Nicole Cordoves isn't afraid of taking risks
The beauty queen turned mentor is never one to turn down new opportunities
BY Alexa Villano
Nicole Cordoves isn't afraid of taking risks
The first time I met Nicole Cordoves, she was a candidate for Binibining Pilipinas in 2016. I interviewed her and was immediately impressed by the way she spoke. She went on to win the Bb Pilipinas Grand International 2016 crown and eventually placed 1st runner-up at the Miss Grand International pageant held in Las Vegas, USA.
Five years later, I sat across Nicole at the Cornerstone Entertainment office on a Friday afternoon. When I told her about the theme of the story – one's "life peg" — she smiled.
“I get it a lot, in a sense na that it’s very fulfilling because as a beauty queen you always strive to be this role model,” she said. “So for people to actually say that to you na naging life peg ka not because you are beautiful, you’re sexy, but because of what you are doing with your life, the choices that you made and that’s the most fulfilling compliment I can ever have because it’s not superficial at all.”
Filipino-Chinese roots, pageant life
While Nicole is out there as a beauty queen and judge on It's Showtime’s Miss Q and A segment, a lot of people still get surprised when they learn about her background.
“People still get shocked that not only am I Chinese, but I can speak Mandarin and Fookien fluently. Because there are a lot of families that are more Chinese than us pero they can’t really speak anymore or [are] not familiar with the culture anymore.”
That video, which features her grandmother (Ama), gave followers a glimpse of her family background.
Before Bb Pilipinas, Nicole joined the Miss Chinatown 2014 competition and won. She only joined the contest after her grandmother's prodding.
After Miss Chinatown, she decided to give the national competition a try. While other girls would have trained for a year, Nicole was confident enough to compete in 2016.
“No doubt at all that I can do it because siguro ang lakas lang ng tiwala ko sa sarili ko. I grew up with this work ethic na as long as you give it your all, you can get what you want and naniniwala talaga ako na hard work always pays off.”
(No doubt at all that I can do it because I strongly believed I can do it. I grew up with this work ethic that as long as you give it your all, you can get what you want, and I believe that hard work always pays off.)
“You never lose because you always learn from something and I feel like failure has always been my greatest teacher in life.”
She admits she’s more nervous when she doesn't fail – only because she feels she’s not growing. “Siguro the aura that you emit like you’re just ready for anything that comes your way, you’re ready at whatever fate you have and building that up leads to fearlessness. And pageants bring out the trait in girls — the fearlessness of the fear of the unknown, the fear of risking everything so that’s why I fell in love with pageants really apart from the advocacy and the speaking platform.”
Post pageant life
Before It’s Showtime came along, Nicole, like other past beauty queens, wondered what would happen after pageant life. Before joining Binibini, Nicole tried her luck in the corporate world and worked as a speech writer for former finance secretary Cesar Purisima.
“There was a lot of lull in my life that I wasn’t used to at all because you just get used to studying and studying and then suddenly you are at the part of your life na when for other people it would automatically go to a job and then go to their next job and once you get thrown into this big stage, you know you just can’t get a job. You really need to find your passion and you need to find your best self in that job,” she said.
“So you can’t just keep skipping from one job to another because you already parang when you join pageants, it’s impossible to win without being able to clearly find yourself and not know who you are. It’s impossible because of all the challenges that are thrown at you. There will be times in your life na I feel I struggled with the most na talagang walang nangyayari (nothing was happening). But it’s either opportunity comes to you or you tear down that wall and build your own door and not wait for a door or a window to open.
She was offered to work as a correspondent for Manila Bulletin and later worked as an online editor for a wedding magazine. It was during that time that the offer from It's Showtime came. She immediately grabbed it.
Both her answers in the Q and A portions of Bb Pilipinas and Miss Grand International were controversial, and she received criticism for it. But Nicole said working on It's Showtime has opened her to push the boundaries further when expressing herself.
