Crown Conversations with Megan, Catriona, R’Bonney, Melanie and Michelle 

Five beloved Filipina beauty queens weigh in on what the weight of their crowns have meant to them, and how they continue to live out the values of beauty in the different aspects of their lives.

For over a century, the beauty queen’s crown never lost its luster in the Philippines, a country that boasts holding the most titles from the Big Four. The pageant has survived a lot, simultaneously resisting and accommodating the changing times. From a parade of world-peace wishers in bikinis to a competition of quick-thinking social do-gooders, the modern pageant can be seen through a lens of feminism, where women are taking back control and giving meaning to the title, not the other way around. Queens are using the pageant platform to amplify their advocacies, and audiences can tell if their passions are authentic. 

Initiated by the Americans, the very first beauty pageant debuted at the Manila Carnival, an extravagant nine-day festival with air shows, athletic contests, and not just one, but 10 balls whose highlight was the coronation of the Carnival Queen. Contestants usually hailed from well-to-do families who could afford the most fabulous gowns or  garner the highest number of ballots—there was no Q&A back then. But the gradual opening of the public sphere to women also gave them the space to dream for themselves. The journalist Pura Villanueva Kalaw, the first queen to be crowned in 1908, would spearhead the women’s suffrage movement. Twenty-three years later, her daughter Maria Kalaw Katigbak followed suit, taking the crown in 1931. Maria would be the lone woman senator in the Fifth Congress, heading committees on education, commerce, and industry. Winning a pageant was, and still is, a springboard for something greater. 

Catriona and R’bonney wear CAROLINA HERRERA blazers and shirts. Photo by Shaira Luna

“The Manila Carnival ignited the Filipinos’ lifelong fascination with coronation,” says Dr. Katherine Lacson in lecture on the beauty pageants of the American Period. Pageants of all kinds and for all social classes appeared, while the beauty industry flourished. The swimsuit requirement, which was introduced in 1930, sparked a long-running controversy over morality, but the modern Filipina stepped up, refusing to be restricted by Maria Clara mores. In a changing of the tides, the swimsuit portion was removed from Miss World in 2014, in order to “focus on brains and personality.”

The pageant is still evolving and becoming more inclusive, with various franchises welcoming queer and transgender candidates; this year, Miss Universe announced a major update, allowing married women and mothers to join the competition. Still, the perception remains that the beauty pageant is a relic of patriarchy that continues to objectify women and promote unrealistic beauty standards. 

“Laughter is the best medicine in life and when I’m able to do that, it just warms my heart.”

— Melanie Marquez

Vogue Philippines gathered five Filipino titleholders—Miss World 2013 Megan Young, Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray, Miss Universe 2022 R’Bonney Gabriel, and Miss International 1979 Melanie Marquez with her daughter Miss Universe Philippines 2022 Michelle Dee—to talk about to talk about the shift in pageant’s points of view and significance through time.

Megan Young: We’re all beauty queens. We’ve all won different pageants. It’s exciting cause we’ve all somewhat been through the same experience, but also, we all have different experiences in pageantry. 

Catriona Gray: Yes.

Michelle Dee: Correct.

Melanie Marquez: True.

MY: Right so, let’s begin. First off, we have a personality development coach, actress, producer and author, but not only that, she is Miss International 1979. One of my idols, and of course an icon in Philippine pageantry. And she was one of the first people that told me that I should join pageants, Miss Melanie Marquez. 

MM: Yes, thank you, Megan. I just want to let you know that the first time I saw you, you really looked like a winner—a beauty queen.

MY: Thank you so much, and you know this because when you competed in London, I told you na grabe, sobrang idol ko yung mommy mo. 

MD: Yes. You shared that story with me. It’s so heartwarming. 

Melanie wears a MAX MARA coat, BULGARI monete ring. Photo by Shaira Luna

MM: Well, now it’s up to me to introduce, of course, I will be biased, I am a number one fan of this lady. Well, she is our reigning Miss Universe Philippines, of course, Michelle Marquez Dee. She’s not just a beauty queen though, she has an advocacy in autism awareness. So, I am just very happy that she is involved in this because I have two autistic children that she is so close with. She’s not just beautiful, she’s beautiful at heart actually. 

MD: Oh, thank you. You know everything I do; I just want to make my mother proud. 

MM: I’m just so happy. 

MD:  I also have very big shoes to fill. 

MM: Well, I’m just so blessed. That’s it. So, thank you. 

