ideals in the country.

Born to a Filipino mother and an African American father, Manalo’s triumph has sparked widespread discussions about beauty standards in the Philippines, a nation with a complex colonial history that has traditionally favored Eurocentric features and lighter skin tones. Her victory is seen as a powerful statement against these ingrained preferences.

“Chelsea’s win challenges our ingrained preference for Eurocentric beauty and lighter complexions in our nation,” wrote one social media user in response to an Instagram post by Miss Universe Philippines. “Filipino beauty standard shattered into pieces,” echoed another.

Manalo, representing Bulacan, a province north of Manila, emerged victorious from a pool of 53 contestants, showcasing her poise, intelligence, and beauty at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay. The competition’s finale saw Manalo being asked on stage how she would leverage her beauty and confidence to empower others.

“As a woman of color, I have always faced challenges in my life. I was told that beauty has standards, actually,” she responded. She shared her inspiration, attributing her strength to her mother and her own belief in herself. “Because of these, I am already influencing a lot of women who are facing me right now,” she said, addressing the enthusiastic audience.

Manalo’s path to the crown began at the age of 14 when she started modeling. In a candid YouTube video by Empire Philippines, which livestreamed the event, she spoke about her struggles with self-esteem due to bullying over her skin color and hair type. She credited her friends and family for helping her embrace her unique beauty.

Her win is not just a personal achievement but also a part of a broader movement to diversify the definition of beauty in the Philippines. The country’s entertainment and fashion industries have long been dominated by lighter-skinned actors and models, with skin-lightening treatments and products being widespread.

Manalo’s achievement is poised to inspire a generation of young Filipinas to embrace their natural beauty. As she prepares to represent the Philippines at the Miss Universe pageant in Mexico this September, she aims to bring home the country’s fifth title. Previous Filipino winners include Gloria Diaz (1969), Margie Moran (1973), Pia Wurtzbach (2015), and Catriona Gray (2018).

This year, Miss Universe will feature contestants from over 100 countries, and for the first time, there will be no upper age limit for participants, reflecting the evolving inclusivity of the pageant.

However, the Miss Universe organization has faced challenges recently, with resignations from Miss USA and Miss Teen USA over allegations of mismanagement and a toxic work environment. Despite this, the spotlight remains on Manalo’s groundbreaking victory and the positive change it signifies for beauty standards in the Philippines.

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