Reigning Miss World Alexandria Mills said she considered the Philippines her second home, where the lady from Louisville, Kentucky, found “everyone so inviting.”
“When I got to my hotel room, Ms Cory Quirino was there and told me ‘welcome back home.’ And it really feels like a second home,” Mills said in an interview last week at the Inquirer office in Makati City.
Appointed early this year as director of the Miss World Philippines (MWP) franchise, Quirino has organized the first-ever MWP pageant, with Mills crowning the winner in Sunday night’s competition at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) in Pasay City.
It was Mills’ second visit to the Philippines. Earlier this year, the 5’9” American beauty came with first runner-up Emma Wareus of Botswana and Miss World chair and CEO Julia Morley to visit the Philippine General Hospital in Manila and the Tuloy Street Children Foundation in Alabang, Muntinlupa City, in line with the pageant’s charity work.
“Everyone has been so inviting, and they open their hearts to me. And I love that! It makes me feel so comfortable,” 19-year-old Mills said of her Philippine tour.
“I’ve not met a single mean person here!” she said. “They don’t have to be nice to me. They really don’t. But everyone’s so sweet. Everyone was so genuine and so kind.”
This warmth of the Filipino people was something “I would definitely speak of” when asked about the Philippines, Mills added.
And she wanted Sunday night’s pageant winner to do the same. “Teach the people. Teach the [other Miss World] contestants. Get them to come to the Philippines. Tell them of the beautiful things and the people.”
Beauty with purpose
The Philippine winner will fly to London to compete with 119 other international delegates in the Miss World pageant which culminates on Nov. 6.
“Miss World is always looking for someone who is beautiful inside and out, someone who really embodies the [competition’s slogan] ‘Beauty with a Purpose.’ That is what the Miss World is all about,” Mills explained. “You have to have an open heart to really want to help others and to travel around the world,” she added.
In Sunday night’s competition at the PICC, 25 Filipino women are vying for the MWP title which comes with a P1-million cash prize and a condominium unit from SM Development Corp.
Mills already met the contestants, whom she found “absolutely stunning inside and out.” An engaging speaker, Mills also talked to some of the finalists, listening to their stories and sharing some of her own.
She said she was surprised at how relaxed and comfortable the ladies were even at this stage in the contest. “When you’re in a competition some people get on edge and they start to get nervous and a little bit stressed and things like that. From what I could see, none of them were,” Mills shared.
“I told them, please keep that relaxed moment and realize that, no matter what, you are still going down in history as the first group of finalists for Miss World Philippines,” she continued.
She was also fascinated by the way the ladies expressed themselves through fashion. In a press conference at Midas Hotel on Thursday, they all wore skinny jeans, heels and the same type of shirt, “but they all looked somewhat different because they added their own little twist to it. And I love that. That’s truly inspiring,” Mills said.
During last week’s gala dinner at Manila Hotel, Mills enjoyed what she recognized as the “eclectic” side of Philippine fashion. “All the girls looked absolutely lovely in their dresses. Everyone has her own personal twist to something,” she said. “I have not seen a bit of clothing that I don’t like.”
For Sunday night’s pageant, the ladies were assigned a designer each who created evening gowns inspired by the contestants. Mills thought the idea was “amazing.”
“Not only will they express themselves and show themselves by the way they walk and the way they present themselves, but the clothing will also represent them as well,” she said.
Gift from Hagedorn
Since winning the 2010 Miss World crown in Sanya, China, in October last year, Mills has visited 17 countries, where she tries to find mementos to bring home. For this second trip to the Philippines, she thought of finding a dress similar to the red gown Quirino wore during the gala.
Harvey Ruedas, the Cebuano designer who made Quirino’s gown, promised to craft one for Mills in the colors she prefers—beige and blue.
Since her first visit, Mills has received many a compliment for a strand of pearls given to her as a gift by Puerto Princesa City Mayor Edward Hagedorn. “It’s something that I’ve traveled with and worn so many times,” Mills said.
“It’s a bit sad” that her year-long reign is ending soon. But “I keep teasing (myself) and saying I’m not going to hand over my crown. Sorry, I’m not going to do it,” she said with a hearty laugh.
Looking back, Mills said her victory came as a pleasant surprise. “There were 115 girls, and I said if I get the 115th place, I’d still be ecstatic.”
But now, she said, she would not trade anything in the world for the year she just had. “Just to be a part of [Miss World] is such an honor. Every single day that I wake up is ‘Wow!’ I can’t put into words how I feel.”
Travel as education
She just graduated from high school when she entered the Miss World competition, and college had to wait because of her victory last year.
“Immediately after my coronation, my father told me: ‘We could not pay for the education that you are going to receive traveling the world. You already are more intelligent than I when it comes to the places you’ve been.’ And I’ve been blessed to be able to do so,” she said.
After she relinquishes her title in London, she plans to take a vacation before working on a degree. She has not made up her mind yet, but she is leaning more towards a career in broadcast journalism.
But one thing is for sure: She would love to come back to the Philippines to explore more of the country. “I know first hand that I love it here,” she said.