MD: Okay, so it’s my turn to introduce the queen. She is Miss Universe 2022. She is a fashion designer and a sustainable fashion advocate. This queen is a triple crown winner. She won Miss Texas, Miss USA, and eventually Miss Universe 2022. Another fun fact, she is also the first Filipino-American to win Miss USA, and she really embraces diversity and everything in between. She is amazing. She is a great source of inspiration for me especially on the way to El Salvador. Let’s give it up for none other than R’Bonney Nola Gabriel. 

R’Bonney Gabriel: Thank you for that introduction. Well, I should go. A woman that needs no introduction, Miss Universe 2018, Catriona Gray. She is known for her advocacy in HIV, as well as Filipino arts, which I love being an artist. Fun fact, Catriona can sing very well. We have been shooting all day and I’ve known that you can sing well. You just got off tour in Canada, but I actually heard your voice today singing Beyonce and it was amazing. I could totally learn some tips from you.

CG: We all enjoy and indulge in the joy of singing, especially being Filipino. And thank you for the introduction, queen. What I really love and appreciate about every woman that you seem to meet in this industry or the profession that we’re in, is that it really becomes a sisterhood. It’s not just a token, you really feel it. And one of my first introductions to sisterhood was this beautiful woman sitting right next to me. She, of course, was established at a very young age of 15, no? When she started acting. She is such an accomplished host, but she won over so many hearts when she became the first Filipina to take home the Miss World title in 2013. Of course, Megan Young.

MY: 10 years! So, thank you for that really sweet introduction. Yeah, I started acting 14, 15, and then pageantry happened. 

Vogue Philippines: Catriona, you said in a previous interview that you chose the Mayon gown because your mom had a vision of you winning Miss Universe in red. And I know, Melanie, you also said in a previous interview that you told Michelle to visualize the crown on her head as she was walking. How do you turn a dream into reality? 

Michelle wears a MAX MARA coat, ANDANTÉ loafers, BULGARI monete necklace and b.zero1 ring. Melanie wears a MAX MARA coat, BULGARI monete necklace and ring. Both on ANTONIO CITTERIO Jens chairs from B&B ITALIA. Photo by Shaira Luna

CG: My mom did come to me when I was a kid, I was like 10, 11 years old. She was like “honey, I have a dream.” I didn’t take it seriously at all. But the thing is, eventually that became my goal, that I really wanted to represent the Philippines on the [Miss] Universe stage. It was a very overwhelming thing to kind of grasp because, especially when you voice out a dream or an aspiration, you like put it out there for people to handle and hold, and that’s a really scary thing because you become vulnerable. So my advice to anyone who has a dream or just something that they want to achieve in their life, like break it down into the smallest bits that you possibly can and make it things that don’t scare you, things that, oh it could be as little as, oh, I’m going to sign myself up for a writing course today if my dream is to be an author. It’s really small things that I feel like empower you to just take little steps to where you want to go.

MY: I love that because the other day I watched this video and someone said, when you’re having anxiety over your end goal, you feel like you can’t achieve it, having those little steps and taking it step by step will slowly [bring] you closer to that goal without even realizing it. So, Miss Melanie, you mentioned that you told Michelle to really envision the crown. What advice do you have for the young ones out there?

” And one of the best advice that my mom gave me is actually to shine as my own woman.”

— Michelle Dee

MM: Well, I told my daughter here that whenever you walk on the stage, you always have to feel that there is a crown on top of your head so you can walk elegantly like a queen. So that’s all. I only gave her a very simple tip. 

MD: Simple, but very valuable.

MY: It goes a long way. 

CG: It wraps up in that visualization, already telling yourself, I’m capable of being this, or having this, or achieving this—that already is a thought that is so powerful.

MM: It’s like you have to claim it.

MD: Yes, you have to claim it. You have to manifest it. And one of the best advice that my mom gave me is actually to shine as my own woman. You know, I’m not trying to be the next Melanie Marquez. Well, I’m trying to be Michelle Dee.

VPH: In the last few years, pageantry has really changed, maybe to reflect the rest of the world as well. What else do you think are we missing?

RG: That was one of my top five questions at Miss Universe. What rule change would or what rule would I change, what would I add to make it more inclusive? And my answer was age, because you age out at age 28 to compete and I was 28 at the time and for me I felt like if even I was 29 or 30 and even beyond, I would still be proper to compete at Miss Universe. It made me think of all the women that still have that dream. Age shouldn’t really define a woman because in our society we feel like we have a time limit. I think your prime is always in the current if you make it, and you’re always capable of whatever you want to do, no matter what age you are. 

