On The Fight Against Colorism And Why Chelsea Manalo’s Miss Universe PH Win Is Important

On The Fight Against Colorism And Why Chelsea Manalo’s Miss Universe PH Win Is Important

More than being the face of challenging norms, Chelsea carries her cause with conviction and dignity



Mass media had a strong chokehold on me growing up, and it’s easy to admit my early influences—aside from my family—were from television. I owed my path to self-discovery to the countless shows I reference until now and the figures (mostly females) I continue quote too often.


I cannot remember how many America's Next Top Model cycles I’ve watched. The seasonal Victoria’s Secret Fashion Shows always got me and my high school classmates recreating the catwalks. With so much confidence and pride, I would pretend to be Candice Swanepoel—with her glorious blonde locks and fantasy bras—while my friends fought over who would be Behati Prinsloo and Alessandra Ambrosio. My teenage life was partly shaped by the glamorous backdrop and glitzy evening gowns of Miss Universe.



Fun times, I have to say, but implicating, in retrospect.


As it dawned on me, we were only Candice, Behati and Alessandra—who, in the most obvious sense, are fairer, white girls. We were never Tyra Banks, Fatima Siad, Duckie Thot or Naomi Campbell, who were equally as iconic and beautiful. 


Sadly enough, it was only while writing this that I got to reflect about these biases. And it is with guilt that I say: I might be one of the many impressionable kids who unknowingly grew up carrying the Eurocentric standards of beauty from theory to practice. 


Chelsea Manalo: torchbearer of the underrepresented

The Philippines is Eurocentric in itself, and this fact is very much evident in the love and clamor Filipinos have for whitening products. Creams, soaps and even injectables polarize the market—all branded with the promise of warmer and wider social acceptance. 


This persistent discourse on harmful beauty standards, particularly on the fight against colorism, was made more evident when Chelsea Manalo—a Filipina-American black beauty from Bulacan—was crowned Miss Universe Philippines 2024.



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While Chelsea went through her Miss Universe Philippines journey unnoticed, she was never really considered a heavy contender since most of the pageant outlets rooted for frontrunners and veteran returnees. 


Now, with a crown on her head and heavy shoes to fill, Chelsea’s win is considered monumental by Filipinos as she ushers in a newfound inspiration for girls who have darker complexions. And ultimately, she confronts the traditional beauty standards long practiced in the Philippines. 


More than being the face to challenge the norms, Chelsea carries her cause with such conviction and dignity for personal experience. In fact, during the coronation night on May 22, 2024, she spoke so eloquently of her struggles with having a darker complexion and how she can use this to empower others. 


She says, “As a woman of color, I have always faced challenges in my life. I was told that beauty has standards, actually. But for me, I have listened to always believe in my mother, to always believe in yourself, uphold the values that you have in yourself. Because of this, I am already influencing a lot of you who are facing me right now as a transformational woman.”


@oliscoedit her voice was heard ✨ #chelseamanalo #fyp #missuniversephilippines #olisco #fypシ゚viral #oliscoedit #fyppppppppppppppppppppppp ♬ Silent Track 3 Minutes – Sleep Sounds


Prior to Chelsea’s win, the Philippines had already established its name as a powerhouse country in the Miss Universe competition—a fact backed by a long list of women who came before her. But as diverse as the Philippines may be, many of the delegates we sent are arguably prototypes of the Western mold. 


Don’t get me wrong; these ladies have done well, within and beyond their time with the crown. Their merits have been solid attestations to their hard work, and their legacy in bringing the Philippines to a respectable pedestal deserves to be celebrated. But to set a clear line, the practice of delegating individuals who bare Eurocentric features to “beauty” competitions poses a harmful notion among younger kids who have a hard time fitting into society. 


More so, it wrongly poses a notion that having fairer skin is more socially welcomed by peers—even placing them at a higher pedestal—while darker-skinned individuals are held without as much regard and admiration by default. 


Where do we go from here?

If anything, Chelsea is best viewed as a bullet straight to a tiger’s glaring eyes. Her representation of the overlooked is a substantial starting point towards a more accepting Philippines, and her victory calls for people like her to take up their own space. 


For every impressionable child who finds beauty in the likes of Candice, Behati and Alessandra, may just as many hold the same admiration for Chelsea, Tyra, Fatima, Duckie and Naomi. In the same wishful thinking, may these kids grow up without experiencing the prejudices of skin color—only carefree admiration of all. 


A lot of work still needs to be done, and the fight against these superficial biases do not begin and end with the crowning of the first-ever black Miss Universe Philippines. Because while Chelsea has dented the daunting walls of colorism with impact, it’s how we, together, move and go about acceptance as a whole.



Words Rod Hagen

Art Alexandra Lara


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