Twenty-one-year-old student Sherenade Anne Gonzales blazes the trail as the first out LGBTQ+ candidate of Miss World Philippines. She is the second LGBTQ+ candidate to compete openly in a national beauty contest, sharing the stage with Beatrice Luigi Gomez from Cebu City, who is currently competing in the Miss Universe Philippine (MUP) pageant which will hold its coronation night on 25 September. MUP 2020 fourth runner-up Billie Hakenson is the first out bisexual and LGBTQ+ to compete in a national pageant.
In her introduction video, Gonzales said, “I am currently taking up Bachelor of Science in Business Administration at Bulacan State University main campus. I am also a university council senator and an active advocate of human rights and gender equality. One interesting fact about me is I love eating mangoes with ketchup.”
Hailing from San Rafael, Bulacan, the proud, bisexual woman is the reigning Festival Queen of Youth of the Festival King and Queen of San Rafael 2019, an event of her hometown’s Angel Festival.
Aside from being a student leader, she is also a member of Bulsu Bahaghari, the official LGBTQ+ student organization of the Bulacan State University (Bulsu), who sees national pageants as a bigger platform for her advocacies.
On 30 June, Gonzales posted a message on her Facebook page to celebrate LGBTQ+ Pride Month and to motivate LGBTQ+ people to “[b]e proud and be visible.”
“My wish for the end of 2021’s Pride is that may we be ready to accept, not just tolerate, people as who they are; no matter how they look like, no matter how they represent themselves, and no matter how they express themselves,” she said. “For you, who’s still in the closet. You are valid. We are all valid. We will shine in our own time and readiness. Also, may this serve as a reminder to everyone that each of us has our own time and phase. We should not out others if they are not ready yet.”
She further wrote: “We should all be equal and as someone who’s living in the present, we should work hard so that the future generation will have a safe space to be whoever they are.
“The fight for equality is still a long way to go, but I know for sure that it will only be a matter of time to victory.”
Gonzales reiterated her causes in a Facebook post on 3 September, accompanied by pictures of her in a multi-colored dress.
“Throughout my campaign, what’s pushing me forward is my advocacy. And that one day soon, all of us…, no matter what our color, no matter what race, and no matter what our gender is; equal opportunities will be served at all of our tables and we will all be dreaming equal dreams,” she wrote.
Gonzales will compete with 44 other candidates in the Miss World Philippines coronation night on 19 September at the SMX Olongapo City Convention Center in Olongapo City, after several postponements. The country’s representatives will be chosen for international beauty pageants Miss World, Reina Hispanoamericana, Miss Eco Philippines, Miss Eco Teen Philippines, Miss Philippines Tourism, and Miss Environment International Philippines.