The first LGBTQ+ candidate from the Philippines competes at the 70th Miss Universe’s (MU) coronation event today, 13 December (12 December in this year’s host country, Israel).
Beatrice Luigi Gomez from San Fernando, Cebu, identifies as bisexual (lesbian in other reports) and seems to be the only out LGBTQ+ contestant in the beauty pageant, where 80 contestants compete at the Universe Dome in Eilat, South District.
“I am very grateful that the Philippines is very supportive of sending an LGBTQ member to represent our country,” she said in her introduction video posted on MU’s YouTube page. “It’s a big deal because we are here to give positivity and be an inspiration, especially to the young children who are looking up to us, that they can whoever they want to be when they grow up.”
On the other hand, Miss Cambodia, Ngin Marady, is a vocal ally of the community. “The reason I joined the platform is to stop discrimination against the LGBTQ community in Cambodian society,” she said in her introduction video. “And I want them to remember that you are unique, you are perfect, you are enough and you are okay because you are the master of your own mind. Be proud to be who you are.”
Gomez revealed in the same video that she was raised by a single mother, “and she had quite a hard time managing our household.”
“My sister and I tried out for the volleyball varsity team, and we were able to get an athletics scholarship and that’s how we were able to go to a good school from high school to college,” she said. “Being a part of the volleyball varsity team is not just something that I take as an achievement, but it is something that really changed my life for the better, because I was able to help my mom in some way and I was able to make her proud.”
The 26-year old Mass Communication student of University of San Jose–Recoletos shared that she is working as a community development worker in her home province, an athlete and a reservist of the Philippine Navy. She wants to become a life coach and advocates youth empowerment focusing on helping children in conflict with the law, as revealed during the preliminary competitions on 10 December.
Preliminary events included gown, swimwear and national costume competitions. For the gown competition, Gomez wore an off-shoulder, asymmetrical dress by fashion designer Francis Libiran.
“Bold and feisty. The color red has always been a symbol of bravery and courage, especially for the Filipino,” Libiran described the gown in his Instagram account (@francislibiran8). “This bejeweled gown… seamlessly evokes the mysterious allure of our own Miss Universe Philippines Beatrice Luigi Gomez (@beatriceluigigmz). Intricately embellished with fine embroidery and beadwork, the dress symbolizes the country’s optimism and fighting spirit.”
Red was also the color of the swimwear from Gottex Swimwear she wore during the competition.
Gomez’s national costume caught the attention of many pageant fans. Designed by Alex Que with handcrafted metal headpiece depicting the moon and accessories by Manny Halasan, it is inspired by the bakunawa, a dragon-like creature in the Cebuano, Hiligaynon and Bikolano myths. Lunar eclipse was explained to be a bakunawa swallowing the moon.
“She continues this narrative by taking it the Bakunawa in its final form: The Golden Lunar Dragon,” explained the Miss Universe Philippines organization in its Facebook page. “This is a metaphor for Bea’s growth and personal evolution.”
“The beautiful transitions and different faces of the moon is captured in this folklore-inspired headpiece. The charismatic hand accessories complementing to the masterfully curated and vivid imagination brought-to-life National Costume of the rich story of the goddess, Bakunawa,” Halasan posted in his Instagram account (@manny.halasan).
Other notable national costumes included that of Miss France Clemence Botino, which honored the late American-French entertainer and activist and LGBTQ+ icon Josephine Baker, who was Black and bisexual.
Many pageant observers hope that Gomez will make it to a top spot during the finals.
Gomez is the latest in the line of several openly LGBTQ+ contestants who blazed the trail in Miss Universe in recent years, providing representation and visibility for the marginalized community.
In 2018, Angela Ponce of Spain became the first openly transgender contestant, while Miss Myanmar Swe Zin Htet became the first openly lesbian candidate, coming out during the competition.
Miss Uruguay Lola de los Santos Biccò is proud bisexual woman who competed at the 69th Miss Universe on 16 May 2021.
Gomez started making pageant history when she won the Binibining Cebu 2019-2020 title on 13 January 2020, where she revealed that she is lesbian or bisexual and has been in a happy relationship with another woman. She became the first out LGBTQ+ contestant to win in a local pageant. As she advanced to the Miss Universe Philippines pageant, she became the second openly LGBTQ+ contestant, after bisexual Billie Hakenson, who became MUP 2020 fourth runner-up, and the first openly LGBTQ+ winner.