Before she proudly represents the Philippines at the 63rd Miss Universe beauty pageant in Miami, Florida on Monday morning (Sunday evening in the United States), find out all there is to know about the country’s beautiful bet, reportedly a frontrunner in the competition, Mary Jean “MJ” Lastimosa.
MJ, 27, was born on November 23, 1987 to a Filipino mother and a Saudi Arabian father. She hails from North Cotabato, one of the many war-torn provinces in Mindanao, as noted by the Miss Universe organization. Her official biography on www.missuniverse.com writes, “Born in a war-torn province with political insurgencies, she learned the values of courage and became determined to excel in academics.”
And indeed MJ did as she took up Computer Engineering at the University of Mindanao, completing her Bachelor of Science with flying colors, and aided by three scholarships.
Besides being an astute student, MJ also had a passion for the performance arts in her younger days. She first showcased her beauty, brains and talent at the young age of 16 when she joined the Mutya ng Tulunan in 2003.
From then on, her winning streak in beauty pageants continued, securing her the Lakambini ng University of Mindanao and the Mutya ng North Cotabato crowns in 2004. MJ didn’t stop there as she was judged Davao’s Loveliest in 2005, Mutya ng University of Mindanao in 2006, Miss Regional and Miss National PRISAA in 2007, and again Mutya ng Davao and Reyna ng Aliwan in 2008. If she failed to win the main tilt in these beauty pageants, MJ would always finish a runner up. (cotabatoprov.gov.ph)
By 2011, the beauty from Mindanao finally found the courage to join Bb. Pilipinas, considered the most prestigious beauty contest in the country. Here, the titleholder is tasked to represent the Philippines to the Miss Universe pageant, which in turn is considered the most prestigious beauty pageant in the world.
And although MJ only finished second runner-up in her first try, she persevered and joined the pageant again the following year, ending up in the Top 12.
In 2014, MJ took her final shot at the Bb. Pilipinas crown, already within the age limit of the pageant at 26 years old. All her effort, experiences and determination paid off when she took home the coveted crown.
When not busy competing in beauty pageants, MJ runs her business, a spa and fitness center, in Davao City. According to the achiever, her choice of an entreprise reflects her love for health and wellness.
Notably, she was named the “2014 Sexiest Vegetarian Celebrity” by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals Philippines (PETA) for her efforts to stay fit and her advocacy for animals and the environment
Lastly, MJ is also a humanitarian who seeks to inspire the children of her war-torn hometown in every endeavor she pursues.
In an interview for the Province of Cotabato website, she shared, “I grew up in a town where conflict has existed for so long, [and]which affected the people especially the youth. It is my goal to give them inspiration and to make them feel that whoever they are and wherever they may come from, there’s always this chance to be somebody.”