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Maxine Medina Is Done Trying to Prove Herself to the Universe

The beauty queen opens up about being bullied, growing up with insecurities, and rising above it all.
Maxine Medina Is Done Trying to Prove Herself to the Universe
IMAGE Erwin Canlas
The beauty queen opens up about being bullied, growing up with insecurities, and rising above it all.

During the peak of the Miss Universe 2016 frenzy, the whole nation had something to say about Maxine Medina. Suddenly, almost as if they’ve known her for eternity, people felt the need to give their two cents on every single issue—what gown she should have worn to the finals, how she should have answered in the vernacular during the Q&A portion, and one of the most ridiculous, whether or not she even really deserved to wear the Miss Philippines sash.

IMAGE Erwin Canlas

Mix Supetran ball skirt, price available upon request, mixsupetran.com; Topshop graphic tee, P1795, SM Aura; Forever 21 pink ankle socks, P225, and white sneakers, P799, SM Megamall

“It was so difficult. Sobra-sobra ‘yung pressure,” Maxine admits during an exclusive interview with Preview. We just finished shooting a three-layout editorial plus two videos for her content as the website’s celebrity guest editor for March. Her call time was 9:30AM and she arrived 15 minutes early; it was already past six o’clock in the evening, and the 26-year-old beauty queen was naturally exhausted yet still perky—and not to mention, so refreshingly honest. She continues to open up, “Naaapektuhan din ako pero at the same time I try to turn the negativity into something positive. Kasi ang hirap makipag-compete sa beauty pageants na andami mong iniisip na problems inside. ‘Yung hurt, hindi kasi nakakatulong eh kung nasasaktan ka always.”

Max, as she’s fondly called by her friends, is no doubt one of the most controversial winners in the history of Binibining Pilipinas. She was crowned as Miss Universe-Philippines on April 17, 2016 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City, and although she gave her one hundred percent during the competition to prove that she’s worth her salt, many have questioned the results and argued that it was Kylie Verzosa (Miss International 2016) who should have walked away with the most-coveted Miss Universe-Philippines title. “Right after Binibining Pilipinas, sobrang daming bashers. One week yata ako umiiyak nun,” she recalls. During one of the lowest points of her life, she even considered the idea of simply giving up the crown if that would put an end to the naysayers. It was a brief moment of weakness, and she couldn’t help but think to herself: “Bakit ayaw nila ko manalo?”

IMAGE Erwin Canlas

Forever 21 pearl necklace, P280; and ribbon choker, P280, SM Aura

IMAGE Erwin Canlas

It’s been especially tough during the entirety of the Miss Universe competition. For some reason, there were people who always seemed to take things the wrong way. While trying to be optimistic, she was labeled as “arrogant” and “overconfident.” When in fact, growing up, Maxine was actually the exact opposite. Like any other girl, she’s had to deal with her own insecurities. “I grew up with my cousins na super mestizas, all fair-skinned, straight hair, basta hindi na nila kailangan mag ayos. And in my case, nung bata ako, I was so insecure kasi gusto ko din maging kagaya nilaParang super outcast ako, kasi pag pinag-uusapan na kung sino ‘yung pretty, I’m always out [of the picture],” she shares, recalling the olden days back when she’d always feel like she’s the odd one out. “Lahat sila nag artistanag model. Nagko-commercial din ‘yung kuya ko ha! Inggit na inggit ako kasi laging hindi ako kasama. Super late bloomer ako.