MD: But on that note, I really love the direction that pageantry is just going. It’s really accepting inclusivity in all shapes and sizes. And that’s so important because we are much more than how we define ourselves or how society defines us. And it’s really about the beauty from within and what we’re capable [of showing] the world. 

Michelle wears a LOUIS VUITTON coat, TIFFANY & CO. Silver Hardware Bracelet. Photo by Shaira Luna

RG: Yeah, I think it’s becoming more inclusive in Miss Universe. They opened up more rules. Married women can compete, mothers, divorcees. But I also would like it to be more inclusive as far as women of different sizes and heights. I mean, I have some friends that would love to compete, but they feel like they don’t have a fair chance because they’re a little bit shorter. And I hate that they feel they need to be validated to be taller or wear the tallest heels. Y’all know the heels we wear—the tall heels we wear.

VPH: Pageantry has been around for a long time. Why do you think that there is still this perception of misogyny and disrespect for women in pageants?

MD: I firmly believe that it’s because a lot of people still see pageantry as superficial. I also thought it was superficial until I realized that what you can do with the platform is so much more than what’s on stage. You know we’re competing with so many talented women, smart women, doctors, nurses, lawyers and you can’t discredit that. The caliber of women that join now are just on another level, and it’s not superficial anymore. We’re all there on stage with a purpose and a reason beyond the crown to do good and to influence other people for the better also.

MY: I think one of the reasons also why people still see it in a certain way is because they only see the final night, they only see the final show, they don’t know anything else. And like you mentioned earlier, you had a certain way of thinking about pageants because maybe that’s all that we saw and all that we knew. It takes effort to really know about pageantry and know the good that the queens do. We’re doing advocacies that we want to push for, we’re doing good in our society and in life. 

VPH: How real and serious are the pageants’ pursuit of your advocacies and in making a difference in various communities and to the rest of the world?

MY: Well, one of the reasons why I really pursued Miss World was because of the advocacy factor that they had. And when I won the crown, that’s when I got to really see the good that they do. And per country that we went to, they were checking up on projects that they were working on for the last five years. And usually, they work with either the local [organization] or the queen after the pageant. Honestly, I’m more of a follower when it comes to these things. I didn’t have the confidence to really push for something of my own. So, I feel like it’s different per queen.

CG: Although I really appreciate you bringing that up, because I feel like advocacies [have] almost become like a token as well. I do want to point out two things. One, I feel like that really happens because there’s that pressure put on you like you need to be a doer of good, an ambassador of goodwill. And then these things are left behind. I think that’s sad. But secondly, we shouldn’t put pressure on women to take up an advocacy if it’s not really within them.

“I feel like everything is always changing with the times. And I’m just up for it. I’m up for the change. I’m up for a challenge all the time”

— Megan Young

MY: And one thing that I also want to put out there is, like you said, don’t pressure yourself. There are different ways on how you can be an advocate.

CG: Yeah, definitely. Like no advocate fits in a box. 

RG: I think when you said pressure, like putting pressure on women and girls to have an advocacy, I don’t agree with, but I do love when you change that perception, you look at pageantry, I do love how it really does encourage girls to say what is your advocacy or make you question it and really kind of hold us accountable as citizens of the world. If you don’t have an advocacy, that’s okay. You don’t have to put pressure on it, but let’s question what you have been through in life that you maybe can turn into your advocacy or story to help other people. And I think if you just change the narrative around it instead of saying you need to check off all these boxes and just really ask the girl. I was blessed with coaches that really helped me be introspective. You can still start this journey now and let’s see what’s really true to you.

MY: You’ll find out what resonates with you.

Megan wears a MAX MARA coat, TIFFANY & CO. Lock Ring with Pavé Diamonds, Lock ring in White Gold. Photo by Shaira Luna

RG: Cause everybody has something and some people just need help. I needed help to really find what it is. I mean, I was sewing for such a long time. And I knew I wanted to do good with it. I knew I wanted to impact the world in some way. But pageantry really gave me that strong, clear direction.

CG: Yeah, pageantry is a great amplifier. I mean, as Megan said, with the advocacy arm of Miss World, that’s also why I was drawn to pageantry. I know it’s Michelle’s sentiment as well. It really was for it to be an amplifier. So that’s one of the most wonderful things about the platform that we’re [on]. 

