Sun, Mar 03, 2019 - Page 15 News List

Beauty boot camps critical to the Philippines’ pageant dominance

By Cecil Morella  /  AFP, MANILA

Aspiring beauty queens stretch before the start of a “duck walk” practice session at a beauty boot camp in Manila on Jan. 29.

Photo: AFP

Rodgil Flores cast a stern taskmaster’s glance as grimacing young women in bikinis strode across one of the mirror-walled studios that is central to making the Philippines a beauty pageant juggernaut.

In 17cm stiletto heels, the students swayed their hips between long slow strides, a brutal drill that Flores requires them to repeat in order to make the act of sashaying second nature come pageant time.

“For crown. For country,” is the slogan of the Kagandahang Flores studio he set up in 1996, the first of a handful of Philippine beauty boot camps that have helped transform the nation’s pageant fortunes.

With Catriona Gray last year winning Miss Universe, the Philippines took home its fourth title in what is considered the summit of the beauty contest world.

Gray and 2015 winner Pia Wurtzbach trained in the beauty studios before securing their wins.

Success in the pageant world can open doors to commercial, film and modeling work.

“The rise of the camps turned the Philippines into a beauty pageant powerhouse. What they did was to raise the level of pageant training,” Flores told reporters.

“Our evolution [into] a beauty pageant superpower compels every Filipina competing internationally to prolong this streak,” the 50-year-old added.

Manila’s beauty boot camps effectively create a production line of contenders for the Miss Universe crown. Their students come up from the country’s circuit of local beauty competitions and then hone their skills in a bid to reach the next level.

Miss Philippines hopeful Melba Ann Macasaet, 25, took extended leave from her job as a government pharmacist to join Flores’ beauty studio. It took her two weeks and several miscues to master his signature stride, called the “duck walk.”

“I have been joining pageants since I was 15 years old. I believe that every pageant girl has dreams of being able to try and do this,” she said.

It will be about another month before she knows if she has made the cut for the pageant, which organizers expect to be held in June.

The beauty boot camp runs six days a week and sessions often stretch on until midnight. About 200 hopefuls per year take part in the training at Flores’ studio, which include gym workouts, makeup lessons and duck walk drills.

There are also formal classes in which the students participate in mock pageant situations, learning to deliver concise responses to the tricky questions on world peace and equality usually asked of the contestants.

Training is free for Filipinas, who camp organizers usually recruit from provincial contests. Beauty industry benefactors pitch in to cover costs and many people donate their time to help shape what they hope are future champions.

“We don’t earn anything, but we do this out of our passion for beauty pageants,” said Arnold Mercado, the manager and personality development coach of Aces & Queens, the other main Philippine pageant camp.

Mercado, 51, quit his job as an engineer for an oil company after 28 years to focus full time on pageant coaching. He counts Wurtzbach and Gray among those he mentored.

“We’re so lucky here in the Philippines to be surrounded by teams of amazing people who will lift you up as you make all your preparations,” Gray told reporters on Wednesday last week.

Before the Manila boot camps arose, the country’s Miss Universe and Miss World contestants were sent to train at similar camps in Venezuela and Colombia, which have also had consistent pageant successes.

This story has been viewed 2239 times.

Comments will be moderated. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned.

TOP top