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Saturday, January 23, 2016

Why Pia Wurtzbach Isn't Lucky

Image from Miss Universe's Twitter account

After being a sort of amateur pageant enthusiast for about five years now, I, too, am very excited about Pia's homecoming. Social media has been abuzz with every single thing she has been doing since her very controversial win. But something that always pops up are those "oh she's so lucky she'll stay here do this win this have this be primped bla bla bla" posts and comments. I also wish that I could have a nice apartment and the salary and the tiara and all the celebrity sightings. and basically everything that comes with it. 

But then, I am reminded by a lot of things a lot of people around me say, and then I remember that what she has is not some sort of magical package that she randomly got blessed with. It's something that, if I want to achieve as well, will have to go through hell for. 

I feel that as a whole society we Pinoys should stop being fixated on the notion that lucky is having a lot of good stuff in life, be it in whatever field or definition. I feel that we should start seeing lucky as 'when preparation meets opportunity.' 

This is something I learned when our professor in school got his friend to come over to speak to us about entrepreneurship. This friend of his owns Our Melting Pot, a guest house in Makati. He said a whooole lot of things and gave a super comprehensive overview of everything he does. But it's that one line about luck that stuck to me the most. 

Now that I see Pia bask in her glorious reign, I see this illustrated concretely more and more. Let's talk about the preparation part. She has already explained in dozens of TV appearances that she joined BB. Pilipinas 3 times before she was BB. Pilipinas-Universe. She worked in Mercator as a model and in kitchens in between the pageants in order to make ends meet. And perhaps the best testament to how much of a struggle her career was is whenever you see Bea Alonzo so successful and remember that Bea and Pia started at the same time but Bea's career took off while Pia's career at the time (because she's probably going to be chased by every show now) did not. 

I saw her pageant journey in those three years. And for one, I think that's where she actually got a lot of her preparation. She is already "blessed" genetically with a proportionate and versatile face that's easy to work with (you can easily make her look dolly sweet or sexy fierce just by changing her makeup), and with a tall and proportionate body. You would think that her being physically blessed is already what made the cut, but actually, it's not. 

Because you have to remember that everyone in a pageant, more so the prestigious national ones like Bb. Pilipinas or global ones like Ms. Universe, is drop dead gorgeous. Almost everyone, if not everyone who makes it to the finals, is a testament of triumph in the genetic lottery. But why doesn't this formula guarantee a win?

Because--pageant addicts can relate to the notion that winning in a pageant nowadays is not just about being pretty. It's about having that balance of having all of the following (and the list may actually even be longer than this): a pretty and proportionate face, a proportionate (and tall) body, a generally small frame, gracefulness, poise, intelligence, wit, and composure. For Miss Universe in specific, a classical, elegant beauty is what they always look for in a girl. 

And honestly, no single person is born with all that I just mentioned. There are girls who have too strong or too sweet of a face that they have to develop their own makeup styles to match the standards of the pageants they're joining. There are so many people whose chest sizes do not match their rear sizes that surgery is summoned to fix the problem in other countries (not here because Madam Stella is Madam Stella). And for Philippine standards, just reaching the height requirement already makes pageantry an unreachable dream for most. Being pretty is simply not enough. 

Composure, as we've all seen, is not something that is easily worked on. It's not something that you can concretely control in a pageant sphere. You can have a girl train for good muscle tone and have posture and walking lessons. You can get the best designers to make the most flattering gowns and get good hairstylists and makeup artists to do very long lasting stage ready looks. But, to walk in a composed manner and to give a composed answer in front of a large crowd in a span of 30 seconds is not easy. If you look it up on YouTube you'd see that there are actually many videos of people being asked beauty pageant questions and you'd see them just dumbfounded and lost for words. We have our own share of cringe worthy BB. Pilipinas Q&A segments. And I need not talk about the whole lot of girls who look so pretty, but the moment they start walking in the swimsuit or evening gown competition, you'd really see the fear, awkwardness, and stress in their eyes.

 To be able to have that composure in situations of extreme pressure is something that is not easily replicable, and I actually feel that Pia's going through BB. Pilipinas three times is what had prepared her for that stress. It had prepared her well enough that regardless of whether or not she had actually won, her Miss Universe pageant performance was something that I can truly be proud of as a Filipino. 

And actually, it's not just her preparation. It's also her mentors' own journeys and preparations. Aces and Queens has coached almost every memorable personality in the pageantry in the last decade, even BPCI has been developing its own training programs to replicate our last win 42 years ago. Jonas must be crying tears of joy whenever he sees this image: 



Since Pia's win, I actually spent a good time looking back as to what made Venus, Shamcey, Janine, MJ, and Ara not win the crown. They were all pretty, they were all hardworking. They had all prepared so long and so hard for the competition. MJ also joined Bb. Pilipinas three times before getting the title. I feel that on one hand, each one of them didn't have as perfect as a balance as Pia in terms of having everything I just enumerated awhile ago in similarly high levels (i.e. having the combo of a good body, good face, good walk, good answer, good strong-headedness, etc.), despite already having a good balance of things.

 But on the other hand, I feel that this is where the opportunity part comes in. Had Shamcey been asked the question Ms. Angola was asked, I honestly felt that she had a really good chance of winning. Had MJ been given better gowns to wear, perhaps she could have been more composed in her walking. Had Venus been the most elegant beauty in the top 5 (she is so pretty for me, but she counts more of as a fierce or exotic beauty rather than a classical beauty), she may have won the title regardless her controversial answer (because I feel that the judges also understood how difficult of a question she got). 

Pia was at the right place at the right time. She was prepared enough to have a good walk, but was at the right time where they were able (and were allowed, to my surprise) to find emergency gowns for her to use in lieu of what BPCI originally purchased. She was at the right time when Miss Universe was under a new franchisee and changed a lot of competition formats. Giving the contestants more autonomy in swimsuit selection, I think, gave her the boost as she got to choose a comfier sailor type bikini over the triangle ones. Forgive me for saying this, but her swimsuit was also able to display the assets of the Philippines *cough cough*. 



While she was prepared enough that she was able to give the best answers possible, I always think about what if Ms. France and/or Ms. Australia (who happen to be the contestants' favorites as I've heard) had made it to the top 3-- contestants' and judges' votes may have leaned towards them over her, and she could have actually not won the pageant (I'm always thinking that if France had made it to the top 3, France may have probably won due to what happened in Paris). 

Had it been just one round of question and answer, depending on the judges' opinions (since they all gave good answers that it was a tough choice), they may have not selected her to win over USA or Colombia. It was the second round of Q&A where Pia's long-developed selflessness, intelligence, and wit shone. Without the second round, the results may have been different. 

The best way to sum this up is from no less than Miss USA herself:

"Sometimes, it's just not for us. The job, the interview, the man, or, in this case, the crown...sometimes, it's just...
Posted by Olivia Jordan on Wednesday, December 23, 2015


I always wonder if Pia actually feels flattered or insulted when people tell her she's lucky. Yes, there is merit to it that that opportunity of winning was hers. But the whole string of opened opportunities surrounding every single detail (the gown, the competitors, the circumstances), simply complemented all the preparations she had already done and all the struggles she had gone through from her actress days to her initial pageant days. Had she not been as prepared, all those opened doors may not have made her win. And had she not had the opportunities, her preparation may have not made it enough for the win. 

Let us not forget that luck is not just the opportunity, it's not just the random blessing. And in this case, it's not just about winning the genetic lottery. It's all the things we go through in our lives, whether good or bad, that prepare us for when the opportunities present themselves in our lives. 

And this is why, in my opinion, Pia Wurtzbach isn't "lucky."





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