I remember bumping into Pia Wurtzbach at Gold’s Gym inside Victoria Towers in Quezon City three or four years ago. I say “bumping” so casually as if she knew me, but she didn’t, of course. I didn’t “know” her as well—I only knew her as the once-Star Magic talent who’d diligently join the Binibining Pilipinas every year. I had no further knowledge save for that, and so I had no reason to creep her out with a fan photo (not that I do it a lot with anyone else). I just went on to text my friends, “I think I just saw Pia Vershba lifting an EZ bar.”
Maybe Pia was preparing for her third and last attempt at bagging the Binibining Pilipinas – Universe title then. She would eventually be successful at it, wowing the rest of the “universe” in the international pageant with her beauty, brains, and, yes, brawn. See, fitness is a top priority for any beauty pageant contestant anywhere. Skip your first wave feminism thoughts—these body reconfigurations are not just about fitting into swimsuits, it’s also about personifying strength, health, state of mind, and #girlpower altogether. Rachel Peters, 26, our pageant-crazy country’s latest rep to Miss Universe, has learned this and more inching her way to the competition in Las Vegas.
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“People warned me before joining Binibini, but I didn’t realize how closely people really watch your every move when you win,” Rachel told me in our chat early November, some days before flying out of the country for Miss U. “So, when I go out to eat pizza and someone takes a picture and they’re like, ‘Why is she eating pizza? She’s getting fat! Did you see that picture of her? She’s so fat?’ And then it spreads like wildfire, it’s unbelievable!”
Beauty queen life is tough, Rachel is the first one to attest. Filling in Miss Universe fourth runner-up Maxine Medina’s shoes and all the representatives before her, she saw her lifestyle pushed to the limits. Rachel dabbled in a lot of sports growing up—touch rugby, football (“because my dad was British and I wanted to make him proud!”), swimming as part of the swim team at school, wakeboarding (“I love being outdoors so every opportunity there is to try something new, I’ll do it!”) and surfing (“although I didn’t surf in Siargao even with the good waves because I needed to protect my legs”). She goes to Gold’s Gym as the fitness center’s ambassadress to work out, but she knew that preparing for Miss U she needed to go beyond just lifting weights.
“I do Pilates, to work on my upper body strength,” she said. That, and boxing, yoga, and regular weight training where altogether she’s already intermediate at.
Rachel prefers hitting the gym with her personal trainer first thing in the morning lest she feels too tired doing it to cap off every busy day. She takes pre-workout supplements, too, would you believe?
“Lately, it’s been really hard to get myself motivated to go to the gym, so I admit I needed the extra push. I take actual bodybuilders’ pre-workout supplements!” she laughed. “I really need it to have to wake up extra early because I have to work at nine, and I have to wake up at six, and I still am so tired! So (without it) it would be impossible.”
[related: Hot Stuff: November 2017 Is Beauty Pageant Month And The PH Is Looking To Reign Supreme!]
Tweaking her diet seemed to be a test of patience and perseverance for Rachel. This, especially since she’s not as gifted with a fast metabolism “as I got my dad’s genes, against my brother who got my mom’s genes.”
“I do tend to put on weight very, very easily. I compensate by working out very often,” she confessed. “I don’t follow any specific type of diet, but I tend to stay away from carbs. I eat mostly chicken breast and cauliflower rice. As a matter of fact, you know Bianca King? She’s dating Migz’ (Villafuerte) brother and so she’s really into holistic living and veganism. She wrote me some meal plans that I’ve been following, and it’s super helpful!”
She then had this thesis statement, “I work out a lot. It’s really true when they say, it’s 80 percent diet and 20 percent workout because it was only after I started that, that I started noticing changes in my body.”
[related: Beauty Inspo: Leave It To Rachel Peters Slaying The 'No Makeup' Look Like A Kween!]
But keeping fit isn’t just about the physical for the beaut. Because of her “duties” and all that pressure, Rachel struggled with getting enough hours of sleep pre-pageant.
“It’s really stressful in the moment. I really lose weight without trying so I kind of try to reach my ideal body weight. Yet I continue to lose weight so I’m eating again normally. It’s because of stress and lack of sleep. It’s just a crazy mix of feelings at night when you’re in bed and trying to sleep,” she opened up.
[related: Style Inspo: Young Beauty Kweens Rachel Peters And Laura Lehmann Slay No Matter Where They Go!]
But the fighter that Rachel is, she vowed no backing down. So, what if bookmakers have been betting hard on South Africa, USA, Thailand, Australia, Venezuela, and who have you this year? Frankly, Rachel’s beauty and confidence ran tangible in our conversation, her Brent International, Phuket- and La Trobe University-educated mind too telling in her grace and sentence construction.
“You should definitely have to step it up a notch because you have the weight of the entire Philippines on your shoulders!” she said, discounting all sacrifices she’s had in terms of exercise, diet, stress management, and even handling ridiculously watchful critics. This, she said, after all, is not just about her.
“I am now used to it. All the bashing, it actually made me a better person,” she briefly paused. “I didn’t think I could actually say that because it got me down for the longest time. But you have to take it constructively no matter what you do. Everything you do you—first you have to do it for yourself because you are not going to be motivated (otherwise).”
In that chat, Rachel’s willpower reflected a lot of Pia Wurtzbach’s from the inside stories I’ve heard of her before her coronation. Queen P has since reaped the rewards of it all, and, I believe, so will Rachel, too, someday.
For now, however, the only “reward” Rachel is looking forward to after Miss Universe? “Ugh! Literally, I want a mix of everything! So, pasta, pizza, donuts—I don’t know—sinigang, adobo, everything all at once!”
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Photos taken from Rachel Peters' Instagram (@rachelpetersx)