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Post MUPH 2024 analysis: Chelsea Manalo is a ‘silent killer’

by Joanna Deala

BEAUTY QUEEN Chelsea Manalo made a historic win when she became the first Filipino-Black American to win the coveted Miss Universe Philippines crown.

Chelsea succeeded 29-year-old beauty queen Michelle Dee as she bested 52 other delegates during the coronation night of the Miss Universe Philippines (MUPH) 2024 competition, held at the SM Mall of Asia Arena on May 22.

The runner-ups are Cainta’s Stacey Gabriel (first runner-up), Quezon Province’s Ma. Ahtisa Manalo (second runner-up), Baguio’s Tarah Valencia (third runner-up), and Taguig’s Christi Lynn McGarry (fourth runner-up).

Chelsea’s win came as a surprise for several netizens, who called her a “dark horse” or an unexpected winner in the competition.

Among those whose prediction list was wrecked is Norman Tinio, a long-time pageant blogger and director for communications of Mister International Philippines Organization.

‘Silent killer’

Two days before the coronation night, Norman released his Top 8 picks who he believed had what it takes to represent the Philippines in the upcoming 73rd Miss Universe pageant in Mexico.

Topping his list was Ahtisa, whom he called “Queen of Consistency,” followed by “Ethereal Queen” Victoria Vincent of Bacoor, “Queen of Global Appeal” Christi, “Queen of Mic Drop” Stacey, “Queen of Diversity” Alexie Brooks of Iloilo City, “Most Promising Queen” Tarah, “Queen of Timed Surprises” Chelsea, and “Queen of Transformation” Kris Janson of Cebu.

Chelsea proved that she’s the “Queen of Timed Surprises” when she took the throne during Wednesday’s coronation night.

“Chelsea is like a silent killer,” said Norman in an interview with republicasia. “You know how long this entire pageant lasted, almost five months, it’s so long that the [weakhearted] or weak-willed ladies will just give up and surrender during the final few weeks because they already spend quite a lot.” 

But Chelsea was different, Norman said. He observed that the 24-year-old Bulacan bet was only slowly waiting for her turn to hit the spotlight and deliver when it mattered most.

“[She did] not show all her cards immediately. Parang slow reveal ‘yan and give them a taste of what she can do during the most important segments, and that is during the challenges, during her interviews,” he noted.

This year’s pageant had weekly challenges–including the swimsuit challenge, the runway challenge, and the interview challenge–where pageant fans and enthusiasts could vote for their favorite candidates through the MUPH app.

During her preliminary interview, Chelsea said she deserved to be the new Miss Universe Philippines because she had the “heart” for it.

“I have the relatability to be influential to a lot of people with the voice and with the action that I am most passionate about,” she said, as she advocated for youth education.

“If I could be Miss Universe [Philippines], it will open so many opportunities for me so that I can be a change for our nation,” she added.

Chelsea did not win in the challenges but she managed to take home one special award, Miss Jojo Bragais, at the 2024 MUPH preliminary gala night.

‘Very straightforward girl’

Chelsea may not have caught the attention of many during the preliminaries, but Norman said Filipino pageant fans endeared her straightforwardness.

“She’s actually a very straightforward girl. She can talk, hindi nga lang siya yung tipo ng conversationalist na maraming palabok,” he emphasized. “She’s straight to the point and I think that is one thing that people appreciate about her.” 

The pageant expert described Chelsea’s win as a “pleasant surprise,” but he said it was not the kind of surprise that would jolt him out of sleepiness from the competition’s long live streaming.

For Norman, Chelsea proved that she was a candidate to watch out for, especially during the preliminary competition. 

“This is one of those moments wherein performance during the preliminary competition matters a lot because that is where she actually showed everyone that she is indeed a contender,” he explained, adding that this was the reason why he included Chelsea in his Top 8 picks for the MUPH crown.

He also acknowledged how Chelsea has been “gradually” overcoming challenges that came her way. One of these was her being of African American descent.

In her profile video for the MUPH 2024 pageant, Chelsea opened up about being bullied for her skin color and hair type which resulted in her poor self-confidence. 

Thanks to her “strong support system,” she did not let this stop her from stepping into the limelight and realizing how beautiful she is in her “own extraordinary way.” 

Chelsea was not the only Filipina of Black descent in the pageant. She had to contend with Alexie and Florida’s Matea Mahal Smith, who were both included in the Top 5 delegates for the pageant’s runway challenge.

While Chelsea had a strong support system, Norman said it could not be denied that Alexie got all the spotlight because of a very strong fanbase.

“Para kayong kambal na nag-join ng pageant and then yung kakambal mo lang yung palaging nakakakuha ng attention, and siya, si Chelsea, she had to wait for the right time to shine, to peak,” he emphasized.

He continued, “Alexie was even called the people’s win. ‘Pag binigyan ka naman ng ganung tagline or tag phrase ng mga tao, parang it’s not that easy to hurdle yung nervousness mo na, ‘Bakit siya lang? Bakit ako hindi?’ But somehow, gradually, Chelsea showed that she can deliver.”

