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'No politics, no personal questions' A reporter dishes on his 5 minutes with Miss Universe

‘No politics, no personal questions’: A reporter dishes on his 5 minutes with Miss Universe

NO personal questions and no politics.

The media liaison was quite clear as we lined up for our exclusive interviews with Miss Universe Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach, who was ensconced in a Novotel suite reserved for that purpose.

Well, shoot, I thought as I mentally crumpled the list of questions I had for Pia, and tossed it into the nearest imaginary waste bin.

I had wanted to ask her if the thing with Dr Mike, “the sexiest doctor alive” according to People magazine, was the real deal, or just a case of “what happens in New York stays in New York”. You never can tell with social media these days. The two are said to be “dating”, whatever that means.

I had also wanted to ask if she was registered to vote, and if she felt inclined toward the presidential candidate most identified with the Bb. Pilipinas franchise, but I guess that was off limits now.

“Can you finish in three minutes,” the media liaison asked. I pushed for 15. We haggled for a bit. Finally, she stood firm at five minutes.

Who was I kidding? Five minutes was enough time to “do the business”, as it were.

The last time I did one of these things was for another international beauty celebrity endorsing a global luxury brand. They flew me to Bangkok and billeted me in a five-star hotel for two days. But in the end, all I got was five minutes with Cindy Crawford. An uncomfortable five minutes, with her handler glancing at her watch, and the other media hacks impatiently waiting their turn as I tried to get as many questions answered before the clock ran out.

Five minutes seemed to be the PR industry standard for celebrity interviews: time enough for some interesting sound bites, but not enough for the celeb to let her guard down and reveal something they’d prefer to keep under wraps.
Goddesses need to be worshipped from a distance, for a reason. Up close, they seem more human.

10 people The Jacques Brel song ‘Au Suivant’— Google it —was running through my head when I heard someone say “next”, and I was ushered into the presence of Miss Universe. It was supposed to be one-on-one, but there seemed to be at least 10 people in the room, and a couple more ducking their heads in from time to time.

Earlier, at the podium during the press conference, Pia looked like a six-foot brown goddess, all five feet and seven inches of her augmented by five-inch heels that accentuated her shapely calves and gave her that regal Miss Universe walk. She was wearing a white gown that clung to every curve, with a décolleté that revealed an amount of cleavage behind the Miss Universe sash.

Goddesses need to be worshipped from a distance, for a reason.

Up close, they seem more human.

Pia appeared slightly frazzled from jet lag and serial interviews, but still on her game. One could sense something of the steely determination that got her the Bb. Pilipinas crown after two tries, and on to winning Miss Universe.

But the clock was ticking.

First, an innocuous question to warm up, and establish rapport.

Pia had written a style column for us before her big win, and I wondered if that helped prepare her for being Miss Universe.

Pia will soon hand over her crown to the next Miss Universe

“Everything that I learned writing for [Philippine Daily Inquirer] as a Lifestyle contributor definitely helped with my preparation for the Miss Universe pageant,” she said.

“With the help of Miss Thelma San Juan and Luis Carlo San Juan, they were able to open my eyes to fashion outside of pageantry, because they’re two very different worlds. It was very timely that when I joined Miss Universe, WME/IMG bought the Miss Universe franchise, so the whole image of Miss Universe changed.”

With that bit of self-serving self-promotion out of the way, I noted that she seemed emotional earlier at the press conference.

“Did I? Really? Was I emotional? Bittersweet, maybe, but very happy. If ever I was emotional, it’s because I care. I care about Bb. Pilipinas. I care about the pageant, the feeling of what it’s going to be like on Sunday, when I do my farewell speech.”

I said something to the effect that maybe it was being back in her old stomping grounds — Manhattan, Cubao — referring to the condo where she lived while prepping for her three tries at Bb. Pilipinas, a stone’s throw from where we were. I also babbled something about how it felt like to be back with her posse.

“I don’t know specifically what you’re talking about,” she said.

Neither, evidently, did I. Maybe mentioning specifics like her old address were off limits now that she was Miss Universe, what with “stalkerazzi” and all she had to be aware of. In a follow-up press conference, she admitted that in New York, people seemed to expect her to act more naturally, but in the Philippines, she had to be more careful about what she said and how she said it.

Moving on.

Now that she was living in Manhattan, New York, instead of Manhattan, Cubao, did she think she could make a life for herself there?
It was supposed to be one-on-one, but there seemed to be at least 10 people in the room, and a couple more ducking their heads in from time to time.

“Yes,” she answered. “I’m learning quick. I’m learning the ropes with the help of Miss Universe. They treat me like family, and they let me learn on my own. So slowly but surely I’m learning what it’s like to live abroad. I’ve lived in England already for three years, although the feel of London is quite different from New York.

“But being away from home isn’t something new to me,” she went on. “I’m used to being away from family and I don’t really get homesick, and I’m good at adjusting to wherever I am. So the possibility of me maybe staying in New York a little bit longer is there.”

Earlier, she said that winning Miss Universe was her dream. Now that the dream has come true, I asked, what next?

“Wow,” she said. “There are many other dreams for me. I want a comfortable life for my mom and my sister, my niece — for my family. I would also like to go back to school. I would like to pursue a career in acting — again. I have a scholarship from the New York Film Academy, so I will definitely take that. The possibilities are endless.”

Pia had been acting and modelling since she was a child, and was the family breadwinner. I wondered if she ever felt like taking some time off for herself and doing whatever.

“You know what?” she replied. “I feel that this is time off for myself. As you said I’ve been working for my family for many years, doing tapings and doing shoots and doing this and that. And sometimes it’s gruelling and it’s hard to balance school life and work when you’re young. But I’m here now. I’m genuinely happy doing my job as Miss Universe. I’m living the dream. I’m very happy.”

If she’s emotional now that she’s about to hand over the Bb. Pilipinas crown to her successor, what more next year when she has to make a graceful exit to make way for the next Miss Universe?

“There’s always going to be other things,” she said. “Pageants are not the beginning or the end of everything. And that’s something I want all the girls to realise. This is an opportunity and a platform for you to open doors to other, bigger things.”

Does it ever get old, I wondered. Having to be dolled up and camera-ready all the time?

“No,” she replied without hesitation.

And with that, my time with Miss Universe was up.

Courtesy : Dawn News



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