Lifestyle Asia


It’s 8:00 AM and I’m nervous. I’m sitting in the hotel lobby in one of the country’s central business district’s hotels, waiting for a very important phone call. When the phone rings, I’m paralyzed; I can’t breathe. It’s Esther Swan, talent manager of the Miss Universe organization, telling me that she and Ms. Universe Catriona Gray (and her bodyguard) are ready to come down to the lobby.

When I volunteered at the office to let my car be used as the pick-up, it hadn’t occurred to me that I would also have to be making conversation. I was only prepared for the interview; suddenly I was going to be face to face with a person who feels like the most famous woman in the world. After all, the Miss Universe competition for Filipinos is like our bread and butter. Each year, rain or shine or disastrous political consequences, we watch with breathless anticipation, hoping our bet makes it and is crowned by that iconic Mikimoto headpiece. I had thought myself immune to it but faced with the prospect of meeting Catriona, all normal thinking flew out the window.

When she appeared at the hotel entrance, she greeted me warmly. Dressed simply in an orange hoodie with her hair up in a ponytail, she was fresh-faced, radiant, relaxed, and ready to get on with the day. In the car, on the way to the shoot, she and Esther made small talk, laughing when they noticed her picture on an advertising hoarding. The sound of her laughter was

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