Pageant season has come upon us again, and the top 75 delegates for this year’s Miss Universe Philippines (MUPh) have already been announced.
(ICYDK, the delegates were chosen partially by fan votes as well as decided on by the MUPh organization. The selection process also looked into how well the contestants fared on the headshot and video introduction challenges, which fans also voted on.)
Surprisingly, multiple well-known personalities have entered the race: actress Kisses Delavin, TikTok creator Rousanne “Ayn” Bernos, and Asia’s Next Top Model winner Maureen Wroblewitz. Maybe not so coincidentally, all three topped the video introduction and headshot challenges, with them getting first, second, and third respectively. Are we getting a repeat of when Megan Young was crowned Miss World in 2013? In the immortal words of YouTuber Drew Gooden, “I sure hope so.”
But what’s even more surprising is that there are a *lot* of morena queens this year. Bernos, for one, is morena. And she wasn’t the only one who topped the challenges. Katrina Dimaranan, Kamille Alyssa Quiñola, Noelyn Rose Campos, Cheri Angel Anne D. Flejoles, Mirjan Hipolito, Maria Corazon Abalos, and Jedidah Hefervez Korinihona are all morenas.
Morenas are barely represented in the pageant—and in Filipino media in general. Colorism is a huge problem in the country, and many women are still shamed for the color of their skin. Morena makeup gal Andrea Atienza spoke to Preen about seeing Bernos becoming a top Miss U hopeful: “I still wanna cry [be]cause she’s a beauty queen who looks so Filipina like the rest of us. Morenas and people with very Filipino features are so underrepresented in our own media.”
Bernos herself has talked a lot about morena beauty. She started a clothing label called Morena that “celebrates brown skin [and] challenges colorism.” In an interview for Lifestyle Inquirer, she said, “Growing up, my ‘labels’ were ‘uling,’ ‘negra,’ ‘maitim,’ and a lot of names that made me feel ashamed of my color.”
Beauty pageants, as problematic as they are (never let me say that word again), still mean a lot to us. Having morenas top a contest that judges physical beauty would be a huge statement: Morenas are beautiful, no caveats.