VPH: Does anyone have a moment where they really felt they had a real impact as a queen? Has anyone had that moment where you realized, “Oh my gosh, I’m really doing something!” 

MD: I have two siblings on the autism spectrum, and they’re the reasons why I’m trying to build this platform to get more eyes and ears into autism awareness in the Philippines. Especially because I grew up in a first-world country, and I saw all the resources that were just readily available for anyone with a disability. And I do want that here in the Philippines. This year I was able to lobby [for] my advocacy to be part of the program of Miss Universe. So that’s 27,000 individuals on the spectrum that got the attention of the Miss Universe Philippines audience. It’s just such an amazing platform to do the good that you want to do.

MM: See, now you know why I’m so proud of her.

RG: I would be too. Yes. What comes to mind recently, it’s just so simple. I love children, so whenever I can go to a classroom and just sit down with the kids and make them laugh and bring smiles to their faces, that warms my heart. Happiness is everything—that’s the medicine of life. I was in South Africa and I love to go to sewing classrooms. I had the opportunity to go to a vocational school and sit down with the kids. They were able to teach me a new technique and then I taught them something. We had that exchange but after that learning experience, we just started joking around. These little boys, they asked me for my number. I said that is against protocol. We just had that fun, light-hearted energy that is so simple but for me, it’s so impactful. Like I said, laughter is the best medicine in life and when I’m able to do that, it just warms my heart.

MY: Also, may impact ka rin sa akin. ’Cause I see your social media and whenever you travel to a different country, you try to make a new outfit, a sustainable outfit that you can present whenever you go to an official visit for Miss Universe. So honestly, that’s something that I always look forward to when I follow you. 

RG: Aww!

CG: I love the thing that every queen is different, and the impact of their reign is different. But I would say that there is a substantial impact that is felt in the community in some way or another. In my year, after I won in December, Young Focus, the org that I work with in Tondo, that works around education, got such an outpouring of love and support that the whole financial year of 2019 was covered. And then going on after that, pandemic, lockdown, and everything happened. The families in Tondo live on a day-to-day basis, when their work stops, income stops, they don’t have food on the table. So, utilizing the platform that I have because of pageantry, we got to raise five million pesos for a feeding program. People like to hear substantial things. There are stories embedded all throughout pageantry. And when you start to hear them, and they can be in, like, super small moments when you talk to someone and someone will say, even if it’s a kid, be like, wow, when you spoke up about that thing, I felt seen. That is also a reward in itself. And when you listen to everyone’s stories in the sisterhood, you’ll hear them, you’ll find them.

“Age shouldn’t really define
a woman because in our society we feel
like we have a time limit. I think your
prime is always in the current if you
make it, and you’re always capable
of whatever you want to do
no matter what age you are”

—R’bonney Gabriel

RG: It’s moments like that that they remember for the rest of their lives, because I have moments when I was a kid when somebody just came and inspired me or told me something and it sticks with me forever, yeah.

MD: For me, that was my mom. I grew up seeing her use her platform and pouring it out into all the charities that she was involved in. And at a very young age, she taught me that you know the best thing in life is giving back. When you’re in the position to give back to your community, then you should do that. And that’s the same with my grandmother as well. I was raised by some pretty amazing individuals that I’m very grateful for.

R’bonney wears a RAFGLANG shirt, LOUIS VUITTON skirt, BULGARI monete necklace. Photo by Shaira Luna

VPH: As queens, how do you feel you’ve impacted the happiness of other people? How does the journey become full circle? 

MY: I like this question. I love it because my husband, Mikael and I, our outlook is, I just want to be happy. Because we realize that not a lot of people know what truly makes them a happy person. Even if it’s something small or something big. Sometimes people are so goal driven that they forget what the little things in life are that I can count on that give me a little spark or make me happy in this moment. And even with the advocacies that we do, you know we’re able to put a smile on somebody’s face and make an impact on their lives. And the people that helped me in my pageant journey, wow, they’ve made such a big impact in my life.

CG: Definitely, it takes a village. 

MY: Oh yeah. 

CG: One of the happiest moments in my recollection during my reign was homecoming. I don’t think there was like a higher, happier moment. It was just incredible. Such a celebratory, proud moment on my side like I was just so, so proud to bring that much joy to my nation. 

