Chelsea Manalo reveals how she almost quit before winning Miss Universe Philippines 2024

Charmie Joy Pagulong - The Philippine Star
Chelsea Manalo reveals how she almost quit before winning Miss Universe Philippines 2024
Newly crowned Miss Universe Philippines 2024 Chelsea Anne Manalo is grateful to everyone who supported her pageant journey. All the struggles that she went through to earn the title have paid off as she becomes the first black Filipino-American beauty to represent the country at the prestigious international pageant, the 73rd edition of which will be held later this year.
Photo from MUPH Facebook page

MANILA, Philippines — Newly crowned Miss Universe Philippines 2024 Chelsea Anne Manalo revealed that she almost quit the pageant due to financial issues.

Fresh from the coronation night that took place on May 22 at the SM Mall of Asia Arena, she was calm and composed when she answered questions from the media at her first presscon last Friday at the Belmont Hotel Manila, Pasay City.

“What happened was because I really had financial issues,” explained Chelsea on why she almost gave up during the competition. “I think most of the girls actually had that problem as well. But as for me kasi, I joined here as an independent woman.

“Everything that I had to go through in the pageant, I laid it out on myself. I told my mom and my dad, I wanna join this season of Miss Universe Philippines. So they really did support me. Because of this, I had to also risk quitting my job.

“Because of that, the only income I had was just some… a couple of amounts. So, there were some issues about (finances) and also some things that were happening behind my team. It really did put me at my most (difficult situation) that I was about to quit. But thank God, there are people who supported me to continue and pushed me to continue further.”

The model from Bulacan said that she received tremendous help from Bulacan Governor Daniel Fernando and Vice Governor Alex Castro for her Miss Universe Philippines journey. She said, “They have helped me so much when it comes to the financial (aspect). It’s no joke or I would like to say that I think for all of the ladies, for months, it’s really scary and it’s a really long battle for all of us to fight.

“You don’t know where resources will come. Because everyone had to risk something and this is what happened to me. But because of the support that I’ve been getting, it made me continue and now I’m here.”

Chelsea was raised in Meycauayan City, Bulacan by her mother and stepfather after her American biological dad passed away.

She is a tourism graduate who advocates for youth empowerment with a focus on children’s education, especially among indigenous communities.

Her first national pageant was Miss World Philippines 2017 where she placed among the Top 15. She was 17 at that time.

“I wanted to join a pageant so that I could really experience what it was like. I was a dreamer of beauty pageants… I love seeing beauty queens as well,” shared the 24-year-old beauty queen.

“This has inspired me to become like one. And because of that, I always uphold values that my parents have told me. And I want to be that woman of representation as well.”

Now that she is Miss Universe Philippines, she hopes to become an inspiration to all women. “To every woman of color and every woman, you know, any woman who was here to support me, I just wanna tell them — to believe in yourself. If you really love pageantry, if you have a dream, then go for it. Take risks. It’s not too late for you to try out.”

She said that Miss Universe Philippines has now dropped a lot of restrictions, making it possible for more women to join.

“There are married women here, there are mothers, there are also under the age of 18 because they have dreams. Anyone can really get to it. I started young. I had a dream for it. And now I’m here as Miss Universe Philippines.”

Recalling the moments before she was crowned the winner, Chelsea said she prayed hard to get the Miss Universe Philippines title.

“When they called me for the Top 20, I remember I was the second to the last that was called,” recounted Chelsea. “I was feeling nervous already. I was standing there and talking to myself, ‘When are they gonna call Bulacan? Why is it taking so long?’

“But when they actually called (my name), I said to myself, ‘OK, finally, I’m a step forward.’ And then I said, ‘Maybe I can go to Top 10 lang kasi Top 10, I’m OK na.’

“But I still stepped up. I strutted my way to the swimsuit competition. And then after calling me to the Top 5, I said it’s the crown or nothing. So it was really destined for me, I guess. I prayed so hard and to the people who supported me, thank you.”

