By BṺM TENORIO JR., The Philippine STAR Published Jan 13, 2023 7:36 pm

A beautiful woman is born. A beauty queen is created. What genetic composition is to a beautiful woman’s advantage, a fortified spadework is to a beauty queen’s fate in bagging the crown.  

God—omniscient and omnipotent—creates beautiful women. Queenmakers—calculating and exacting—make beauty queens.

In a country like the Philippines where beauty pageants are considered a “holy sport,” akin to the Filipinos’ love for basketball, a beauty queen is celebrated with revelry and reverence. Like basketball players who belong to a basketball team, beauty queens—or those who desire to be don a crown--also belong to a beauty camp that affords beauty pageant contestants training and coaching.  

Celebrated and formidable beauty camps in the Philippines are Aces & Queens, formed in 2000 (then headed by Jonas Gaffud before Gerry Diaz took over after the former became the creative director of Miss Universe Philippines in 2019); and Kagandahang Flores, born in 1995 (whose head mentor is Rodgil Flores).  

Aces and Queens has produced these beauty queens: Miss World 2013 Megan Young, Miss Universe 2015 Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach and Miss International 2016 Kylie Verzosa.  

Under the tutelage of Kagandahang Flores are Miss International 2005 Precious Lara Quigaman, Miss International 2013 Bea Rose Santiago, Miss Earth 2008 Karla Henry, Miss Earth 2014 Jamie Herrell, Miss Earth 2015 Angelia Ong and Miss Earth 2017 Karen Ibasco. (Foreign candidates who underwent Rodgil’s coaching were Miss International 2017 Kevin Lilliana of Indonesia and Miss Earth 2018 Nguyen Phuong Khanh of Vietnam.) 

Kagandahang Flores' Miss Earth 2017 Karen Ibasco, Miss International 2005 Precious Lara Quigaman, and Miss Earth 2008 Karla Henry

A few, like Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray and Celeste Cortesi who will compete on Sunday, Jan. 15 (Jan. 14 in the US) for the Miss Universe crown, came from independent camps. But their roots can also be traced from the two most formidable queenmakers in the country.  

“Catriona, when she became First Princess at Miss World 2016 was under Aces and Queens,” says Gerry Diaz. Gerry, a CPA who graduated magna cum laude from the University of the East, is a retired senior vice president for BDO. He remains to be a consultant for the bank.

“Celeste began with us when she was new here, fresh from Italy” says Rodgil Flores, a licensed chemical engineer from the De La Salle University who used to work for a Japanese glass manufacturing company in the Philippines. 

Rodgil’s cousin and co-founder of Kagandahang Flores, Gio Flores, says, “Celeste was still a greenhorn then. Hindi pa marunong mag-English. Hindi rin nakakaintindi ng Tagalog. We sent her to the best speech trainers (Catriona’s team) kaya natuto at gumaling."

Miss Universe Philippines 2022 Celeste Cortesi

Gerry, a relative of Gloria Diaz, the country’s first Miss Universe in 1969, adds that Celeste proves that Miss Universe-Philippines is not biased because Celeste won the title even if Jonas Gaffud, former stalwart of Aces and Queens, is now a formidable part of the MUPH organization.  

“We leave the selection of Miss Universe Philippines to the judges. We trust in their fairness, their eye for beauty, and their good sense to choose the best representative for the Philippines in the world’s most prestigious pageant,” say Jonas. (He finished a degree in Geography from the University of the Philippines.) 

What does it take to be a beauty queen? 

“Physical features alone will not make you a beauty queen,” says Gerry. 

“You start with your God-given beauty, features. But that’s not all. That’s not all,” says Rodgil.

More than the beauty and brains, a Miss Philippines should have that aura of power—when she enters the room, you know she’s Miss Universe, To be a beauty queen is a combination of innate qualities and qualities honed by training.

Gerry says a beautiful face with a beautiful figure and a height of 5’5” to join a beauty tilt but 5’6” to win is a good start.

Rodgil adds that gone are the days when we considered that you should be 5’7” to be confident to make it.” He adds, “For 27 years, I have seen the trend. Before, they (would) go for really tall girls. Times have changed. Pageants have become more inclusive. Now with the demands of pageantry, you don’t stop there. It’s not just the looks.” 

