While being the youngest in the batch may be enough to distinguish her, the way the Marinduque representative proudly bears her unconventional family upbringing has gained the attention of many. She said it best in her
introduction video, stating, "I think one thing that definitely makes me unique is that I grew up in a gay family. I was raised by two men, and… looking back, I don’t think I would have had it any other way."
While growing up with two fathers in the Philippines may not be status quo for many, it's the only life the
morena has ever gotten to know. To anyone that raises an eyebrow at her family set-up, she bravely contests that she never has, and never will see an issue with it.
In fact, ever since Nadine started joining pageants in her pre-teen years, her dads have always been by her side not only as her coaches, but also her biggest fans. Walking into this year’s much-awaited Miss Universe Philippines bout, she brings with her a firm dedication to win the crown and to stand as a true ally to the LGBTQIA+ community in honor of her parents.
Nadine and her parents
INSTAGRAM/simonebornilla In an exclusive interview with
Preview, Nadine shares how she went from teen queen to Miss Universe Philippines finalist, and why queer voices, like those of her dads, should be amplified in today's world. VIDEO
Redirection, Never Rejection
The Gen Z beauty queen has been basking in the limelight since she was 14. At an age when most people would still be figuring themselves out, Nadine was already making a name for herself in the pageant world by bagging the
Miss Philippines Youth title in 2018.
With the contest having 90 other candidates between both gender divisions, her victory was nothing short of stellar. Though her first dive into the pageant world was a successful one, it also inadvertently led her to receiving hate comments online. "As a child, of course I got mentally affected by all of that. After that, I didn't know if I wanted to pursue pageantry anymore," she recalls.
However, Nadine thinks that she couldn't have handled it better because she was too young. "I'm just glad that I had a really good support system surrounding me. That was when my makeup artist told me that '
to make That’s something I keep in mind to this day." patol is human, to deadma is divine.'
Nadine Bornilla representing the Philippines for Miss Teen International
Post-Miss Philippines Youth, Nadine kept herself busy with other ventures, such as starting
Simone Swimwear PH, her own line of bathing suits, and Simone Cosmetics, her personal makeup brand. Her never-say-die attitude also shone through when she tried out for Pinoy Big Brother on three different occasions, though unfortunately not making the cut for any of those seasons.
She shares that her experience of rejection actually redirected her to something just as great, narrating, "I was really disheartened [because] I really went above and beyond to get into
[Pinoy Big Brother]. [But] as they say, when a door closes, another one opens. Prior to PBB, I actually screened for Miss International Teen Philippines and they appointed me as the [Philippine representative] for the international competition."
With her beauty queen career calling her back, Nadine took it as a sign that it was what she was meant to be doing. Safe to say, she made a strong comeback, winning the Continental title at the competition that year.
Sitting at the Big Girls Table
Even with her teen queen experience, joining Miss Universe Philippines this year wasn't a natural choice for her. The
morena explains, "When the opportunity for MUPH came up, it wasn't an instant thing to join because I was already seeing the rumored applicants for it. I was already feeling a bit iffy about it because I didn't think I'd stand a chance against [the other candidates]."
With her juvenile experience and not-so-typical beauty queen height, who could blame her for second guessing herself, right? Although, the things she thought would be her disadvantages from participating actually became part of what pushed her to sign up. "There wouldn't be a better time than now especially [since] they removed the height requirement. I'm only 5'3"," she says, "If I don't join now, what if they add [back the height requirement]?
I don't want to live my life having any regrets… I’m trying to prove that I’m a [grown] woman now. "
By making her way to the top 30 and placing in the top seven of the interview challenge, it's obvious that Nadine made no mistake in biting the bullet and going for it. Even her expectations of meeting her batchmates turned out to be way better than what she expected. "I thought to myself, for sure when I meet the girls, my confidence level is gonna sink down again. But when I met them, it felt so light. It felt like I've known them my whole life," she shares.
Through it all, Nadine remains a daddies' (yep, plural) girl through and through. From the get-go, she was aware that her being vocal about her family set-up caused some commotion, both in good and bad ways. "My statement about being proud that I was raised by two gay men and that I am an ally of the LGBTQIA+ community surprisingly got a lot of people’s attention when I first posted it.
It's a story [that I want to tell]. It's the main purpose of why I am joining because I want my story to be heard ," she states.
Getting naysayers online wasn't the first instance her family was furrowed eyebrows at; Nadine recalls an incident wherein her application to an international Catholic school was rejected, solely because the institution disapproved of her family set-up. "That was very disheartening for [us], especially to my parents. It was a heartbreaking moment [for them], thinking that I wasn't accepted to this school on my merits. [They we're thinking] it was because of them [that I didn't get in]," she recounts.
Her Miss Universe Philippines stint now stands as her way of making her family's narrative visible to a wider audience, in hopes that it would be of help to onlookers going through similar situations. "This is my way of fighting for what we've experienced. I'm blessed that [when] this happened to me, I had a very good support system surrounding me at such a hard time," the 18-year old expresses. "[My family and our friends] helped me cope [back then] because it [was] very painful. There are people out there who are experiencing similar things, and it's sad to think they don't have anyone helping them cope. I'm also fighting for them."
INSTAGRAM/simonebornilla For Her Dads, and for the Community
With coronation night looming, Nadine is more than ready to step on stage and to show the country who she is and what she’s fighting for. "Growing up, I actually never thought that there were issues against the LGBTQ+ community…
It really isn't fair that we [don’t] live in a world where we can just love who we love without judgment. I think it’s about time we adapt. Because of that, it made my drive for joining this competition even stronger," she says with conviction.
As an avid ally of the queer community, Nadine is committed to providing individuals from her dads' community a platform to voice out their stories. The unconditional support from her parents, even if she isn't blood-related to one of them, also served as her motivation to represent Marinduque despite not being native to the province.
She candidly explains, "I'm representing Marinduque because it's my stepfather's home province, and I'm doing this to pay tribute to [his]... many years of taking care of me, it’s a very small price to pay to represent [his home town] and to study it. In the process of studying it, I fell in love with it
It's safe to say that no matter what happens after the big night, the love Nadine's parents have for her will not waver. "They always remind me that I am enough, and that I shouldn't let what anyone else is saying change that mindset. There have been many times during my candidacy that I thought to myself that I don't stand a chance against [the frontrunners]. That doubt within me, it’s inevitable that it would come up.
But them reminding me that I am enough, that I do still have a fighting chance, [is] all I really need," she remarks.
Nadine with her parents and brother
If Nadine's Miss Universe Philippines journey says anything about her, it's that she possesses two things in admirable balance—a mature fighting spirit within and outside competitions and a youthful optimism akin to people her age. As a staunch ally to the LGBTQIA+ community, Nadine implores all queer people to continue seeking and being in love, regardless of whatever disapproval society may impose on them. The pageant prodigy dreams of a day where any one person is able to liberally express themselves, nevermind how they identify, or who they choose to love. "
It is for [my parents], and for the LGBTQIA+ community as well, that I am fighting to get to the top. I want to raise a voice for them ," the young beauty queen declares.
"I want to use this platform to amplify everyone's voices because there really [are] a lot of issues surrounding [the LGBTQIA+] community," she tells
Preview, " I want to become the person who tells them that… these concerns, hindi lang sila binabalewala. I want them to know that they are heard."
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