Shamcey Supsup-Lee on pageant influence, misconceptions, and the modern Filipina

Published October 23, 2020, 12:40 PM

by John Legaspi

Celebrating the confident, beautiful, and empowered Filipinas

Shamcey Supsup-Lee with MUP candidates (Photo from Mango Works Studios

Let’s admit it. As much as we see beauty pageants as superficial, we cannot deny that they have became more than just a parade of ladies, glammed up and ready to do whatever it takes to win the crown. 

In a post-#MeToo era and a time of social media, beauty pageants have evolved for the betterment of the women involved. They have rewritten their purpose, which in the long run has been based on the male gaze. And for a country that’s crazy about this format of entertainment, having a real mission behind pageants is a step up not just for the candidates, but also for the Filipino community in general.

Aiming to do the same is Miss Universe Philippines (MUP) pageant. After leaving Binibining Pilipinas, its home for more than five decades, the newest local pageant is going on a solo ramp as it seeks for that one Filipina to represent the country in the most prestigious beauty competition in the universe.

But what makes it different this time is that apart from press interviews, pageant motorcades, and live preliminary competition (all of which are cannot be done today), MUP invites pageant fans to know more about the candidates, see them in their most relatable self, and get involved before the grand coronation day.

“When we started the pageant earlier this year, it’s our first year, we want to change the way people view pageants,” says MUP National Director Shamcey Supsup-Lee. “We made the entire journey of the girls accessible to all.”

Proving that there is nothing impossible when Filipinas come together, MUP is pushing through with its maiden pageant—all virtual and socially distanced. In a conversation with Manila Bulletin Lifestyle, Shamcey, who is also a former delegate for the Miss Universe, tells the importance of this pageant, how she and her fellow pageant directors want to make a change, and why this competition needs to happen even in the middle of a pandemic.

What do pageants symbolize today?

It’s not just about wearing the crown, attending events, and becoming popular. But being a beauty queen is a platform. It has such a strong influence on many people that whatever you say and whatever causes you decide to push, you have the capacity to make an impact. I hope that through this pageant, we get to encourage more girls to continue to come out of their shells and showcase their authentic selves. To not be scared and to show who they are. 

We want to show that these candidates are relatable. Because whenever people watch pageants, they think that they will never be like these women. Showing the girls’ journey in MUP I think takes them in a place where people can see them and think that they are just like them. That they are taking charge of their lives and people will think that they could do the same. I also apply it to myself. Ganun na ngayon ang beauty pageants. They’re no longer about the beauty of the face or the body, they’re really about having a purpose, having the drive to push causes that are close to their heart.

‘But being a beauty queen is a platform. It has such a strong influence on many people that whatever you say and whatever causes you decide to push, you have the capacity to make an impact.’

What are the misconceptions people still think about beauty queens?

Back in my pageant year in 2011, the biggest misconception I wanted to break is that pageant candidates are just empty shells, who are just mannequins who say hi and hello to everybody. I really wanted to break that.

Aside from that I really want to break the stereotype that if you become a beauty queen, ultimately, you want to become an artista or be in the entertainment industry. I told the girls it doesn’t have to be that. You can be a queen in any field you want to excel in.

For me, even though I am the national director of MUP, I still get to practice my profession and become a mom and a wife. I think we just want to showcase, not just in beauty pageants, that we, men and women, don’t have to choose. We don’t have to be limited in a specific thing, na pag ganito ka, ganito ka lang. Hopefully, we get to change that, na once you become a beauty queen, ganito lang ang puwede mong gawin in the future.

In the future do you see a trans woman competing for MUP?

In MUP, we really want to create conversations on controversial topics, not to say we agree or contradict on one thing. We just want people to discuss the topics and to learn from it as well. That is why we have a MUP conversation with trans rights advocate Geena Rocero. They talked about allowing transgender women candidates to join MUP and we know naman what Miss Universe Organization’s stand with that as well. Kami naman, we don’t discriminate. We’re still opening the conversation. It is still there. It is not a closed door.

On Oct. 25, 40 candidates will be on their best heels forwards as they demonstrate Filipina beauty and wit. By the end of the event, the reigning Gazini Ganados will crown the new Miss Universe Philippines.