“Nowadays, a Miss Philippines is eagerly awaited and watched for her every move in pageants. More than the beauty and brains, a Miss Philippines should have that aura of power—when she enters the room, you know she’s Miss Universe,” says Jonas. 

Miss universe 2018 Catriona Gray

“To be a beauty queen is a combination of innate qualities and qualities honed by training. She must also have the heart and determination for it,” he adds.

How does a queenmaker discern if a beautiful lady has the qualities needed to become a queen? 

“The physical features are not enough. Thank God He made you beautiful but are you also beautiful, strong inside? Personality is very important,” says Gerry, who was one of the three council of advisers for Aces and Queens before he became its head. He is in charge, then and now for the camp, of personality development.

“Personality should not be bland. If bland, we can convert that. We address their psychological or emotional issues. I discuss self-worth and self-confidence with them,” adds Gerry.

Nowadays, it’s really a lot of work to make a beauty queen. So if you ask me, it’s more of being made or created rather than born.

He says, “It's not enough that you’re beautiful. You should also have a vibrant personality. Dapat ma-excite ako kapag kausap kita. Dapat graciosa ka kasi kung hindi, kung kukunin kitang endorser, hindi ka bebenta. You should be relatable. Hindi ka dapat elitista. Hindi pa alta-alta.

“May mga top favorites na sosyal, na parang mahihiya kang magpa-selfie. Hindi uubra ‘yon. Some of our girls were born and raised abroad but they are reachable. They speak French, Spanish and other languages but they are reachable, relatable. 

“Kung promdi ka, ‘wag kang ma-insecure sa iba. ‘Wag mong isipin na mas magaling silang mag-English kaysa sa iyo. That’s our job. We are confidence builders.  

“To win a title, you have to have a winning mindset. Kung sa umpisa pa lang tingin mo wala kang chance, talo ka na!” Gerry points out, adding a “beauty queen material knows how to handle herself in social events, someone who knows how to keep the conversation interesting, someone ready with an ice breaker.”

Gerry subscribes to this formula to make a queen: beauty of face, figure and height; personality that is glowing, engaging and exciting; and teeth that smile, eyes that sparkle and face that glows. (“Think of Miriam Quiambao, Miss Universe 1999 first runner up, from an independent camp,” he says.) 

‘It takes a village to raise a queen’ 

Kagandahang Flores and Aces and Queens have a set of formidable people doing different jobs to ensure the winnability of a contestant in a beauty tilt.

“Our training is like a car assembly hub,” says Gerry.

“Ours is like a village. It takes a village to raise a queen,” says Rodgil. 

Both camps have people attending to the girls’ personality development, styling, fitness training, nutrition and diet, pasarela (style of catwalk), press and social media engagement, Q&A aptitude and posing and modeling.  

Aces and Queens training for Class 2023

Aces and Queens training for Class 2023


“As they say, it takes a village to raise a queen. Are beauty queens made or born? Ganito lang yan, beauty queens are made if you are blessed to have the genes. You’re beautiful, you’re tall and everything. But that’s not all. You need to have a well-rounded personality. You bring you’re A-game on stage. Meaning your presentation skills are above or even excellent. And of course, even off-stage you have that star factor. You have people skills,” says Rodgil. 

The ones devoted to their training are the ones who really succeed. Dinadaig ng sipag ang ganda,

He adds, “Nowadays, it’s really a lot of work to make a beauty queen. So if you ask me, it’s more of being made or created rather than born. Going back, you’re very fortunate if you have the genes, if you are born a queen by what you inherited. But then again, nowadays, nothing is impossible with the enhancements.”

His cousin Gio, a US-trained makeup artist, is handling the aesthetic part of the training for Kagandahang Flores. Rodgil defines “aesthetic department” as the division that attends to grooming for hair and makeup, the need to wear hair extension, how to part the hair, clothes styling and body enhancements.

“And the most enhanced part of a beauty queen’s body are her teeth because of the veneer. We pioneered veneers for the girls in the Philippines,” Rodgil said.  

Kagandahang Flores training camp

Rodgil Flores with Miss Universe Philippines 2019 Gazini Ganados, Miss Guam, Miss Cambodia, Miss Belgium, Miss El Salvador

Kagandahang Flores training camp

Rodgil Flores with Miss Universe Philippines 2019 Gazini Ganados, Miss Guam, Miss Cambodia, Miss Belgium, Miss El Salvador


How beauty queens are aesthetically made 

“For dental enhancements: direct veneers, P7,000 per unit; and zirconia veneer, P20,000 per unit,” reveals Gio.

