Written by: Chelsea Tan
One can say that pageantry is ingrained in Filipino culture. Two Filipinas have been crowned Miss Universe in the last four years.
Traditional pageants such as Miss Universe come with strict criteria for entrants. They have to be under 28 years old, never been married and never been pregnant or with a child.
Enter Miss Empress Universe, the first pageant of its kind to welcome participants from different backgrounds and different stages of life.
Dee Reyes, proud mother of a nine-year-old boy and a commercial portfolio account manager by profession, embarked on a trip in December 2018 to represent the Filipino community and to compete in the Miss Empress Universe finale in Goa, India.
“Empress Universe has categories for ladies who are married, who are way past their 30’s and for petite ladies like me,” she says.
Reyes placed the second runner up in the petite category and was named International Fashion Icon for all categories.
“My title was not a free pass,” she says. “There were about 3,000 applicants initially that went down to 800 contestants around the world.”
The initial screening for Miss Empress Universe was done online via Skype, videos and phone calls. Reyes competed remotely by submitting videos that showcase her talents and prove her experience in social ethics and community building.
Reyes has other Filipinas to emulate in the pageantry world. She says she loved seeing Catriona Gray’s win as Miss Universe 2019.
“She is definitely a good representation of not just our Filipino heritage, but of a truly remarkable woman,” Reyes says. “And I love her slow-mo walk, oh my gosh to die for.”
She is referring to Catriona Gray’s “Lava” walk which became viral after being showcased in the Miss Universe runway.
Reyes says for her the most appealing part of competing in pageants is that winners are chosen based on their ability to empower other women and inspire change within the community.
“It’s about the journey, the character building,” she says. “It’s something you can’t buy or fulfill externally. [Pageantry] boosts you to become the best version of yourself.”