This year's Miss Universe Philippines bout quite possibly saw the most diverse batch of participants in the pageant's history. The removal of the height requirement saw a surge of "vertically-challenged" women shooting their shot at the crown. One of these girls was San Juan's Ayn Bernos, who dreamt of sashaying on the pageant stage since she was young.
Two months after the competition, the 27-year-old TikTok star sat down with fellow beauty queen, Nicole Cordoves for a light interview about her experience on the latter's YouTube channel. Ayn's love for beauty pageants goes deep, and she shares with Nicole that she even volunteered to work for the Miss Universe 2016 pageant, whcih was held locally at the Mall of Asia Arena. At the time, Ayn thought that that was the closest she would ever get to being part of the competition.
The second the organizing body behind the pageant announced that anyone can join, regardless of their height, Ayn sent in her application almost instantly. "I can't delay this dream just to be a 'perfect candidate,'" she says. Once she made the cut for the Top 100, she accepted help from whoever reached out to her, and in turn, also reached out to her connections in order to gain some additional footing. She even recalls ringing up her friend, Mariel Joyce Pascua, Miss General Santos City 2020, for some help to get into Kagandahang Flores for her pasarela training.
As the wheels started turning, Ayn started to go through, in Nicole's terms, an "evolution." "I really wanted to get on stage, I really wanted to be standing there on coronation night," Ayn says—and stand there she did. While her climb to the top was cut short at Top 16, the young businesswoman and podcast host still held her head up high. "Ngayon napakita ko how to be a work in progress... [I] showed people that it's more than just talk, [I] was actually putting things to action... maybe [I'm] not perfect, but it's somehow inspiring na somebody can 'fail' in public and still be happy," she expresses. Nicole adds, saying that her mere presence on that stage was "a win for more girls out there, it was more inclusive."
When asked about the most difficult part of her training, aside from practicing her walk, Ayn states that, "it was training my mind to get used to all the external opinions, kasi hindi naman ako sanay... to [receive] so many criticisms, especially about my body. Wala akong magagawa sa height ko! It's not something I can work on." Coming from a community of content creators who were all relatively supportive, the pageant newbie had to take a couple steps back to deflect whatever was being thrown at her.
Despite all these, she remained headstrong in her charge to represent her own brand of beauty. "If there's anything I learned, it's that sometimes the impact [you make can be seen by] how people respond or act because of what you did or what you said," she expresses, "I grew up na there was one definition of beautiful. Pageantry is so powerful, I wish we could open it up to more kinds of beauty."
At the end of the day, even without a crown or title to her name, Ayn is still a winner in her, and many of her supporters' books. "It's [not really] fatal if you go for your dream and you fall short. That's completely fine, I think that's beautiful."
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