The true essence of a beauty queen lies in the balance between beauty and brains, one who can navigate the Q&A round with unwavering conviction. A well-crafted answer can leave a lasting impression on the judges and even boost a contestant's score.
However, with unexpected questions, stage fright, and other unforeseen circumstances, even the most prepared contestants can stumble. While there have been triumphs, such as Miss Universe 1969 Gloria Diaz's iconic "man on the moon" remark, there have also been unforgettable moments that have turned into internet memes, such as 2008 Binibining Pilipinas World Janina San Miguel's "my pamily" answer.
But how do beauty pageant contestants know what to answer? What can they do to ace this round in the competition? We asked these pageant experts and beauty queens.
Most pageant questions cover a wide range of topics, including current events, social issues, and worldviews. Therefore, most beauty queens and pageant experts said reading and understanding global issues are essential.
Speaking to PhilSTAR L!fe, renowned pageant enthusiast Tito Norman Tinio said that reading will help a pageant contestant be ready for the Q&A round. He said that a queen should be an excellent communicator with good wisdom to boot.
"My best advice will always be to read and read and read more on all current issues. Nothing beats being well-informed. If you feel like you’ve reviewed everything there is to know, consult your elders/trusted friends for additional inputs," he told L!fe.
He continued, "Always take a deep breath before answering because this opens up your mind to the best potential answer to give. Never ever answer 'I don’t know' or 'I’m not sure what to say.'"
This also rings true for Michelle Joy Padayhag, a communication coach who mentored some of the renowned beauty titleholders including Miss Universe 2023 contestants Fabienne Nicole Groeneveld and Kate Alexeeva, from Indonesia and Latvia, respectively; Bb. Pilipinas Globe 2023 Anna Valencia Lakrini; Bb. Pilipinas Globe 2022 Chelsea Fernandez; and Miss International 2023 Third Runner-up Nicole Borromeo. She said that whatever the question is, what’s important is that they have to be ready all the time and give the right context.
"Always study, research, and stick to the facts or be accurate. There's nothing wrong with taking a stand, especially if you're well-equipped and informed. Be courageous. It's empowering and worth celebrating," she said in a chat with L!fe.
Ann Colis, who took home the first-ever Miss Globe crown for the country in 2015 and is now the co-founder of The Model Rev, would practice speaking and simulate different topics to discuss.
"My routine involves daily reading of various news sources, practicing speech delivery, and engaging in discussions on a wide range of topics. I also regularly simulate Q&A scenarios, often with unexpected questions, to improve my quick-thinking skills," the beauty queen shared to L!fe, adding that it also helps to ask for feedback.
Miss Supranational 2023 first runner-up Pauline Amelinckx does the same thing and sometimes likes to practice in front of the mirror or with a friend.
"This way you see your whole body or at least your face as you answer and this can make you mindful of your mannerisms that may be distracting when answering on stage in front of others. The next thing is challenging but if we can, start strong and finish even stronger," she said.
Trust in your team
Meanwhile, newly crowned The Miss Philippines 2023 Alethea Ambrosio, who used the Filipino language during the coronation night, believes that having the right mentor is essential for you to succeed in the Q&A round or the pageant, in general.
"It is important that you have a team who knows how to exploit your strengths and improve on your weaknesses," she said, adding that she didn't have a team to help her with Q&A during her initial foray in pageantry.
Amelinckx also said that she is "grateful" for her training sessions with her mentors from Aces and Queens. "Even if I always did consider my communication skills to be a strength, one still needs to train even their strengths to keep them sharp," Amelinckx said.
"Some mentors were lawyers, law students, and even journalists. I'm grateful for their sharing their time and skills with me in terms of Q&A. It's more than just simply answering. I've grown to appreciate Q&A as a holistic performance where factors like your tone, emotions, hand gestures, and body movement can beautifully enhance your answer in the limited time (usually 30 seconds) given," she told L!fe.
Try to relate to the question
The Q&A round is not just about answering questions correctly, it is about showing your “humanity aspect”—how you relate or empathize with it.
For Padayahag, each beauty queen has a story worth telling.
"I constantly encourage my mentees to share their stories and personal experiences for situational or personal questions. These are extremely inspiring and powerful. Every story has lessons to be learned and they are all worth telling," Padayhag said.
Ambrosio does the same thing, which for her, helps her answer in a way that is “genuine, sincere, and at times heartfelt.”
“Always relate the question from your own personal experience and express the first idea or thought that comes to [your] mind so every word that comes out of you will feel sound and genuine,” she said.
For Amelinckx, she also thinks about the audience in mind and what they can take away from her speech.
"It's usually the message behind your answer that makes it memorable and hopefully relatable too," she said. "In all your answers, you really need to know what values are close to you. These will be a core you can always go back to in answering questions."
Ultimately, the Q&A portion is also a chance where delegates can show their authentic selves. Ambrosio, who says is still in the "process of learning and developing her Q&A skills,” revealed to L!fe the reason why she opted to speak in pure Filipino, which made an impact on the judges as well as the viewers.
"I happened to speak relatively deep Filipino being from Bulacan, the home province of Francisco Balagtas, the Father of Philippine Literature."
The Bulakenya beauty queen added, "Matatas ako managalog dahil isa akong Tagalog na taga-Bulacan. Answering in pure Filipino is a way of paying homage to our own language. Having our own language means we are multilingual and smart.”
Colis for her part, says “Let your answers reflect your true self.” For her, a beauty queen must be confident—someone who believes in her “perspective and (can) communicate it confidently,” she said.