In any craft, including pageantry, the master builder was once an apprentice. This is true to three distinguished national directors who made international headlines when they won their respective crowns and still making waves in the international pageant circuit due to their dedication and love for beauty. The three icons, most notable because of their age-defying beauty and relentless hard-work are Sushmita Sen, Lupita Jones and Stella Marquez-Araneta.
Sushmita Sen, the woman behind the I Am She pageant, is the formidable dark horse of the Miss Universe 1994 held in Manila, Philippines. Her unforgettable answer to the question, “What is the essence of being a woman?”, has been one of the greatest replies in Miss Universe history. Her victory led to string of other victories for Indian delegates in beauty pageants especially during the late 1990’s and early 2000.
In 2010, Sushmita Sen became the owner and national director of the I Am She pageant – franchise holder of the Miss Universe in India. Although, the organization has not produced a semi-finalist finish in the Miss Universe pageant, it prides itself of producing Parul Duggal (Miss Globe Internatiinal 2011 – 1st Runner Up) and Tanvi Singla (Miss Asia Pacific World 2011 – 4th Runner Up).
Lupita Jones, Mexico’s first-ever Miss Universe (1991), is another woman of great pride when she won against the towering beauties of Paulien Huizinga of Netherlands and Yulia Lemigova of the former USSR. Her simplicity and wit stood out across the finals night held at the Aladdin Theatre for the Performing Arts in Las Vegas.
Three years after her reign, Lupita Jones started Nuestra Belleza Mexico, the pageant organization responsible for selecting delegates for three of the big four pageants in the world – Miss Universe, Miss World and Miss International. In its more than 15 years of existence, Nuestra Belleza Mexico has produced three convincing victories. Two of those were from the win of Priscilla Perales and Anagabriela Espinoza in Miss International in 2007 and 2009, respectively. Interestingly, in the same city where Lupita Jones was crowned Miss Universe; almost 20 years after that momentous win, Ximena Navarrete captured the second Miss Universe title for Mexico. Though nearly bagging the Miss World crown three times in 2005, 2007 and 2009 (Dafne Molina 1st Runner Up – 2005, Carolina Moran 2nd Runner Up – 2007 and Perla Beltran 1st Runner Up – 2009), Nuestra Belleza Mexico is still longing for that elusive, first Miss World title. Undeniably, the ‘tendon of Achilles’ in Lupita Jones’ beauty pageant selection process.
Stella Marquez-Araneta is irrefutably the pillar of pageantry in the Philippines. She won the very first Miss International crown in 1960, not for the Philippines but for her country of origin – Colombia, held in Long Beach, California. She was also Miss International’s first-ever Latin American titleholder.
Being married to a Filipino businessman, Stella Marquez, heads the Binibining Pilipinas since 1964. The national pageant is the Philippines’ most prestigious national beauty pageant competition that selects the Asian nation’s representative to the Miss Universe, Miss International and Miss World tilt; up until last year when the latter’s franchise was given to the Cory Quirino-led Miss World Philippines.
Binibining Pilipinas boasts two Miss Universe crowns and three Miss International crowns. The two Miss Universe titles were those of Gloria Diaz and Margarita Moran in 1969 and 1973, respectively. On the other hand, the three Miss International crowns were won by Aurora Pijuan (1970), Mimilanie Marquez (1979) and Precious Lara Quigaman (2005). Although, Binibining Pilipinas have only five major titleholders tied to its history, the organization has other string of achievements on other minor international beauty pageants. Aside from these, it also has a number of semi-finalists and finalists finishes in the Miss Universe, Miss World and Miss International.
With these three former beauty queens, success in their chosen fields as National Directors is a result of the experience they had in the pageant arena. Nevertheless, Sushmita Sen’s I Am She can learn from the established Lupita Jones’ Nuestra Belezza Mexico and Stella Marquez-Araneta’s Binibining Pilipinas to create more titleholders for India. On the other hand, Lupita Jones and Stella Marquez-Araneta ought to scrutinize and modernize their selection processes to continue their harvest of more victories in the future.
The achievements of these iconic women are unparalleled to say the least; and thus safe to say, that no other person better to hone a beauty queen other than the beauty queen herself.