Years of beauty-pageant obsession prompted me to ask an all-important question.
I woke up one recent Sunday to a thread of raves by my friends, specifically about recent magazine covers graced by Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach. We were mostly wistful in the course of that thread – beauty queens in the country become instant fixtures in the national conversation, after all. Couple that fact with the country’s tendency to latch on to nostalgia, and the fact that Queen P is only the third woman from our humble archipelago who conquered the universe, and you have the recipe for immortality. What is beauty makeup.
The same thread also had an introspective quality. After the seemingly endless iterations of how beautiful Queen P is, we went on to rave about the other beauty queens of our country, including Kylie Verzosa and her ethereal beauty, and Maxine Medina and her distinctly Filipina look. Then came the million-peso question: What is the definitive Filipina look?
There were mentions of colonialism, The Superstar Ms. Nora Aunor, and the Philippines’ recent successes in the international beauty pageant circuit in years past before we dropped the conversation and moved on to less insecurity-inducing topics, and that was that. But the question loomed in my head.
G&k beauty's makeup
Doing so much as a tiptoe into our rich, complicated history shows that perspectives on beauty have come a long way. In Transpacific Femininities: The Making of the Modern Filipina, Denise Cruz called the modern Filipina a “transpacific Filipina,” who emerged from the interactions of our culture with that of other cultures. Further, Cruz said the transpacific Filipina is “notable precisely because… she cannot be contained in singular types.” Indeed, she can’t. Maybe the search for an answer as to what the definitive Filipina look is would only prove futile, because our country is a melting pot of cultures. Our beauty pageants, then, not only carry out the function of “national pastime” (a more cynical observer might even replace “pastime” with “distraction”), but also as a showcase of our country’s greatest strength – diversity.
This trend points toward one more important thing: There is beauty literally everywhere. Social media paved the way for democratized beauty, the concept of “beauty standard” has altogether collapsed (or expanded, depending on how you look at it). There is no longer a rigid binary, decreeing that only one feature is beautiful and the opposite is ugly. Social media and its netizens now assert that both features in a binary could be – and are – beautiful.
You can look in the mirror, put makeup on (or not) and you can feel good knowing that someone out there shares the same features as you and is considered beautiful. You can walk outside and bask in the tropical climate with minimal protection (sunblock is still important, pride in complexion notwithstanding), because all is fair in black and white and everything in between. Chin up, because beyond physical features, the definitive Filipina look should be that of confidence.