All Memes Aside, This Is The One Thing Miss Universe 2015 Got Right

by Ella Cajayon

As if we haven’t already, let’s take a moment to reflect on the Miss Universe 2015 pageant.

This may be the most unforgettable year for the annual pageant yet.

It's one that's filled with entertainment, controversy, an excuse to drink on a Sunday night and memes galore.

All jokes aside, there is one thing Miss Universe 2015 truly did right.

I was popping a zit off my face when I received this text from my father, “Miss Philippines actually won Miss Universe.”

My dad is not one to care in the slightest over anything in beauty pageants, or anything really at all in the beauty realm of things.

But the fact that this particular event had even a remote response from someone like my father spoke volumes to me.

Let’s put things in perspective.

Even in Steve Harvey’s original public apology tweet over announcing the wrong Miss Universe 2015 winner (come on dude, you had one job), he still couldn’t get it right.

Quoting his original tweet, which has since been deleted, he took to Twitter, “I want to apologize empathetically to Miss Philippians and Miss Columbia. This was a terribly honest human mistake and I am so regretful.”

Okay let’s break down some problems I have with this:

For starters, Colombia and Columbia are not the same thing.

Secondly, Filipinos and Philippians are also definitely not the same thing.

As a Filipina woman living in America, and really as a woman who will never be blonde, fair-skinned and blue-eyed, it’s always been hard not to feel irrelevant.

I mean, Steve Harvey couldn’t even get our ethnicities right, for heaven’s sake.

No, our appearance will never equate to our self-worth. And no, being a Filipina in America should have never made me feel anything less than beautiful.

I grew up playing with blonde, fair-skinned blue-eyed Barbie dolls, and idolized celebrities also looked this way on TV and in magazines.

So, it was hard to call myself beautiful when I never looked like anyone society deemed as conventionally beautiful.

People would say things (in the form of compliments) such as, “You’re so pretty for an Asian."

It was hard to look myself in the eye and see myself as someone who would could be truly beautiful for everything I am.

Instead of seeing myself in the Barbie dolls and people I grew up with, I saw myself as the go-to butt of jokes, the “funny” camera pose.

I’m talking about those “#azninvasion” photos; the pictures people take where they pose with their eyes squinted, and finger peace signs out and about, pretending to be Asian.

No, these camera poses were never something to take to heart, but when this was something I could relate to more than the blonde, blue-eyed Barbies of this world that society considered beautiful, how could I not take this personally?

Despite what it took to get there, Miss Philippines 2015, Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach, being named Miss Universe 2015 gave me someone I could see in myself.

I will admit, this isn’t the first time Miss Philippines has been named Miss Universe, but as someone who doesn’t typically follow beauty pageants, this viral sensation was the first time a Filipina in the spotlight left me with something pretty empowering.

I mean, finally.

She's a Filipina who is not the girl you’re mocking with your “Asian” pose and “chinky” facial expressions on your Instagram.


For once, a Filipina is someone who is recognized as beautiful, inside and out.

Miss Philippines 2015 is not be the only Filipina who has been considered beautiful. But again, with all the attention stirred up from these recent events, this pageant brought to light something I never thought I could see or feel in myself.

After finding out Miss Philippines 2015 became Miss Universe 2015, I’ve never felt more proud to walk out in public, and believe someone like myself could be beautiful.

No, being beautiful isn’t everything. But being beautiful, and feeling beautiful are two separate entities.

And the latter? That’s something that is incredibly powerful and something as self-loathing as it may sound, I never thought I could feel.

Miss Philippines 2015 claiming the title as Miss Universe 2015 gave me something and someone concrete that could give me that inner confidence.

No, no one ever told me to feel ashamed for my heritage.

But unless you’re a minority in the US yourself, you will never fully grasp and understand what it’s like to be one.

For years, I forever felt like an outcast in the group, someone who could never fit in because my genetics deemed that as something that was physically impossible to attain.

I’ll never forget when I first visited the Philippines.

I was 12 years old, and I said to my mother and my mother’s sister, “I love it here. Everyone looks like me. I feel normal here.”

I remember their responses were utter shock and awe. They were speechless. I remember as clear as day not understanding why they reacted the way they did.

But then I grew up, and their response made more sense.

You can tell me that we shouldn’t care about what other people think of us. But when you’re someone who has never felt truly felt represented, sometimes it was hard to feel good about the skin you’re in.

So in all seriousness, if there’s one thing the Miss Universe 2015 pageant did right, it was giving us “Philippians” (according to Steve Harvey), a person who embodies how beautiful we truly are, even though we don’t fit the majority’s mold.

By crowning Miss Philippines 2015 as Miss Universe 2015, I saw beauty in myself for the first time in a long time.

And no, I didn’t see beauty in myself because I looked pretty... for an Asian.

I saw beauty in myself for being Asian, which is something I sadly never thought would be possible.