PHILIPPINE bet Michelle Marquez Dee still made her country proud, despite concluding her Miss Universe journey in the Top 10.
The 28-year-old beauty queen has indeed unleashed her “tenacious” side when she brought back the Philippines to the semifinal round.
She was announced to be among the last set of delegates that made it to the Top 20 during the finals night in El Salvador on November 19 (Philippine time).
In a video playback shown on screen after she was called, Dee shared more about herself such as being a certified adrenaline junkie, joining the Philippine Air Force (PAF) reserve force, and being an advocate for autism awareness.
“I want to be the voice of millions of individuals on the autism spectrum that deserve to be celebrated, empowered, and given the right opportunities to live a fulfilled and purposeful life,” Dee said, talking about her life-long advocacy.
She then set the stage ablaze with her red one-piece swimsuit made by American designer Rubin Singer during the swimwear competition. This was the same swimsuit she wore during the preliminary competition on November 16 (Philippine time).
Her fiery performance in the swimsuit contest earned her a spot in the Top 10, along with Puerto Rico, Thailand, Peru, Colombia, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Venezuela, Australia, and Spain.
The Top 10 finalists strutted the Miss Universe stage in their evening gowns, with Dee paying homage to the country’s oldest living “mambabatok” or traditional tattooist Apo Whang-Od.
The Filipina beauty queen donned a black dress with striking details that apparently promoted the traditional method of tattooing, locally known as “pagbabatok.”
This masterpiece was made by designer Mark Bumgarner, who also created Dee’s green cut-out dress she wore during the evening gown segment of the preliminary competition.
Dee shared in an Instagram post that the majestic black gown drew inspiration from Whang-Od, whom she described as “a true icon and the last of her kind, a symbol of bravery, beauty, and inclusivity.”
“She has achieved global recognition and symbolizes timeless beauty, coinciding with Miss Universe lifting its age restrictions, championing inclusivity and challenging age stereotypes,” Dee said.
She added that the gown was “crafted passionately and proudly dedicated to our country.”
The 28-year-old took to her Instagram broadcast channel to thank and express her love to her supporters.
“Love and kindness over everything!” she said.
“Thank you so much for raising our flag with me, “ she added.
Meanwhile, Nicaragua’s Sheynnis Palacios was crowned the new Miss Universe by her predecessor, R’Bonney Gabriel.
Thailand’s Anntonia Porsild was named first-runner up, while Australia’s Moraya Wilson finished as second runner-up.
‘Voice for Change’ gold winner
Aside from bringing the Philippines back into the semifinal round after a one-year absence, Dee was also recognized as one of the Gold winners of the competition’s “Voice for Change” category with her autism awareness advocacy.
She won along with Angola’s Ana Coimbra and Puerto Rico’s Karla Acevedo.
She also bagged the Spirit of Carnival award.
Dee is currently the Goodwill Ambassador of the Autism Society Philippines (ASP), a non-governmental organization that supports individuals on the autism spectrum.
One of its programs gave job opportunities to more than 250 individuals on the autism spectrum.
In an interview with republicasia during her send-off event on October 26, Dee said she would continue advocating for autism awareness whether or not she wins the Miss Universe crown.
“With or without pageantry, I will continually work on my advocacy. I’ll always be there, present, being their spokesperson, being their goodwill ambassador,” she said.
She continued, “And win or lose, I know I’ll still champion for them.”