Pia with her Madame Stella in the background. AP Photo
It was just over a year ago when she was all over the news being bashed left and right over the choice of Colombian designer Alfredo Barraza to create the national costume for our 2014 Miss Universe candidate Mary Jean Lastimosa.
Now, Binibining Pilipinas Charities Inc chair Stella Marquez-Araneta seems to be on top of the world, and her facial expression shows it as she accompanied our triumphant queen, 2015 Miss Universe Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach, when she made her triumphant return to the country on Saturday, January 23.
Ready to win
For Madame Stella, as she is fondly called, Pia is not only deserving of the prestigious title because of her stunning looks, remarkable intelligence and impeccable style.
“We had a candidate this year that was ready to win,” Stella said in an ABS-CBN News interview.
While she had just been on the sidelines as Pia finally returned to Manila a month after her historic Miss Universe win, Stella’s warm smile and cheerful, jovial stance showed that stark contrast from last year’s defensive debacle. And, with good reason! She brought home a winner!
How did she achieve this incredible turnaround? It’s not only by heeding calls to get a Filipino designer Albert Andrada to create those dazzling pageant outfits, especially the evening gown and national costume, that surely were a big factor in Pia’s win.
It also was the kind of moral support she has given our confidently beautiful queen since she first set foot on the Binibining Pilipinas office in Quezon City for a screening in 2013.
Pia told the press during her send-off last November that when Stella first saw her at that 2013 screening, she told her: “I hope all the other candidates will be as beautiful as you.”
That left her giddy at first.
"And I'll never forget it because as soon as I went home, kinuwento ko kina (I told) Mama J (Jonas Gaffud, Pia’s pageant handler) na alam mo ba ang sabi sa akin ni Madame? Do you know what she said to me?' I was so kilig (giddy)...I was also so kilig that I got a rose, I was so kilig that I got a screening number. I still have that screening number," Pia recalled.
Whatever it takes
But more than just making her day, Pia took Stella’s remark as an inspiration, which encouraged and emboldened her to set her sights on first winning the Binibining Pilipinas crown and eventually the Miss Universe title, whatever it takes.
Pia’s dedication, focus and determination are the hallmarks of this incredible journey, from languishing in defeat for two straight years to become the most beautiful woman in the universe.
Stella had long been an admirer of these inherent qualities of Pia, in all the three years she was under her tutelage. In an interview with the Philippine Star’s Ricky Lo, Stella said:
“She (Pia) is a very dedicated person in everything she does. She knows what she wants and how to get it. If she goes somewhere, she makes sure that she prepares for it…all the time! I observed her for three years in the Binibini and I noticed how focused she was. She’s serious about everything that she plans to do.”
She did fantastic
In a separate interview with TV Patrol after Pia’s victory in Las Vegas, Stella further said: "She was learning constantly what to do and perfect her way of presenting herself. I noticed [that] she would be observing the other winners….Up to the last minute she was taking classes and she did fantastic.”
That indeed made all this euphoria possible! Pia’s gritty resolve and Stella’s unequivocal support was surely the formula that yielded a solution to that 42-year-old problem.
That is, bringing the crown riddled with diamonds, blue topaz, blue sapphire, crystals and gold back to the Philippines.