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IMAGE Erwin Canlas

Dorothy Perkins knit sweater, P1275, Power Plant Mall; Forever 21 mint skirt, P1015; sheer dress, P755; nude bralette, P565, SM Makati

It was difficult for me to imagine that this statuesque beauty queen standing in front of me had her fair share of I-wish-I-were-like-this-or-that, but it all made perfect sense. With the Filipinos’ obsession of having white skin and silky straight hair, it was inevitable for a little girl to grow up with skewed standards in beauty and to have a difficult time embracing herself for what she is. “Inaasar ako ng mga cousins ko kasi ako ‘yung pinaka matangkad. Saka maitim ako. My hair is dry and sabog, ‘yung hindi super flat. Tapos ‘yung uso pa that time is ’yung straight na straight and rebonded. So never ako nag lugay, ‘yung hair ko lagi lang tied back. Sobrang I hated myself, from my hair, to my color, to my height,” she confessed, and then she diverted the discussion to the things she actually loved about her childhood. “There was a time I didn’t want to be beautiful anymore, so I just did my own thing, like sports. Kasi volleyball player ako nung high school, so I just focused on that. Actually, pangarap ko talaga ‘yun since elementary. I didn’t focus on my physical appearance, but on my skills—sports, student council, stage play, lahat ‘yan sobrang pinasukan ko. Naging active ako.”

IMAGE Erwin Canlas

Forever 21 metallic blue socks, P225; and gold rings, P225, SM Aura

IMAGE Erwin Canlas

Her insecurities didn't stop there. She explains, “I was bullied since elementary. Until college, actually.” In fact, things got so out of hand that she had to transfer to another school after her mom discovered vandalism around the campus, attacking Maxine and calling her names that she was too embarassed to even tell me.

IMAGE Erwin Canlas

Topshop black sheer dress, P2295, Greenbelt 3; Forever 21 long-sleeve sweater, P1275; black sheer bodysuit, P755; black and gold socks, P225, SM Megamall

I know what you’re thinking: How did she turn from the girl with zero confidence to the Miss Philippines candidate who frolicked on stage wearing only sky-high stilettos and a two-piece swimsuit in front of thousands of people? “[I developed my confidence] when I started modeling,” Max answers. “It was through my cousin, Glenn Peter Perez, who’s a photographer. Since nasa modeling industry siya, he pushed me and asked me, ‘Why don’t you try modeling? Since you’re tall and your skin is perfect sa camera.’ So dun ako natuto mag ayos ng sarili ko.”

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One of the first casting calls that she has attended was for Philippine Fashion Week. She wore a “cute dress” and a pair of stilettos with only two to three inches of heels. When she got there, the models were wearing all-black and most were surprisingly taller than she is. She quips, “I swear, nanliit ako. Tapos naisip ko, tama bang andito ako?” Although ironically, that was also the first time she realized what life has in store for her. “[I’ve had] insecurities ever since, until I realized na kaya ko pala. I started to love myself, especially whenever I go out of town and I meet other people. Like [when I go] surfing, super daming hot girls na dark-skinned and walang pakialam sa hair, pero they’re super hot…And in the modeling world also, it’s an advantage to have this color, especially in front of the camera. There’s so much light so if you’re too white, washed out ka. Even in television. [So eventually,] I learned to appreciate that I’m different.”

IMAGE Erwin Canlas

IMAGE Erwin Canlas

For someone who has never thought of the possibility of becoming a beauty queen, much less to even dare to dream of being one, Maxine has definitely come a long way. “I never expected to win. [I didn’t think I was] capable of doing those kinds of things—speaking in front of a lot of people, trying to be perfect all the time, having to filter things, like bawat kilos at galaw ko. Ang hirap kasi I grew up as the boyish type. Then all of a sudden, kailangan biglang lady-like and queenly,” she recalls. “But I was willing to take a risk, so I figured I might as well be doing my best.”

In the end, Maxine was a fighter. The girl who was constantly bullied fought tooth and nail to defend what is rightfully hers and to prove them wrong. And true enough, everyone who once doubted her has finally seen the most significant change in her life yet: Maxine has transformed into the best version of herself.

Photographed by Erwin Canlas

Styled and Produced by Marj Ramos

Assisted by Nicole Arcano

Makeup by Jyka Espinoza

Hair by Jan Edrosolan

Nails by Daphnie Calaycay of Nail Spa

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Maxine Medina, Miss Universe-Philippines 2016, will be Preview.ph's Celebrity Guest Editor for the month of March. Get to know more about this model and beauty queen in the coming weeks!

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