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In Miss U interview, Rabiya Mateo says she is proud 'to represent my color, my identity as a true Filipina’

By CHUCK SMITH Published May 13, 2021 2:21 pm

Rabiya Mateo said she wants to do well in the 69th Miss Universe pageant, where she is competing as the Philippines’ delegate, in order to “redeem” herself, particularly to those who didn’t think she deserved to win the local Miss Universe Philippines crown.

Talking about her experience in the Miss Universe Philippines pageant last year, Rabiya said: “I started (out as) a dark horse. Nobody knows I was in the competition up until the preliminary and the coronation night.” Rabiya added that not everyone expected her to do well, with some even thinking that she cheated in order to win the crown.

Now that she’s competing in the Miss Universe pageant, the 24-year-old beauty queen from Iloilo City said she needs “to do well in this competition.”

“And the thing is, I love pressure. I love criticism. I get better every day with that. You tell me I cannot do that, I’m gonna turn to you and say no, I can do it, for myself.”

Rabiya said this in her contestant interview for the Miss Universe pageant, the video of which was provided by the Miss Universe Organization to media outfits.

In the interview, the 24-year-old beauty queen from Iloilo City also admitted to “losing her identity” because of the pressures of preparing for the pageant. “But I was able to bounce back stronger. And if I was able to do that for Miss Universe, I’ll be able to do that in life.” Rabiya said she is proud to be a morena Filipina beauty queen "and to be able to represent my color, my identity as a true Filipina."

Here is the transcript of Rabiya Mateo’s contestant interview for the 69th Miss Universe pageant:

In some countries, sports is like the national pastime. In the Philippines, some might say that pageantry is the pastime.

That’s true. In the Philippines, we have pageants all over the place. Yes, we have pageants in the barangay, in school, national, local. That’s why we really love Miss Universe. It’s like it’s giving pride and putting the Philippines back on the pedestal. That’s why there’s added pressure as a candidate coming from a pageant-loving country.

Now, this is my time to show who I am, to offer what Rabiya can show to the rest of the Universe. So I’m very happy and at the same time I’m excited to make my kababayans proud. And hopefully, I do.

Why do you think it is that the Philippines love pageants?

They have an appreciation for beauty. We do love pageants because we used to think that we wanted to be included in the world. I have to be honest, in the Philippines, my skin color used to be not the standard of beauty. I was obsessed with whitening my skin because these are the kinds of beauty queens we see on the mainstream. But things are different now. That’s why I'm very proud to be a morena—in the Philippines, we call it morena, brown-skinned girl—and to be able to represent my color, my identity as a true Filipina.

Rabiya Mateo, Miss Universe Philippines 2020 poses for a street style photoshoot for Shop the Look at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida on May 9, 2021. Photo by ©IMG Universe LLC/BENJAMIN ASKINAS BENJAMIN ASKINAS

Tell me about your journey towards being crowned Miss Universe Philippines.

My journey was crazy. I started to be a dark horse. Nobody noticed me. Nobody knows I was in the competition up until the preliminary and the coronation night. When I won, I received different comments, of course. There were people who didn’t expect me to do well, who think that I cheated. That’s why I need to redeem myself in Miss Universe. I really need to do well in this competition. And the thing is, I love pressure. I love criticism. I get better every day with that. You tell me I cannot do that, I’m gonna turn to you and say no, I can do it, for myself.

How does it feel to be on the global stage? How do you feel to be here in the moment, right now?

It’s crazy. But I’m overwhelmed with the support. Not just from the Filipino community but also from Thailand, Latin countries who do appreciate me as a candidate, as a person. It motivates me that I am beautiful, I can offer so much in this world. When somebody believes you, it gives you the energy to do well and perform.

Is there a sense of camaraderie with all of the (Miss Universe) girls?

I have a different idea about Miss Universe. I thought it was gonna be very competitive, in a healthy way. But now I can see every girl helping each other. From fixing those girls, from trying to zip up those outfits—it speaks of the closeness and the kind of camaraderie we want to have. The goal of Miss Universe is not just to crown one girl, it’s also to build a genuine and long-lasting friendship among us.

Rabiya Mateo, Miss Universe Philippines 2020 poses for a street style photoshoot for Shop the Look at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida on May 9, 2021. Photo by ©IMG Universe LLC/BENJAMIN ASKINAS BENJAMIN ASKINAS

Would you say that within the Miss Universe world that there is a sisterhood?

There is sisterhood. I was able to talk to different representatives from different backgrounds and different cultures. And despite our differences, there is so much to be highlighted in what binds us together. And that is because we want to empower women, we want to have our advocacies, we want to speak for the things that we love. That’s a celebration of women and the beauty that we have.

Coming out of this week, obviously, you would love to be crowned Miss Universe. But what else would you take out from this week, regardless of the result?

It’s the growth and the development that I was able to have in preparing for this journey. I have to be honest, there was a moment when I lost my identity because I was put under pressure. I was in that position in which I feel I’m not good enough, I’m not a good representative of my country. But I was able to bounce back stronger. And if I was able to do that for Miss Universe, I’ll be able to do that in life.

Send a message to the fans here and at home.

To all my fans from the Philippines and from all over the world, maraming salamat. Thank you so much for loving me and in believing in me. To somebody who is so naive in this industry, who has no idea how to become a beauty queen on the first day of my journey, but because of your support, I was able to be the woman that I am today. And regardless of the result, I may or I may not win the crown, but one thing is for sure—I’m gonna make you all proud.

Banner photo screengrab from Miss Universe video courtesy of ©IMG Universe LLC