MY: Yeah, everybody’s like, yeah Philippines, you’re like Filipino ako. Pinoy ako!

RG: When you’re on stage it’s just indescribable. You feel like you’re on top of the highest mountain. I will never forget that feeling.

MD: I can only imagine what you went through because you had both USA and Philippines rooting for you.

MY: Yeah, cheering for you.

RG: The energy, like I said, it was indescribable. And I think about how everybody was cheering. It was like, where am I? So amazing. And it just gets you so excited. I’ll probably never have that same feeling again because that was a once in a lifetime thing. But it’s just so much joy. I remember when I hit top five, the nerves melted away because there was just so much gratefulness already there.

MY: What can you say makes you truly happy Miss Melanie?

MM: When I see people smile. 

RG: It’s contagious. 

MM: I always believe that when you give love, you will receive love, too. I was just like an underdog before. But of course, being genuine to other people, they can feel that love that you feel for them. 

MY: Give love, receive love. I love that. 

“One of the happiest moments in my recollection during my reign was homecoming—such a celebratory, proud moment on my side like I was just so, so proud to bring that much joy to my nation”

— Catriona Gray

VPH: Raise your hand if you remember your final question. 

CG: How can you forget?

MM: I do remember it; I have a very unique answer! “Angie Dickinson has uninsured legs for 1 million. Are you interested to exchange legs with her?” That was
my question.

Melanie wears a MARIAN ZARA patent leather skirt, CARTIER Juste Un Clou Bracelet. Catriona wears a LOUIS VUITTON denim skirt, EUSTACIA RODRIGUEZ skirt, CARTIER Clash Bracelet and Love Bracelet. R’bonney wears a RHETT EALA skirt, ROGER VIVIER shoes, CARTIER Juste Un Clou Ring and Clash Ring. Megan wears a STEPH TAN skirt, CARTIER Love Ring with Diamonds, Juste Un Clou with Diamonds and a Love Bracelet with Diamonds Paved. Michelle wears a RAFGLANG skirt. All wearing UNIQLO heattech turtleneck. Photo by Shaira Luna

MD: And you said? 

MM: And I said “no, because I’m contented with my long legged.”

MD: Iconic! 

MY: I love it, so iconic! When I was studying in the industry, they said that there is a Melanie Marquez book of quotable quotes. I would read it because I loved how candid you were with what you said. And you didn’t care about anybody else. You were just, like, “I love my long legged.” And I always remembered that. 

MD: The Department of Tourism recently released a new slogan, “We give the world our best,” I’m channeling my inner Xian Lim. “For you, what is the best that we can offer to the rest of the world?” I really copied Xian Lim’s intonation.

MY: Hashtag Xian Lim!

MD: Oh yeah so I remember. Do I give my answer as well? 

VPH: Would you give a different answer now for your final question?

MD: Oh no…

MY: Nah… 

RG: Because it worked! 

MY: No! There’s a reason why we answered that. Keep it as is! 

RG: I still feel the same way!

MD: We’re not changing anything, not a single punctuation. 

CG: I agree, I mean, my answer revolved around gratitude and I still keep it to this day. 

MY: Mantra. 

RG: I have the same feeling, yes. 

CG: My question was: what is a life lesson that you have learned and how would you use it in your reign as Miss Universe something like that. Sabi ko gratitude, and then I made kwento about how I had learned that in my charity work. If everyone would be more grateful, we would start seeing the blessings that we have. So, it’s still a sentiment that I hold dear. 

RG: Same.

CAROLINA HERRERA blazer and shirt, CARTIER Clash de Cartier Ring medium model, Love Ring in rose gold with diamonds, Clash de Cartier Ring in rose gold. Photo by Shaira Luna

MD: I think it’s important to just accept everything that comes our way and that we’ve done in the past. I mean, everything happens for a reason. It’s either a lesson or a blessing. 

MY: And you’re here for a reason. Like you made that answer and it brought you to a certain path in life and that’s why you’re here today.

MD: Sitting on this roundtable discussion. 

MY: For Vogue. 

MD: For Vogue, surrounded by my idols.

VPH: You’ve all had your journeys as queens but as women, what are your individual journeys moving forward? Where are you going?

CG: Wow, that is such a big question!

MY: I know. I’m [in] my 10th year now since winning, and I still, like, it’s always changing.

CG: Yeah, I think it’s meant to. Because we’re changing, we’re growing, we’re evolving, we’re maturing. And yes, sometimes your wants and the things you want to do change as well. And I think that’s completely normal.

