The Miss Universe pageant has been breaking barriers in recent years by crowning members of the LGBTQ+ community the much-coveted title.
One such queen is the Philippines' own Michelle Dee, who recently came out as bisexual in May this year. She is set to represent the country at the Miss Universe 2023 competition in El Salvador.
Some are now wondering on whether being a member of the LGBTQ+ community is an advantage or disadvantage when competing in the prestigious pageant.
Setting the record straight in a video published by Empire Philippines, Dee said, "I don't think it's either. I think it's really just, when you arrive at Miss Universe, you want to make sure that you are as authentic as possible.
"As long as you stay authentic to your story, as long as you're not adding, deleting, or hiding anything, then that would be your biggest advantage. I don't think it's your sexuality. I don't believe that you should be defined by how you identify yourself. It's really all about authentically shining throughout your competition." she added.
Dee came out just days after she was announced as Miss Universe Philippines 2023 during the May 13 coronation night at Pasay's Mall of Asia Arena.
She explained in an interview with Vogue Philippines that she decided to reveal her true self after the competition was done as she didn't want to "use it for marketing, clout, or attention."
"To come out at that time, I felt, would have distracted my main mission because there’s so much about myself that I can show to the universe and not use my sexuality just to define me," she said.
Dee is not the first LGBTQ+ member to be crowned, however. That title belongs to Miss Universe Philippines 2021 Beatrice Luigi Gomez, who identifies as a lesbian.
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When it comes to following the success of previous pageant winners who crossed from different pageants, Dee shared that she is feeling more hopeful about herself rather than feeling pressured.
"I guess I'm full of hope and that it's possible to actually win the Miss Universe crown even after competing in a different pageant before," Dee said, referring to how she was previously Miss World aspirant.
"I think if anything, the only advantage is that I have international experience before so I know what to expect, but of course, Miss Universe is a different ball game, it's a different animal," she added.
There's pressure on all corners, but will Dee let that pressure affect her?
"If there's one thing you should know about me, I am most graceful under pressure. I actually like the pressure. I've had pressure all my life," she highlighted.
The Miss Universe 2023 pageant will be held on Nov. 18 this year.