“In pageantry kasi feeling ko we’re so expected to stay in the mold, stay in the template, stay politically correct. But when I got out of pageantry, and into Showtime, people yearn for out of the box ideas and they welcome unfamiliar ideologies. And I feel I was free and the more I became outspoken I am, the more they would appreciate what I say.”
Nicole finally decided to make a career switch. Before quitting her job, Nicole consulted a tarot card reader to know if she was making the right decision. “I consulted her na... should I go back to corporate and she told me: you know, what I see you’re going to be successful with hosting."
“Pero what she said was although you have to give yourself to this 100% for this one thing to make sure that it works which is oo nga nagkaroon ako ng (yes I had some) commitment issues before. I do need to give this to myself more so I think it was time to get my master’s degree and I really need [it] like in YouTube. I’m building my clout, I’m building my brand, so everything now is directed towards me hosting, doing mentoring in pageantry.”
These days, Nicole’s gift of gab is put to good use. Aside from hosting, she's mentor to many aspiring beauty queens and public speakers. She's since gone back to school for a master’s degree in Speech Communications at the University of the Philippines Diliman.
“Ako talagang ginapang ko talaga ito (I really had to work hard ) to get opportunities but I want to be more credible. I don’t want just to be that girl on TV who hosted Bb Pilipinas or who hosted the New year countdown of ABS-CBN or who mentored Catriona Gray. I want to have the technical knowhow as well because one thing about me that really that has been an anchor in my life is, I don’t want to be half-baked in anything that I do."
“In this world of social media where it’s easily to claim everything, I want to be able to really speak for it and back it up.”
The modern Filipina
In pageantry, women empowerment has become a major theme. Nicole agrees and says beauty queens get more respect from society, unlike in the past.
“They are more accepting of pageant queens in fact they welcome it. Before it was frowned upon and that was my reservation when I was pushed by my Ama to join Miss Chinatown. Ako kasi, I grew up hearing these stories na ang daming politicians na nakaabang and nagkaroon ng stereotype for a time na these girls will go off with powerful men and they would make a life for themselves which is the total opposite now."
(I grew up hearing these stories that many politicians would be on the prowl and there was a stereotype that these girls would go off with powerful men and they would make a life for themselves – which is the total opposite now.)
“There’s a huge contribution of Madame Stella [Araneta] being the institution that Binibini that is now. There’s so much respect the way she has protected us girls, the way she has taught us how to be a Binibini. I feel like it has evolved from year to year until that stereotype was dashed.
“Now I think people are more on guard about it, that it doesn’t become retroactive, that it doesn’t happen again. Because we always have to be vigilant. Pageants are an ode to women; we have to make sure that people won’t use us for bad intentions. That things won’t go back to the way it was because we’ve made progress, finding what the modern Filipina is.”
She said candidates who join in competitions are not just pretty faces – they enter the contest with already established careers.
“They’re lawyers, they’re dentists, they are doctors, they’re Olympians.”
True to form, Nicole had at least one more goal in mind: “I still have this dream of writing my own book on Public Speaking and other aspects of life because I feel like people seek me out for these topics talaga.”
She added: "I feel like there are days I will think na after my master’s maybe I can explore... like becoming a lawyer, like going to law school. I don’t want to be one thing in this world. You can have all these lifetimes and be a parlorista (beautician) in one life and be a judge in another life. I just don’t want to limit myself in that way. Kasi madami sa atin na (A lot of us) we grew up na it’s a luxury for you to want to do all these things but who knows what I will come up with. I’m excited for that part of me to pop out and that normally happens during frustration. Pero s’yempre (But of course) you still have to streamline it. It still has to make sense.”
Nicole Cordoves’ journey is proof that with hard work, determination, and a fighting spirit, nothing is impossible. From a beauty queen, Nicole is now a mentor, sharing and spreading the gift of gab that helped her snag that crown and made her the woman she is today – confident and witty. – Rappler.com