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Who, Really, Is Stella Araneta?

For starters, she's, gasp, Colombian.
Who, Really, Is Stella Araneta? For starters, she's, gasp, Colombian.

Even before the coronation night of Miss Universe, a lot of (trash) talk has been thrown at the team responsible for training and sending our country’s pride, Mary Jean Lastimosa to compete against the world’s most beautiful. When photos of her National Costume and Evening Gown surfaced on the internet, unimpressed netizens were quick to point at the person at the helm of it all, Madam Chairwoman Stella Marquez Zawadski-Araneta. But who is she, really?

Well, for one, she herself was the former Miss Colombia.

Now that may make tongues wag, considering the whole brouhaha over why she chose a Colombian designer to make the Filipino National Costume. But it is a fact. 

In 1959, a young Stella Marquez Zawadski, a beautiful mix of Spanish and Polish roots, won the national pageant in the country of her provenance, i.e. Colombia. The stunning lady was then sent to the Miss Universe pageant where she made it as a finalist in the Top 15. Her claim to fame though, was really the Miss International competition where she won the coveted crown —the first ever Miss International pageant in history! — in 1960.

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The Colombian sets foot in the Philippines

With the jewels on her head and a historical title to boot, the beauty queen mesmerized Filipino business tycoon, Jorge Araneta. The two tied the knot in Colombia and four years later, in 1964, she spearheaded the Binibing Pilipinas Charities, Incorporated (BPCI) in our land, the Philippines. Since then, the woman has been synonymous with Binibining Pilipinas, helping aspiring beauty queens make the country proud.

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To be fair, if not for the dismaying fashion choices, you have to admit that the woman has been doing a pretty decent job of running the business for, get this, 51 years. Is it time for a change? Maybe. Most of the complaints were about Miss Philippines' dress being outdated, after all. It’s not so much about dethroning a beauty-queen bee —we get it, she's devoted half a century of her life to the event— but more about giving our undeniably talented pool of designers a chance to represent our country. As she herself once got to do for Colombia.

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Collage photos from pinterest. 

Illustration by Yayay de Castro

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