Chelsea Manalo Becomes First Black Woman Crowned Miss Universe Philippines, Breaking Traditional Beauty Standards

Featured & Cover Chelsea Manalo Becomes First Black Woman Crowned Miss Universe Philippines Breaking Traditional Beauty Standards

Filipino American Chelsea Manalo made history on Wednesday by becoming the first Black woman to be crowned Miss Universe Philippines.

The 24-year-old, born to a Filipino mother and African American father, received widespread praise on social media for challenging traditional beauty ideals in the Philippines.

“Chelsea’s win challenges our ingrained preference for Eurocentric beauty (features) and lighter complexions in our nation,” wrote one user in response to an Instagram post of the win on Miss Universe Philippines’ official account. “Filipino beauty standard shattered into pieces,” read another.

Representing Bulacan, a province north of Manila, Manalo emerged victorious over 52 other contestants from across the archipelago and abroad. The competition took place at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay.

During the final stage, when the competition was down to the top five contestants, Manalo was asked how she would leverage her beauty and confidence to empower others.

“As a woman of color, I have always faced challenges in my life. I was told that beauty has standards, actually,” she explained, adding that she was taught to “believe in my mother, to always believe in yourself, uphold the vows that you have.”

“Because of these, I am already influencing a lot of women who are facing me right now,” she said, gazing out to the packed arena.

Manalo’s victory sparks a broader discussion about diversifying beauty standards in the Philippines, a country where Western ideals have long been influential, partly due to its colonial history.

Lighter-skinned actors and models often dominate TV shows, movies, and fashion campaigns. Additionally, skin lightening treatments and products are widely used, as is common in other Asian countries.

Manalo, who started modeling at 14, spoke about her own insecurities growing up in a YouTube video on Empire Philippines, which livestreamed the event.

“I grew up having insecurities as I was always bullied because of my skin and my hair type,” she said, crediting her friends and family for helping her “realize that I am beautiful in my own extraordinary way.”

Manalo will represent the Philippines at the Miss Universe pageant in Mexico this September.

She aims to secure the fifth title for the Philippines, following the wins of Gloria Diaz in 1969, Margie Moran in 1973, and Pia Wurtzbach in 2015 (after host Steve Harvey initially announced the wrong winner). Catriona Gray was the last Filipino to win the title in 2018.

More than 100 countries will participate in Miss Universe 2024. This year, the competition will eliminate the upper age limit previously set for contestants, who had to be between 18 and 28 years old.

The Miss Universe organization has faced scrutiny recently, as the parent company of the Miss USA organization. Both Miss USA and Miss Teen USA resigned earlier this May amid allegations of mismanagement, a toxic work environment, and conditions that affected their mental health.

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