MY: Yeah, I thought I was going to get married right after I turned over the crown. And then I realized, I want to, like, do acting and stuff. So your path always changes. I feel like everything is always changing with the times. And I’m just up for it. I’m up for the change. I’m up for a challenge all the time. 

RG: It’s exciting, too. Just have that open mind for opportunity.

MY: Yeah, don’t box yourself.

RG: Yeah. I would say I have a constant. Ever since I was 15, I’ve always wanted to be a designer. I’ve loved sewing, that’s never changed, it could change, who knows? But I think, like I said, if you’re just open to the opportunities, our world is always evolving. Social media, technology, artificial intelligence, but you always keep that constant of, I’m going to use my talents or whatever I have, to make an impact and enjoy myself doing it, then I’ll be fine no matter what, right?

MD: Well, I am definitely on the way to El Salvador. That’s where I’m going in the next two months. No, but you know I’ve always considered myself multifaceted. I’m so passionate [about] different industries. Like I’m creative, I love tech, I love acting. So ultimately, and this is what I always say, at the end of my life, I just want to be happy and [content] with whatever I’m doing. For sure, I just want to do something I’m passionate about.  At the end of the day, I just want to be happy and fulfilled and [content] with whatever I choose to do. I mean, El Salvador is in two months. I don’t know what the future beholds.

MY: Exciting times 

MD: I just want to be happy. 

CG: A life without regrets. 

Catriona wears a LOUIS VUITTON shirt, denim skirt and ring, FALKE tights. R’bonney wears a LOUIS VUITTON denim jacket and quilted skirt. Michelle wears a LOUIS VUITTON frayed denim jacket, denim pants and earrings. Photo by Shaira Luna

MM: Well, at my age, I’m already 63. I’m still learning. I just pray a lot and be supportive with my children. Learn more things that I still have to learn.

MY: Yeah. You are so accomplished in life. Is there anything else that you want to achieve? Aside from of course cheering your kids on.

MM: Yeah, there’s a lot of things that I want to do, but of course my priorities are for my children first.

MY: That’s so sweet, grabe! Grabe yung support. 

MD: So anything that she wants, I’ll be the one to give it to her. Hopefully.

CG: I really am a creative so I do have a lot of things in the pipeline. But the thing is, throwing in my perfectionism, I really take time to do stuff. I’ve always wanted to create something and then offer it to the world. So as long as I can continue to create, I’ll be happy. ’Cause I feel like that’s a part of my purpose. I don’t feel like it’s a fluke why we like the things we like or are passionate about the things that we’re passionate about or that we have the talents that we do. I feel like it’s there for a reason. We just have to discover what that reason is. So yeah, I’m still learning. I keep learning. Again, perfectionism is a thing. But yeah, I just want to create. And also I’m wedding planning so…

MY: Yes! Wag ka ma-stress. Enjoy the process.

CG: I’m trying, I’m trying!

VPH: We wanted to ask everyone for advice. Tell us how to live a happy life. 

CG: I feel like I had a really big shift in mindset when I started to really make an effort to see all of the blessings and the things to be grateful for. Because I feel like the thief of joy is comparison—always looking to what you lack or don’t have or to what other people have and you don’t. But when I started counting the things to be grateful for, they can be as simplistic as, thank you that I have a safe, warm bed to sleep in tonight, that I have a roof over my head, I have food on my table. Like, it can start really, really small. As soon as you start counting those things, it really makes you view the world in a different place. And I feel like when you’re able to shift your mindset that way, no matter what storms you’re heading into or what challenges lay ahead of you, like you’ll always see something good in it. And so, I mean, happiness, I feel like, is an ideal sometimes that we place upon ourselves that’s meant to fit in a certain shape, like my dream career, or I have to have a million followers, or I have to achieve this by the age of 30. But sometimes it’s not real true happiness. I really feel like true happiness is being grateful and also looking after the relationships around you. Because I feel like the people you surround yourself with, your family, your friends, your friends who become family, you really feed into the environment that you’re in and make it a nice place.

MY: Definitely. For me, I love focusing on the little things that make me happy because I feel like these are things that nobody can take away from me. Like these are little things like making coffee in the morning for my husband and me, waking up to my two dogs beside me, Selva and Shia, and playing video games in my little corner of my house and fixing up the little art that I have at home. But aside from that, if I’m going to go on a deeper level, one of the things that truly makes me happy is if I can help the people directly around me that help make my life so much easier because they contribute to such a big part of my life, my work. And if I can give back to them and make their life easier, if I can help them with their families, that truly makes me happy. What about you Ms. Melanie? 

