What does it take to be a queen? Is it by having a shining, shimmering, bejeweled crown? Or is it by connecting to many people through advocacy, and using your big platform to support charities and empower women and the marginalized alike?
Pia Wurtzbach is definitely nothing short of being a queen. She was crowned Miss Universe in 2015, and continued to advocate for gender equality, mental health and female empowerment. Today, she’s earned a new title to her name—novelist—with the release of her novel at the country’s biggest book fair last Sept. 14.
The launch of “Queen of the Universe” was held on the opening day of Manila International Book Fair. Hosted by Tuttle Publishing and ABS-CBN books, Wurtzbach shared her experiences and challenges in bringing her ideas to life.
The novel, she shares, has been ready even before the pandemic happened, adding that it was quite a difficult decision for her to make when the release was halted by the COVID pandemic.
“We had to make a decision [if] ilalabas ba natin ‘to, tapos mag-o-online promotion na lang tayo, or hold muna,” she elaborates. Wurtzbach says that her gut feeling was to hold the release, as she wanted book promotions to be live. “Ito kasi ‘yung talagang in-envision ko, ‘yung face to face, makikita niyo ako, may meet and greet, may book signing, nakikita ko ‘yung reaksiyon ng mga tao, nahahawakan ‘yung libro.”
She adds that the postponement seemed like a “blessing in disguise” as international publisher Tuttle Publishing soon approached them for a worldwide release deal.
With this deal also came improvements to the story. Filipino elements were emphasized: common Philippine traditions were added, places like BGC and Metro Manila were mentioned. “Even if you’re a foreigner, and you haven’t been to the Philippines, you can picture what it’s like to be in the Philippines, and how is life in the entertainment industry and in the fashion world,” Wurtzbach says.
Even the cover has greatly changed. From her signature blue color, the book cover is now mainly pink, with the silhouette of a crowned woman in white and text in black. She finds it timely, too, given the release of the “Barbie” movie earlier this year, making the color pink a very prominent color.
Many of her fans, called Pia-natics, have gathered to support her book signing event, many even sporting pink outfits to match the book cover. While coming from different walks of life, they all bought the book, and loved getting to know more of the now international author’s writing story.
For instance, Dr. Daisy Padilla, who bought two copies for herself and for her daughter, was very eager to meet Wurtzbach. She says that her daughter, also a huge Pia-natic, was inspired greatly by the beauty queen, that she’s aspiring to pursue the same path. As she had preordered their copies, part of their bonding time recently has been talking about the novel.
The book tells the story of Cleo, and is about “remembering who you are in the dizzying world of fame and celebrity.”
While loosely based on her life story, Wurtzbach says that “Queen of the Universe” shouldn’t be viewed as autobiographical. “Pagka binasa niyo siya, mapapansin niyo that it sounds so familiar kasi she has a big dream … but as you go through the chapters, you will see that she goes to her own journey so it’s not me. Medyo magkaiba kami ng path na pupuntahan but I’ll leave that up to you guys to discover when you read the book,” she clarifies.
Wurtzbach also says that the idea of writing a book had crossed her mind even before her reign as Miss Universe ended. She admits that she has had this fear of having an identity crisis, explaining that while she had dreamt of the crown, she wasn’t sure of her plans after she passes it on.
“So, I had a list,” Wurtzbach elaborates. “And in that list, there are the usual things: I want to have my own business, my own brand. I even put it on there: I want to have my own perfume line, I want to have a YouTube channel, a podcast, write a book. So, I just brainstormed. I just wrote down my ideas in my notebook.”
Though she had many ideas pop during her brainstorming session, Wurtzbach adds that she believed in timing and commitment. She was not keen on doing any of these halfheartedly. In her words, “hindi ‘yung [masabi] lang na, ‘I have a book now, but hindi [ako] 100 percent in it.’”
Now, what does it take to be queen of the universe? Queen Pia, as she is called by her supporters, has a simple answer: We all have our hats or crowns to wear. “You determine what kind of queen you are. ‘Queen of the universe.’ Does it mean a beauty queen? Does it mean Miss Universe? Hindi, kasi ngayon, everybody can be Miss Universe and everybody can be a queen in their own universe, in their own right.”