What are the other augmentations/enhancements that a beauty queen can have from head to toe? How much do they cost? Gio provides these ballpark figures for each procedure—proof that some beauty queens are, indeed, made!

“For the invasive procedure: rhinoplasty (nose job), P90,000; breast augmentation, P190,000; liposuction with fat transfer, P190,000; and eyelid surgery, P80,000. 

“For the non-invasive procedure: temple filler to achieve the Barbie-doll forehead, P25,000; Power V lift (including face lift, jaw lift, chin filler and Botox treatment), P50,000; lip fillers, P35,000; chin fillers, P35,000; jawline fillers, P50,000; Hiko nose thread (non-invasive nose lift), P40,000; and eye lift, P35,000,” says Gio.  

Gio, however, is quick to add that the surgical procedures are “subjective and it’s up to the girls to decide.” The expenses for the procedures are shelled out by the pageant contestants.

“Can-afford contestants shoulder the expenses for the enhancements. Others, many times, ask help from their respective LGU,” says Pamboy Pastor, a beauty queen connoisseur whose extensive knowledge of international beauty contests has been used for the primers of many international pageant tilts.  

Aces and Queens' Gery Diaz, Kagandahang Flores' Rodgil Flores, and Miss Universe Philippines' Jonas Gaffud
‘Natural is still the best’

“At Aces and Queens, we don’t have a department on enhancements simply because we don’t believe in enhancements,” says Gerry. “In a few times, two or three times, if one physical aspect affects the total look of a girl, we refer her to someone credible.”

“We don’t impose breast augmentation unless it is something that bothers them. Wala kaming veneers. No rhinoplasty, not mandatory. Tatlo lamang ang nagpa-nose job sa amin,” Gerry adds.  

He mentions that “Im the teeth designer of our girls. From 2011, I designed the teeth of our girls through MyDentist in SM Marikina. We do cosmetic bonding of the teeth. Veneer kasi is masyadong malaki. Kung minsan hindi tugma sa lips.”

Gerry has observed that in other countries, “like in Venzuela, binabawasan pa ang tadyang ng contestant. Sa amin, bawal ‘yan. We don’t require you go under the knife. Natural is still the best. Organic is always beautiful.” 

Rodgil says international beauty contests have no known rules about enhancements “but we should draw the line for each and everyone who is considering into going into enhancements.” 

He says, “The rule is, don’t make it so drastic so that the end result leads to everyone still recognizing you as yourself still. But yes, beauty queens are made now and it’s expensive.” 

Aces and Queens' Miss World 2015 Megan Young, Miss International 2016 Kylie Verzosa, and Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach
Beauty training according to different pageants 

The girls are trained according to their personality. According to Gerry, Binibining Pilipinas (the winner of which is sent to compete in the Miss International tilt), Miss World Philippines and Miss Universe Philippines require different makeup, pasarela and styling. At the onset of the training, Gerry and his team know who among the girls will be fielded in those international tilts. 

“It’s not one size fits all,” he says.

“Don’t go against your destiny, we tell the girls in the camp when we assign them which competition they should join,” says Gerry. He adds Aces and Queens has gone to the grassroots level by conducting boot camps in many provinces around the Philippines.  

“For Binibining Pilipinas, they don’t like flamboyant contestants. The winner will represent the country in the Miss International competition and the winner should work around how beauty is viewed in Japan. Mahinhin, simple, elegant, refined. Ayaw nila ng tumatapon ang balakang habang naglalakad. Enthusiastic but not boisterous. Good communication skills but not boisterous. How women are respected in Japan is how the contestant should be when she joins Miss International. 

“For Miss World, the contestant should be very regal, refined, classy, royal. Ang orientation is a member of royalty. When Megan Young won, she was an artista, enthusiastic. We toned her down.

“For Miss Universe, she should be a model type, somebody with commercial appeal because of engagements. She should be glamorous, with strong appeal, great personality, but not over the top. Decent but with commercial appeal. Hindi teasing. She should have good communication skills. Must have a good advocacy. Hindi lamang maganda but with substance,” narrates Gerry.

How much time is involved in making a beauty queen? 