MM: Well, I agree with the two of you. I always believe that simplicity means a lot to me. For as long as you live [within] your means, be genuine to your feelings, and be grateful for everything that you have. And of course, I always love my family. Always thank God that you always have your family with you and just be grateful. That, I think, can make you very happy. 

MD: That’s true. I’m glad I make you happy, Mom. Growing up I actually considered happiness as one of life’s biggest luxuries. I had to realize that we just need to embrace our lives for what it has to offer because you will not have a perfect life. Just feeling gratitude for everything and everyone that’s helping you be in your place or where you are in life and recognizing all those small steps as well. You have to celebrate the small wins because like we mentioned earlier, we all generally have this big goal, but we have to trust those little steps to be able to accomplish that big goal. And for me, it’s celebrating those small wins, appreciating everything that everyone is doing around me—that gives me so much love and so much happiness. And yeah, that’s what’s been making me happy throughout life, just being grateful, seeing the blessings in everything, and recognizing that life isn’t perfect, so make the most out of today. 

Megan Young, Melanie Marquez, Catriona Gray, R'Bonney Gabriel, and Michelle Dee smiling in black and white suits
Michelle wears a CAROLINA HERRERA blazer, trousers, and shirt. R’bonney wears a MAX MARA blazer and trousers, CAROLINA HERRERA shirt. Catriona wears a CAROLINA HERRERA blazer, trousers, and shirt. Melanie wears a LOUIS VUITTON blazer, CARTIER Clash de Cartier necklace. Megan wears a CAROLINA HERRERA blazer, trousers, shirt, and tie. Photo by Shaira Luna

RG: I think we all have the underlying answer of gratefulness. Everybody listening, gratefulness is key, key, key. I say that time and time again, and I agree with y’all because it’s the number one thing. I truly believe that everybody is born with a capability or an offering to the world—something special, something unique. It doesn’t have to be grand. I mean everybody has a place in this world and like you were saying, comparison is the thief of joy. For me, it’s sewing, which could be so simple, but actually I can do so much with it. I’m building my career that fulfills me, and then I’m able to tackle issues in the world of pollution and in the fashion industry. I think everybody needs to go back and say whatever offering you have, you can do so much with it. And when you’re able to really tap in and find it, you’re really able to unlock your greatest potential, and when you’re operating at your greatest potential, to me, that is happiness and that is rewarding. So I love to just always encourage people who say, man, I don’t have a calling in life or a purpose. And something so simple, I think you should never take yourself too seriously. I’m a perfectionist myself. I can get really stressed out of the little things but I have to laugh at myself at the end of the day. And that just keeps me going. 

MY: Sometimes it’s really the simple things that count. We are constantly grateful for the things that we have and that’s what really pushes us in life.

Vogue Philippines: October 2023 Issue


Photographs by Shaira Luna. Beauty Editor: Joyce Oreña. Fashion Director: Pam Quiñones. Introduction: Audrey Carpio. Stylists: Neil de Guzman, Steven Coralde. Makeup: Gery Peñaso, Jelly Eugenio, Zidjian Paul. Hair: Brent Sales, Dale Mallari, Nelly Tolentino. Nails: Extraordinail. Talents: Catriona Gray, Megan Young, Melanie Marquez, Michelle Dee, R’Bonney Gabriel. Art Director: Jann Pascua. Production Design: Justine Arcega-Bumanlag. Producers: Bianca Zaragoza, Anz Hizon. Multimedia Artist: Tinkerbell Poblete. Photographer’s Assistant: Emelito Lansangan. Stylist’s Assistants: Chelsy Estrada, Em Liesel, Geno Espidol. Production Assistant: Patricia Co. Makeup Assistants: Jannine Bance, Jelly Dy, Shua Alcantara. Hair Assistant: Rommel Hermoso. Production Design Assistants: John Amon, Jeber Cunanan, Mario Taipen, Olderico Bondoc, Rodel Bondoc. Interns: Dominique Tan, Jilliane Santos, Sofia Ante. Shot on location at The Penthouse at Twenty-Four Seven McKinley. Special thanks to B&B Italia Manila and Focus Global Inc. 

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