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By Nathalie Tomada (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 7, 2017 - 12:00am
Miss Universe 2017 Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters (front row, 4th from left), Miss Universe 2016 Iris Mittenaere (front, 5th from left) and Miss Philippines Rachel Peters join other candidates at the Rizal Monument in Manila after a wreath-laying ceremony yesterday. Edd Gumban
MANILA, Philippines — The Miss Universe Organization is interested in holding another Miss U pageant in the country after a successful staging here early this year, according to MUO president Paula Shugart.
Earlier reports from the Department of Tourism (DOT) revealed that MUO wanted the country to play host again to the “biggest” pageant in the world – or rather, universe – with plans for making it happen proposed last month.
“Obviously, we had an amazing experience here. I think it’s no secret that we love the Philippines and it’s great for the pageant. A lot of things would need to come together, (including) the private sector,” Shugart told The STAR in an exclusive interview yesterday.
“I think it’s a great place for us to conduct the show. So, we’ll see how things go.”
Shugart confirmed the preliminary discussion between MUO and DOT and stressed that there’s definitely interest to bring the pageant back, whether this year or in the next couple of years.
The MUO official is back in the country with several candidates from the most recent Miss U pageant, led by its 22-year-old winner, Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters of South Africa.
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Nel-Peters said she would be happy to pass her crown to a successor here.
“I think it would be great, you’ve done it already,” Nel-Peters said.
Prior to the show here last year, the pageant-crazy country was host to Miss U in 1974 and 1994.
Meantime, 13 candidates from the just-concluded Miss U plus three winners are set to do weeklong events intended to boost tourism in the country. This is the first time for Miss U and the first official appearance of Nel-Peters as its winner.
“It was so lovely to have everybody there. I had a beautiful flower necklace given to me. I think I’m going to bring it home with me,” Nel-Peters said.
The South African model captured pageant fans’ imagination with her incredible story right after winning Miss South Africa.
She was “hijacked” but turned her experience into an advocacy. She said even Filipino women can relate to her story.
“I know a lot of people, not just in South Africa, can relate to it. That’s why I’m so passionate about my campaign. If there’s one thing that I can share with you with what I’ve gone through, hijacked or carjacked, however you might know it as, is just to never allow yourself to be a victim,” she said.
This is her advice to Filipino women, especially victims of violence and harassment. She came up with the “Unbreakable” advocacy against violence against women.
“Never allow yourself to be a prisoner of fear. Because if you allow yourself to be, you’re going to live your whole life in fear. Go for therapy, it really, really helps. Don’t be too proud. There are so many women out there to help you. If we women stand together, help each other… I’m here for you, I can walk with you – that is what makes us unbreakable,” Nel-Peters said.
Hoping to build on the success of the Miss U last January, Shugart said DOT wanted to do something else by the end of the year.
Miss Universe 2017 Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters is flanked by Miss Universe 2016 Iris Mittenaere and Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach as they take a selfie at the Dusit Thani Hotel in Makati yesterday. Geremy Pintolo
“It was something we’re all interested in but we weren’t sure if it was going to happen. We had everybody on hold. We had the contestants all set and ready, but we needed to have the green light at a certain time just before the pageant, but didn’t happen,” Shugart said.
Frontrow, a wholly Filipino-owned direct selling company offering beauty, wellness and health products, stepped in through the help of the camp of 2015 Miss Universe Pia Wurtzbach, who was an endorser.
“(Frontrow) stepped in after the crowning. They put it together in two days,” Shugart said. “I think DOT always wanted to, but they needed the private sector to make it happen. It really did.”
Frontrow president RS Francisco said they pushed for it as well because it was aligned with their corporate social responsibility projects.
“It was very unexpected. It was an opportunity that presented itself. We really pushed for it. (We thought then) whether or not DOT pushes through, let’s take (the candidates to the Philippines), although it would be fun if DOT would be there, too,” Francisco said.
DOT is responsible for “bringing the candidates around and to show the beauty of the country and to prove it’s really more fun in the Philippines,” Francisco added.
Yesterday, the candidates were seen touring the historic Intramuros. Tomorrow, they will be flying to some destinations outside Metro Manila.
Meanwhile, Frontrow has lined up a couple of events, including a benefit charity fashion show tonight at Solaire.
Shugart clarified a STAR report that came out yesterday to “avoid confusion” about two fashion shows on Dec. 7 and Dec. 9 featuring Miss U candidates.
While candidates will be at both shows, “there’s only one official (Miss U) fashion show... where they are all walking (the ramp), and it’s tomorrow night (Dec. 7) with Frontrow as sponsor and in conjunction with our charity Hope for Change (Philippines),” Shugart said.
Miss U 2016 Iris Mittenaere described her return to the Philippines as an emotional time for her.
“I think I was really lucky last year. I had a really crazy crowning moment (here),” Mittenaere said.
The country’s bet this year, Rachel Peters, will be playing host to some of the candidates.
“Some of them are planning to extend (their stay). I recommended Cebu, Camarines Sur and Siargao. A couple of us are planning to go and I feel we have so much to do during this period. It would be nice for them to see the country when they are relaxed,” Peters said.
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