All the struggles that Chelsea went through paid off as she became the first black Filipino-American beauty to represent the country at the 73rd Miss Universe pageant in Mexico to be held later this year.

Meanwhile, here are excerpts from the presscon where Chelsea talked about how her parents supported her pageant journey, how ready she is for the upcoming international pageant, and how she “balanced” her crown.

It was an emotional moment for you and your parents after your win, especially your mom who was seen crying in the video circulating online. Can you share the conversation you had with your parents?

“I just told my mom to — I kept telling her to not cry because I already have it. I’m your Miss Universe (Philippines) now, you should be crying tears of joy. She kept on crying. Actually, she was crying before preliminaries pa lang.

“She didn’t actually want to watch the show. Sabi niya baka mahimatay daw siya ‘pag manood pa siya ng coronation because she was already trembling before the preliminaries. When I already had the crown and the sash, I actually wanted to say that I wanted to see my parents already.

“But to be honest, my mom took a while to come to the stage because she couldn’t walk. She was feeling so (overwhelmed) because of the emotions that she (was) having. So yeah, I love my parents so much. Thank you, mom and dad.”

Your mother mentioned that you were bullied when you were younger because of your hair and skin color. How did you deal with it?

“I was bullied talaga when I was a little girl and it doesn’t stop, you know. Somehow, we will get to face those challenges even at our age right now. But I’ve always believed in myself because of what my parents have told me. And because of the friends that I have been with. They build up my confidence.

“And to the younger women who actually want to be a Miss Universe Philippines, too, I hope that I can already be a reflection of you. That even if there are challenges that come your way, when people will tell you that you can’t dream to be a Miss Universe Philippines, just go for it. You can always take risks, there’s nothing to lose, at least you grow from it. These challenges are just stepping stones for your greatness.”

How did you balance the crown after Miss Universe Philippines 2023 Michelle Dee (wrongly) put it on your head during your crowning moment?

“The crown has a little bit of weight. So when Michelle really put it on my head, during the crowning moment, it was the photo shot, the winning photo already, so I didn’t feel like it was gonna fall because it was really on my head.

“So, I thought it’s gonna be okay, until I turned on the side and it kinda slipped. Then Miss Michelle Dee just fixed it. It was only a matter of a minute, inayos din naman niya so don’t worry about it, guys.

“Oo na-balance ko siya. So I think that’s already enough to say that it is what makes a queen, you know, you have to balance it.”

Who’s the beauty queen that you look up to?

“Pia Wurtzbach. She is really the kind of woman that I really look up to. She joined a couple of times because she really had that dream to never back down from it. And that is what I aspire to be, that no matter where I go in my life, I would still like to chase after that dream. And because of that, it made me get the crown for Miss Universe Philippines.”

There are those who celebrated with you on your victory and there are those who have negative opinions about the win. What can you say to those people who have negative opinions about it or who doubted you?

“I really don’t want to focus on anything negative at the moment, especially the comments. As I have said, when I won the Miss Universe Philippines crown and sash, I looked to my parents and listened to them, and those people who are close to me because (they are the ones who matter) the most.

“I know that with these negative comments, they can just bring people down. But it will never shake me down, you know. It will never take my crown down. I will always lift my head up. So, I hope that instead of saying anything negative, just uplift the candidates, uplift those who are really, you know, deserving, and I hope that this can continue until I get to Mexico.”

Are you ready for Mexico?

“Yes, very much. Viva Mexico!”

Why should you be crowned as the fifth Filipina Miss Universe (after Gloria Diaz, 1969; Margarita Moran, 1973; Pia, 2015; and Catriona Gray, 2018)?

"I should be the next Miss Universe and be able to get the fifth crown because I am a woman who does not just wear a crown and a sash. It’s more than that. It’s an honor to give to the people.

"I am more than a reflection of a woman who is very humble, having humble beginnings. And it's a sash that is really close to my heart because it reminds me of who I am, of the Philippines, of who we are and this will only (inspire) me to be more radiant. Because I am (not only) a woman of color, but I’m also a transformational woman that can really represent who we are as Filipinos."

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