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Crafting crown-worthy looks: How makeup artists transform beauty queens

By Elaine Calderon Published May 22, 2024 3:38 pm

When we think of beauty queens, images of perfect women immediately come to mind. From their stunning gowns to their dazzling looks and their affecting presence, these ladies are poise and elegance personified—but aspiring beauty queens and avid spectators know that picture perfection doesn’t just happen.

In competitive pageantry, behind every delegate is a glam team of dedicated professionals who help mold Filipina beauties into true-blue queens. Among the most crucial in these groups of behind-the-scenes heroes are the makeup artists whose transformative touch turns contestants into faces of grace and glamour.

Makeup artists may not be allowed backstage during competitions, but aspiring beauty queens train with these pros from the beginning of their journey, even beyond their days as contestants. Because certain standards are expected on the pageant stage, a makeup artist’s technical skill and creative eye play an essential role in crafting the quintessential beauty queen image.

In a pageant-obsessed country like the Philippines, many talented Filipino makeup artists have inevitably shaped some of the most beautiful faces to ever represent the country in the local and global stages.

Then and now: The ‘beauty queen look’

Nix Soriano, the head makeup artist of Miss Universe Philippines since its inauguration, has worked with some of the country’s most beautiful since 2020—including Miss Universe Philippines National Director Shamcey Supsup-Lee, and former Miss Universe Philippines delegates Rabiya Mateo, Bea Gomez, Celeste Cortesi, and Michelle Dee.

With 15 years of collective experience in makeup artistry, she recalls, “Back then, when you say ‘beauty queen look,’ it was the traditional dark smokey eyes and heavy contour.” 

“Now that pageants have evolved, the makeup has also evolved with it. We now tailor-fit the makeup to each and every girl and what suits them based on their features and personality. A beauty queen’s look should simply enhance their actual beauty, helping them and propelling them to be more confident.”

Muriel Vega Perez, on the other hand, is a makeup artist and hair stylist with over 12 years of experience who has had many a beauty queen sit on his makeup chair. Since 2016, he has been blessed to work with Miss World 2013 Megan Young, Miss International Philippines 2014 Bianca Guidotti, Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach, and many more.

He echoes Nix’s beliefs that “The ‘beauty queen look’ shouldn’t just complement physical appearance, it should also complement their personality. It’s fierce but sweet; snatched but warm. The look should never camouflage natural beauty,” he says.

The makeup artist-beauty queen dynamic

Though a makeup artist’s work happens solely backstage, the resulting looks inevitably shape a beauty queen’s image.

Nakaka-pressure for us artists because we know the looks will be scrutinized a million times by the public,” Muriel says.

Nix adds, “Since pageants have evolved, we now have many pocket events where makeup requirements are different from one day to the next. There are days we need to go light and skin-like, then transition into heavy glam, and finally finish with creative and artistic makeup. Yes, it’s quite challenging, but this part is actually one of the things I enjoy the most.”

Beyond technical aspects, a makeup artist’s role in a beauty queen’s journey also involves understanding and connecting with the contestant. Building a strong connection with their makeup artist from the get-go is key for beauty queens. This ensures the final look reflects their unique personality and style.

“[It’s a challenge] when the artist and the queen aren’t able to compromise between the artist’s recommendation and the queen’s liking,” Muriel shares. “Thankfully, [our beauty queens] are very nice and sweet. They’re also collaborative and patient.”

“It’s quite a rollercoaster,” Nix shares. “Because you sometimes see [the contestants] in their most vulnerable state, something that pageant fans don’t see, our work doesn’t just end with doing makeup. We are also a support system to these women during and after the competition.”

From canvas to crown

Although Nix and Muriel are only two of the many makeup artists who work with Filipina beauty queens, they prove that an artist’s adaptable mindset and personalized touch help contestants feel confident and comfortable, ultimately giving them the edge on stage.

Pageant days are long and hectic, often requiring adjustments on the fly. It’s only beneficial when experienced makeup artists train would-be beauty queens to create that iconic ‘beauty queen look.’

In the competitive world of beauty pageants, every detail counts. These experts help contestants make a lasting first impression, bringing the radiant vision of a beauty queen’s flawless face to life and seeing it through to the crown.

As Nix puts it beautifully, “I get stressed with [pageantry], but it’s something that I love and cherish. I enjoy every part of it.”