Filipino American Chelsea Manalo Becomes the First Black Woman Crowned Miss Universe Philippines

Chelsea Manalo, a 24-year-old with a Filipino mother and African American father, made history in 2024 as the first Black woman to be crowned Miss Universe Philippines. Her victory, celebrated widely on social media, is seen as a significant step towards redefining beauty standards in the country.

Representing Bulacan, a province north of Manila, Manalo emerged victorious over 52 other contestants from various parts of the archipelago and overseas. The competition, held at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay, saw Manalo rise to the top five finalists, where she was asked how she would use her beauty and confidence to empower others. “As a woman of color, I have always faced challenges in my life. I was told that beauty has standards, actually,” she responded. Manalo emphasized the importance of self-belief, instilled in her by her mother, and the courage to uphold one’s values.

Her triumph is part of a broader conversation about diversifying beauty standards in the Philippines, a nation where Western ideals have long dominated due to its colonial history. Lighter-skinned actors and models frequently dominate TV shows, movies, and fashion campaigns, and skin lightening treatments and products are common. Manalo’s win disrupts these norms, offering a new narrative about beauty that is more inclusive and representative of the country’s diversity.

Manalo, who began her modeling career at 14, has spoken openly about her insecurities growing up. In a YouTube video on Empire Philippines, she shared her experiences of being bullied for her skin color and hair type. “I grew up having insecurities as I was always bullied because of my skin and my hair type,” she said, expressing gratitude to her friends and family who helped her embrace her unique beauty.

Looking ahead, Manalo will represent the Philippines in the Miss Universe pageant in Mexico this September, aiming to secure the country’s fifth title. She follows in the footsteps of previous Filipino Miss Universe winners Gloria Diaz (1969), Margie Moran (1973), Pia Wurtzbach (2015), and Catriona Gray (2018). Her journey not only aspires to earn another crown for the Philippines but also to continue advocating for a broader, more inclusive definition of beauty on the global stage.

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