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MANILA, Philippines – Michelle Dee of Makati bested 37 other candidates to take home the title of Miss Universe Philippines 2023 during the pageant’s coronation night on Saturday, May 13.
The 28-year-old stunner succeeded the title from Miss Universe Philippines 2022 Celeste Cortesi to clinch her second crown from a national pageant.
From the World to the Universe
For avid pageant fans, Michelle needs no introduction. Before competing in Miss Universe Philippines, she already reigned as Miss World Philippines 2019, and competed in the international pageant, wherein she finished as part of the Top 12.
Being the daughter of Miss International 1979 Melanie Marquez and cousin of Reina Hispanoamericana 2017 Winwyn Marquez, many think that Michelle was also keen on becoming a beauty queen. But she grew up not really being interested in pageantry.
In an interview with Preview, Michelle said that she started considering dabbling in pageantry when she became a judge for the Mister World pageant. “I never dreamed of becoming a beauty queen,” she said. “[It] never really crossed my mind until the first time that I stepped on the pageant stage.”
It was then, she said, that she first felt the support of pageant fans. “That’s what really prompted me to try my luck. Because if so many people that know me or don’t know me see the potential in me, then I started asking myself, ‘Why couldn’t I see the potential also?’”
But Michelle didn’t want to rely on her family’s colorful pageant roots, opting to forge her own mark in the industry. She revealed that she even backed out of the Miss World Philippines competition three times as she felt like she wasn’t ready in terms of “preparation and mentality.” “I told myself that the moment I join, I am ready for all aspects of the pageant,” she said.
All her preparation and hard work came to fruition when she was crowned Miss World Philippines 2019.
But despite having the chance to represent the Philippines in the international pageant stage, it apparently wasn’t the last time that Michelle would vie for a crown.
In 2022, she thrilled pageant fans when she announced her plans to conquer the Miss Universe stage. “Taking my chances to win the crown takes courage,” she said then. “Tenacity, love for my country, and the willingness to do good with this platform is what I believe will become my greatest advantage on the Miss Universe Philippines stage.”
Her experience shone in the 2022 edition, which earned her the Miss Universe Philippines Tourism title – or the 1st runner-up to Cortesi. A year later, they united onstage not as runners-up but as successors to the Miss Universe Philippines crown.
When she joined the 2023 edition, Michelle said that she has “so much to prove” in her second stint at the Miss Universe Philippines pageant. “I am a go-getter. I have dreams, I have aspirations,” she said in an interview with Boy Abunda. “I owe it to my future self and my future kids to really do something about it, to really make a mark in history.”
“I feel like I have so much to share and so much to prove and so much inspiration to share to people who look up to me,” she said. “The crown is really more than just a title. It’s really a platform for change – for positive change.”
A pageant veteran at this point, Michelle breezed through the competition – becoming one of the Top 5 delegates in the runway online challenge and winning Best in Evening Gown. But her road to the crown wasn’t smooth sailing as many expected it to be. On her 28th birthday – just several weeks before coronation night, she revealed that she underwent an operation.
“The Universe has shown me the importance of pacing myself and focusing on my true priorities,” she wrote. “I’ll keep moving forward with self-care, pursuing my passions, and appreciating life’s precious moments.”
Her wit and eloquence was put in the spotlight during the question and answer portion, which ultimately led her to her crowning moment. “No matter where the universe takes me, I will always be proud to call the Philippines my home,” Michelle said in the second round of the question and answer portion. “No matter what happens, I will always be proud to call myself Pinoy.”
On Saturday, Michelle became the second Filipina beauty queen to win both Miss World Philippines and Miss Universe Philippines titles, following Catriona Gray.
Personal life, advocacy
In one of her videos for Miss World, Michelle opened up about growing up on a ranch, where she gained her love for animals and developed her adventurous side. Her hobbies include softball, swimming, volleyball, basketball, and taking photos. “I love making people look good. I love having a creative outlet,” she said.
Before foraying into pageantry, Michelle had already worn several caps: model, actress, host, and advocate. She earned her Psychology degree from De La Salle University.
“Acting was something that I was very interested in doing because I feel like it really brought out my creative side,” she said. She starred in television series Mga Lihim ni Urduja, Agimat ng Agila, and I Left My Heart in Sorsogon, and the movie Because I Love You, where she won the Best New Movie Actress in the 36th PMPC Star Awards for Movies.
Michelle also addressed being branded as “intimidating,” saying that it’s one of the common misconceptions about her. “I don’t know if it’s because of my features and my height, but I’m really such a softie on the inside. I like taking care of people. I am like the ate of everyone, which I am proud of. I really wish that people saw that about me. A lot of people think that maybe I have a strong facade but I do have a lot of moments in my life that I feel like a lot of people can learn from.”
“I’ve gone through a lot of struggles. I really want to be able to share that story and struggles to those who looked up to me because I feel like, through weakness, you can really find your best self and inner strengths,” she added.
Having grown up with two siblings on the autism spectrum, Michelle has also been using her platform to provide awareness for the autism community. In 2020, she was named the Goodwill Ambassador of the Autism Society of the Philippines.
“Autism awareness isn’t just an advocacy for me but a lifelong mission,” she said. “I am now living in a reality which wasn’t a dream of mine when I was younger but was born purely out of purpose and passion.”
In a separate interview, Michelle emphasized how important it is for her to have a purpose when joining pageants. “I’ve always wanted to gain a platform to do good, I’ve wanted to give attention to all the advocacies that I care about, the purposes that I feel deserve more attention.”
Michelle will be representing the Philippines in the Miss Universe 2023 pageant, in hopes of clinching the country’s fifth Miss Universe crown. – Rappler.com