IF MARY Jean “MJ” Lastimosa succeeds in ending the country’s 42-year title drought by winning the Miss Universe crown on Monday morning (Sunday evening in Doral, Florida), she has makeup artist Gio Flores and the rest of the guys at Kagandahang Flores (KF) to thank.
Gio and older cousin Rodgil, head of KF, had been impressed with MJ even during her two earlier but failed attempts to win Miss Universe Philippines under the guidance of a rival beauty camp.
KF didn’t think twice in taking her in when she decided to switch camps in December 2013, to give the Binibining Pilipinas one last try. But there was one condition: MJ should agree to undergo a “drastic” transformation, said Gio, KF’s beauty and aesthetics director.
In an exclusive e-mail from Los Angeles, the Doral-bound Gio related KF’s experience as it went about MJ’s transformation—from her hair to her now famous “camel walk.”
“Since MJ was gearing up for her third try, we all agreed that her packaging and styling had to be completely different,” said Gio. “We wanted a softer, fresher look for her. Even her walk had to be more polished and queenly.”
For a beauty queen wannabe who has one of the best-looking bodies, MJ surprisingly failed in her first two attempts to bag the coveted Best in Swimsuit award. Under KF’s mentorship, her “Coca-Cola” physique—she was reportedly able to whittle down her 24-inch waistline to 22—was finally recognized.
“She has a body to die for that’s naturally toned and blessed with cuts and abs,” said Gio. “Instead of maintaining that, we asked her to tone down her workout to achieve a softer,more feminine physique.”
‘Classy and sophisticated’
Gio and her collaborators also crafted a more “classy and sophisticated” look for MJ by making her junk short, clingy dresses in favor of more elegant and less revealing numbers. Her big, Texas style hairdo also had to go. The overall objective was to achieve a polished girl-next-door look. To achieve this, MJ started wearing light, clean and radiant makeup that complemented her soft, bouncy tresses.
“The idea was to make her look young, fresh and vibrant,” said Gio. “I started with her hair by coloring it a nice chocolate tone. By adding soft, dramatic layers, I believe I also succeeded in framing that gorgeous face.”
As one of the exponents of “high-definition” makeup, Gio also trained MJ to apply it by using airbrush. Among the brands MJ uses are Glominerals, Tom Ford and Temptu.
“Neutral shades of brown and taupe are best complemented with soft, shimmery hues of peach, bronze and pink for MJ,” said Gio. “The combination flatters and makes her face camera-ready. It also makes her face look feminine and queenly, with a soft-focus glow.”
As far as wardrobe is concerned, KF advised MJ to keep the look “minimal.” Her clothes should flatter her svelte figure, which is one of her best assets.
It was also Gio who advised MJ to wear bright-colored dresses.
“Colors like red, pink and orange flatter her skin tone,” he said. “Fire is her feng shui element, and these colors bring out her inner spark.”
The makeover also included rigorous training on pasarela (the beauty queen’s version of the catwalk) under KF’s resident catwalk diva George Garrido. Angelo Mendez and Bench Ortiz of Gold’s Gym took care of her daily fitness regimen.
Apart from non-invasive clinical procedures to help her get naturally radiant and glowing skin, MJ also enrolled in a series of speech and personality development classes provided by Binibining Pilipinas Charities Inc.
When Gio and MJ’s paths first crossed in 2013, he told the then frustrated beauty queen to hold on to her dreams. Gio told her to give Binibining Pilipinas one last shot without asking her to switch camps.
Gio saw how reluctant MJ was since she felt she wasn’t ready yet. But time was running out, since she was already turning 26 then. Although she acknowledged that she needed a makeover to boost her chances, she also had no clue how to go about it.
But Gio, one of MJ’s “silent supporters,” believed that she had what it takes to become the country’s third Miss Universe. ‘
“She told me that her two previous journeys in 2011 and 2012 were ‘sink or swim’ experiences, as she did almost everything by herself,” said Gio. “She was asked only once to demonstrate her walk. No followups came after that. The only piece of advice she got was to always remember to pull herself up to look tall.”
Her transformation continues to this day. There were times when Gio had to correct MJ’s hair and makeup even after she won Miss Universe Philippines. Her beauty mentor is still closely monitoring all her activities in Doral by looking at her pictures on social media and various pageant sites.
“Now that she’s in Florida, we also monitor her actual hair and makeup via online tutorials,” said Gio. “Based on Miss Universe’s calendar of activities, I came up with various looks, which I make sure are executed properly.”
If MJ’s look was perfect for Binibini—vibrant, feminine and queenly—her aura these days in Miss Universe is “radiantly beautiful,” insisted Gio. Practice makes perfect because MJ had ample time to prepare. Her best looks are yet to come.
“I came up with MJ’s detailed face chart for all the events, and we’re reserving a special look for the finals,” said Gio. “Having been able to work on her for more than a year has allowed me to master the canvass, so to speak, so we now know how to bring her best face forward.”