If you’re an avid fan of beauty pageants, and perhaps even hope to become a beauty queen someday, you’ve probably noticed how the beauty pageant industry has changed over the years. From the way contestants present themselves throughout the competition to the way they wave to the audience, we think we can all agree that beauty pageants are no longer what they used to be.
Miss Universe 1993 Evening Gown Portion. Video from Miss Universe Official YouTube Channel.
Take the Miss Universe pageant for example. According to Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray’s runway coach Carlos Buendia Jr. (or Kuya Caloy, as his friends would call him), whom we got to interview after his two-day farewell masterclass, back in the 1990s, contestants appeared so “royal” on stage — now, he says they look more “real.”
Real in the sense that contestants no longer smile and wave because it’s what they’re supposed to do as pageant candidates on a stage — now, they smile and wave because they’re just naturally reacting to the environment they are in, which is a big stadium full of supporters.
Announcement of Miss Universe 2015 Final Three. Video from Tau Skylarks YouTube Channel.
Carlos was the one who helped Catriona create her signature Lava Walk and slow-mo turn. And during his farewell masterclass, we got to see his creative process in action, as well as the kind of training Catriona did with him for two years.
When asked about the changes in the pageant industry and where he thinks it’s headed, Carlos said that today, it is now a matter of “knowing who you are.”
“I think pageantry right now is going in the direction of self-reflection rather than showing what’s expected from you.”
“Nandoon na siya sa direction na, you really showcase what you have as a person.”
Montage of Binibining Pilipinas over the course of 50 years. Video from ANC Official YouTube Channel.
Knowing yourself is one of the key points that Carlos teaches. And it is not just knowing yourself internally, but also knowing yourself in all aspects, which includes your anatomy and cultural background.
According to Carlos, if you are a beauty pageant aspirant, knowing yourself, your heritage, and how you were fashioned anatomically will help you showcase better why you or your country should be the winning choice.
Another aspect of “knowing yourself” that Carlos is big on is knowing what you can bring to the competition as a contestant and what you will ultimately bring to the people of the world should you win the crown.
If you tuned in to the Miss Universe competition in 2018, all of these points are exactly what Catriona exemplified. You also heard it in her answer during the Q&A portion when she shared how charity work has taught her to be grateful and how she plans to integrate that in the work she will do if she were to be crowned Miss U.
Catriona Gray’s Miss Universe 2018 answer with insertion of her advocacy. Video from KC Casin YouTube Channel.
When asked about his experience training Catriona, Carlos said that one of the reasons why he appreciated working with the beauty queen is the fact that she is also an artist who understands the purpose and power of art.
Carlos hails from Angono, Rizal, the art capital of the Philippines. As an artist himself who realized the therapeutic power of the arts when he came to Manila, Carlos and Catriona found common ground which allowed them to work with each other harmoniously.
“My journey with a girl who fully understands the purpose of arts, you know, to heal people and to send that message that ‘hey we have something therapeutic here’ and that we have something that can send that message that our culture is so rich… For a girl to understand that, that means a lot. Meaning, everything that I say will mean a lot to her also. Because if a girl doesn’t appreciate culture, it will make life harder for me.”
Catriona Gray’s return to the Miss Universe stage and her message to the 2019 candidates. Video from ABS-CBN Official YouTube Channel.
Carlos believes that there is more to pageantry than just looking glamorous and executing the perfect walk. For him, pageantry can be a means to serve the greater good — that combined with Catriona’s genuine heart for charity work — indeed, their partnership was a match-made-in-heaven.
When Catriona’s Miss U stint ended, her supporters voiced on Twitter how she was quite possibly the best Miss Universe our country has ever had.
We think it’s safe to say that it’s because Catriona is the epitome of what Carlos is talking about. She didn’t just join Miss Universe to look pretty on stage and take home a title — she joined the competition so she could widen her reach as a charity worker and show the world the beauty of our nation. She showed the world who she was even before she won the Miss U title and that is why her character spoke to us in ways that made us feel just how “real” she truly is.
Carlos says that the pageant industry is still in the process of transition. If all current and succeeding pageant titleholders continue to embody the example that Catriona Gray demonstrated, we’d say the industry only has brighter days ahead of it.