In an Instagram post, Michelle congratulated the newly crowned Miss Universe Philippines, whom she described as “a woman with such a genuine heart.”

Four other crowns

Aside from the MUPH crown, there were four other titles that were at stake on the coronation night.

Tarah was named Miss Supranational Philippines 2025, Ahtisa as Miss Cosmo Philippines 2024, Alexie as Miss Eco International Philippines 2025, and Pampanga native Cyrille Payumo as Miss Charm Philippines 2025.

This is the second time the MUPH organization has given more titles to other delegates. Bohol’s Pauline Amelinckx was named Miss Supranational Philippines 2023, while Baguio’s Krishnah Marie Gravidez won the Miss Charm Philippines 2023 title.

Meanwhile, Ahtisa will be the country’s representative in the first-ever Miss Cosmo International pageant. The winner will take home US$100,000 and stay in a luxury apartment in Vietnam, according to The Miss Philippines organization.

But Ahtisa’s new title dismayed many netizens who said it was a “downgrade” from being the first runner-up in the Miss International 2018 pageant. Miss International is considered to be one of the four major international beauty pageants, along with Miss World, Miss Earth, and Miss Universe.

Some online users said that the Miss Supranational title could have at least been given to Ahtisa.

Regardless of Ahtisa’s title in the national pageant, Norman said it would still be a “downgrade in the eyes of many” if it’s not the Miss Universe Philippines.

“This is a matter of being professional about it and accepting the fact that, ‘Okay someone deserves this crown more than me. And I was offered this crown so I’m a good soldier, so, sige tanggapin natin ito,’” said the pageant blogger.

“If I were in the shoes of Ahtisa, kung tatanggihan ko whatever crown they give me magiging napakalaking issue pa ‘yan eh. Kumbaga ano papaboran mo yung people who were saying na, ‘Wag mong tanggapin yan, tanggihan mo yan.’ Masyado pang magiging [negative] ‘yon eh. Accept your fate. ‘Yun ang nabigay sa’yo, ‘yun ang destiny mo, so accept it with a grateful heart,” he stressed.

Several pageant fans and enthusiasts also wondered why the other runner-ups were not given titles on the coronation night. 

While the Miss Universe pageant has become more inclusive, Norman emphasized that each of the four international pageants has its branding to protect and its requirements for the candidates.

Norman said Stacey and Christi were not picked for the other titles because of “two different but valid reasons:” they did not qualify for the height and age requirements for these beauty competitions.

“Si Stacey was because of height dahil may height requirements yung ibang titles like Supranational, Eco, Charm, and Cosmo,” he said, stressing that height will always matter despite how inclusive the pageant is.

Meanwhile, Christi, 34, has already passed the age limits required for these international pageants, which range from 18 to 32 years old.

“Mate-technical if they still insist on sending her to one of those four other pageants. People have been asking, ‘Bakit ganun? Bakit instead of the four runners-up, lahat sila magkaroon ng title, bakit naibigay to two other girls who did not even make it to the Top 5?’ And those are the reasons why. I was told,” explained Norman.

Despite not winning the coveted crown, Ahtisa and Stacey were still proud and grateful for how their MUPH journey turned out this year.

‘A lot of polishing’

When asked if Chelsea’s qualities as a beauty queen are Miss Universe-ready, Norman said she still needs “a lot of polishing,” which the MUPH organization is definitely good at.

“Hindi siya pupunta, like a good soldier, hindi siya papupuntahin sa Mexico with no extra armaments and training. Kailangan trained siya to the the max,” the pageant expert noted.

He also said that Chelsea being a “woman of color” could be her advantage in the 73rd edition of the Miss Universe pageant.

“She’s a woman of color who will not necessarily be identified with the African delegates immediately. Kasi she will group herself with the Asians, she can group herself [with] the Latinas,” he said.

As a long-time pageant blogger, Norman observed how Black and Asian delegates group themselves with other Black and Asian fellows, respectively. However, he noticed that candidates from powerhouse Asian countries like the Philippines, Thailand, and Indonesia associate themselves with other races.

“Hindi sila nag-i-stick sa mga kapwa nila Asyano, they really spread themselves to everyone. So, I think that’s one thing na magiging advantageous kay Chelsea,” Norman said.

He also mentioned that Chelsea would need a good language coach who would help her communicate in Spanish fluently when she arrives in Mexico.

While it is too early to predict what her placement will be in the upcoming beauty competition, Norman believes that Chelsea will do a “good job” in representing the country on the international pageant stage.

On Instagram, the 24-year-old Bulakenya thanked her family, her Bulacan team, her MUPH sisters, and everyone who supported her MUPH journey, and promised that she would do her best to win the 73rd Miss Universe competition.

“Hindi kita bibiguin. Ilalaban natin ito. Maraming Salamat po. Again, this is Chelsea Manalo, from Bulacan Philippines to the Universe,” she wrote. 

Chelsea will vie for the Philippines’ fifth Miss Universe crown, following Catriona Gray (2018), Pia Wurtzbach (2015), Margie Moran (1973), and Gloria Diaz (1969).



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