Gerry says five months is fair enough for a contestant to train. The first three months will only take the weekends from the girls. Training for the remaining two months is every day so he requires the girls to file a leave of two months from work if they are employed. Some companies allow their employees competing for a national competition to file a leave for two months. Others who are not as fortunate resign from their jobs.

“The ones devoted to their training are the ones who really succeed. Dinadaig ng sipag ang ganda,” Rodgil says, adding that his camp trains up to four months for national competition.  

The winners in the national tilt will again train in their respective camp for three months, at least for the international competition, depending on the date of the international coronation night. Others make do with a 10-day training because the international competition is already happening in that time frame.

“That’s why the Filipina contestants stand out in the international competitions because they are well prepared. Dito pa lamang sa homebase, the preparation is so rigid. The pressure is real and much pressure is coming from the fans. But really, they have been prepared thoroughly here,” says Rodgil.

Just for work out in the gym alone takes many days and many nights to achieve the desired weight and figure of the beauty contestant. Angelo Mendez of Gold’s Gym, who has been developing workout and nutritional programs for beauty queens since 2014, says, “The time frame for developing a beauty queen physique varies. Sometimes it can be achieved in three weeks, sometimes it takes a month or two or even longer. This is highly dependent on the body type of the individual and also her eating habits outside of the gym, which is not easy to control.”

Every girl who trains under him “should take about two liters of water every day, which is about eight to 11 glasses of water.”

The discernment of queenmakers  

What logic do queenmakers use to discern if a beautiful lady has the qualities needed to become a queen? 

“Visually, I have developed this keen eye or what you call instinct. Malakas ang kutob ko. I could feel it kasi once she’s presented to me. When I meet her, given a few seconds, nagpa-pop na sa mind ko ‘yung transformed version/look n’ya. Pero there are also other girls who I was having 50/50 discernment but due to their determination they ended up winning,” says Rodgil.

His discernment savvy did not just fall into his lap. It was a product of his childhood adulation for beauty queens.  

“It was born out of passion. Ever since I was a kid, I was largely influenced during the first Miss Universe here, 1974. It was the martial law era. All of the TV stations during that time were all showing about Ms. U. Every time I went home from school, I always see the candidates on TV. I was fascinated with fairy-tale characters because I was seven years old. And I saw parang fairy-tale characters coming into life. Yung mga eyes nila different from our eyes. Parang mga living barbie dolls, living fairy-tale characters,” says Rodgil, son and grandson of two Pateros mayors.  

For Gerry’s part, he shares, “I got interested in 1969 when Gloria Diaz won Miss Universe. Someone pala from a third-world country could win. I started collecting pictures, buying magazines. I even had albums.” 

What does it take to be a queenmaker?

Passion—for Jonas, Gerry and Rodgil.

“I think a beauty queenmaker must evolve with the times. In other words, a beauty queenmaker must not be jaded, and must see trends, adjust, innovate, and be creative,” says Jonas. 

“Since I was a child, I’ve been watching Miss Universe. I already wore the hat of a trainer. And though I am with the Miss Universe Philippines organization itself, I still don’t get tired honing beauty queens,” Jonas adds. 

Gerry says, “Passion for beauty queens, passion for pageants, passion to help and genuine concern for others—these and more make a beauty queenmaker. “It is like public service. When it is your passion, your mission, you don’t get tired. You are not mindful anymore that you have spent so much time and effort. Sincere intention to help, genuine, you give so much of yourself until it hurts.” 

Jonas says, “A queenmaker believes that a girl’s looks, basic deliverables ‘yan. Nowadays, everyone stands out when it comes to the physical aspect. Most important is the willingness of the girl. Her attitude. How to hone that winning attitude is a work between the girl and the camp. Kasama ang mind setting in making a queen. Kasama ang mind setting of girls in making a queenmaker. It’s a holistic approach—mind, body and soul. A queenmaker should be involved in the mind, body and soul of the queen he wants to make. It’s not an easy job. But passion is already a big reward for this task.” 

He adds that a queenmaker is also a life coach. “Because not everybody wins. Some get depressed dealing with their loss. They devote so much time, put their careers on hold to focus on the pageant. D’yan papasok ang queenmaker as a life coach.” 

No matter the favors or the odds, the queenmakers are always turbo-propped to make beauty queens out of beautiful girls—natural or enhanced.