For those who have followed her career, the transition of Megan Lynne Young from actress to beauty queen was an inevitability that was bound to happen.
It was all just a matter of time—and she wanted to do it on her terms, when she felt the time was right.
Brighter than the sun
As I entered the venue of our interview, I was expecting to see a team of handlers and assistants to be with Megan, so I asked the lady at the reception to inform them first of my arrival.
So I was quite surprised when the receptionist walked past a group and headed over to a smaller table with only two people quietly having lunch.
My contact, Mark “Bessie” Besana, then stood up and called me to join them.
I asked Bessie where the rest of their entourage was and with a smile he answered, “I am the entourage. I am her driver, personal assistant and body guard all-in-one,” before directing me to the woman sitting in front of him.
I then turned around and saw Megan—not the TV and movie actress I had seen several times during press conferences and social events, but the newly crowned beauty queen—and she was stunning.
Exuding radiance like a bright ray of sunshine amid the gloomy weather, she then flashed a smile that could overpower even the fiercest rains of Typhoon Maring. That alone made braving the rains and floods for this interview worth it.
From broadcaster to beauty queen
Megan admits it was never really her plan to join show business or be a beauty queen when she was young. “Actually my dad wanted me to finish college. I used to write when I was younger and my plan before was to take up Journalism and be broadcaster,” the Filipino-American beauty revealed to The Sunday Times Magazine in this exclusive interview.
“That was the path I wanted when I was younger, but when I got into showbiz, I wanted to do so much more than that, and right now I’m taking up Digital Film Making at the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde.”
When she joined GMA Network’s reality talent show Starstruck in 2004, Megan was only 14 years old. That early, there were many showbiz folks who told her she should join beauty pageants when she turned 18. Megan, however, was hesitant for a number of reasons.
“I didn’t know anyone who I could ask about joining pageants and to train me for it,” she recalled. “That’s why I didn’t want to join any, and mapahiya lang ako sa Question and Answer. Eventually, as I grew older and got to know more people in the industry, and I met Jonas (Gaffud).”
Gaffud is the man behind Mercator Talents, who manages the likes of Fabio Ide, Daniel Matsunaga, Brent Javier, Pauline Prieto, and Luke Jickain, among others. He also heads Aces and Queens, and was the one who discovered and trained Venus Raj, Shamcey Supsup, Janine Tugonon, Miss World Philippines 2012 Queenie Rehman and reigning Bb. Pilipinas Ariella Arida, among others.
“I think I was 20 at that time and Jonas asked if I wanted to join a beauty contest. At first I said no because I wasn’t ready, and felt that I still wasn’t at my full potential at that time. He said, ‘Okay, just tell me when you’re ready and I’ll train you.”
It was only this year that Megan felt confident enough to finally give pageants a try.
“When I turned 23 this year, I woke up one day and had that feeling. My heart was pounding; and like the song ‘This is my moment,’ I knew it was the perfect time I’ve been waiting for.”
She then compared how different joining Miss World was from the first time she auditioned for a talent reality show.
“Starstruck was a spur of the moment thing and my friends and I just wanted to join for the heck of it,” she related. “We asked permission from our principal; went to Robinsons Pampanga and fell in line even without even knowing the requirements.
We even had to call our parents to fax us all the requirements. Once we got them, we just pushed our way into the crowds—and we didn’t have numbers! It was amazing how we got in that time,” she recalled amusingly.
“With Miss World, I really prepared for this. I trained with Aces and Queens, along with the other girls who were joining Binibining Pilipinas. I supported them, and watched them to see how they did and applied that to myself.”
Megan says it was her choice to join Miss World instead of the other pageants adding, “It was perfect because it was a time when nobody was pushing me. Iba iba naman kasi tayo, may iba na nadadaan sa push. But for me, the way that I am is that when I do something I want to do it whole heartedly so that I’ll be able to invest all my time, effort and emotions into it.”
Ever responsible, she also made sure she finished all of her showbiz commitments before she submitted her application.
Whole new world
Despite her years in front of the camera, Megan says preparing for a beauty pageant is an altogether different experience.
“People don’t realize how different it is, because in showbiz you can actually be so many people and act in so many ways, but as a beauty queen people tend to expect much more. You walk different, you talk different even the way you stand or sit is different. There’s just so much to learn. I used to do my make up before, but the makeup of a beauty queen is entirely different—from the foundation to the eyes, everything.”
Are pageants more intense as compared to the reality shows she joined previously?
“I think it depends on the person. When I joined Miss World the mindset that I had was to have fun—to be serious but to also have fun with it. Because if I just focused too much on winning and lost and get disappointed with the results, then my heart will be just be broken a million times more.
“But since I had fun with it and enjoyed the company of people, whether I won or lost wouldn’t really be much of a big deal because I had a memorable experience and actually enjoyed being with all the other contestants, and that is what I think matters most.”
Megan said she was pleasantly surprised with her experience. “You can see just how competitive all these girls are, which is good because it makes you really step up your game. But it was nice because nobody was really sabotaging anyone or putting anyone down—it was just a good healthy competition.”
While she had many supporters, there were also those who felt Megan had an unfair advantage or special treatment because of her showbiz background.
To her credit, Bessie interjects, “Megan underwent all of the processes. Actually, siya talaga ang nag-submit ng papers niya. She attended the screening at the SM Mall of Asia even if we knew na magiging magulo for her kasi people will recognize her. But at the end of the day, we were proud na ginawa niya yun. Wala namang special treatment as she applied as a regular candidate.”
“I didn’t think of it as unfair advantage, because all the girls were good. I also didn’t want the girls to feel that way so I made them feel like I was just one of them. I never brought up my ‘celebrity’ status unless they asked me about it. I didn’t want them to feel that I was superior over them, and even when it came to carrying stuff and people would ask to help me I would say no and bring all of my stuff because I don’t want people to think na ‘pa-diva’ ako or anything, because everyone was just working so hard.
“Actually, pinapagalitan pa nga nila ako kasi my hair isn’t as fixed like the other girls.
They would come out and naka-curl na ang hair nila, while ako nakatali lang. Or I won’t wear as much makeup or naka-flats lang ako when they are all wearing heels na,” she shared.
“I believe that a beauty queen doesn’t always wear heels naman. She is still a normal person but of course she has to always look presentable. But I also wanted to give my body time to relax because how am I going to perform well if my body is so stressed or tense.”
She said she a trip to Laguna was both her favorite and most inspiring part of the competition. “I really enjoyed our out of town trip because it was an eye opener for us to see how much their leaders have done in terms of promoting it as a tourist destination. Some of the girls got to see Paete while we went to an organic farm that supplies to Healthy Options. It was a semi-relaxed trip for all of us.”
Despite being one of heavy favorites to win the pageant, Megan still considered it a big gamble for her career; and as much as she wanted to win, she also made sure she was ready to lose.
“It was a big risk for me to leave my job because it’s something that I really love doing. So, I asked myself, ‘If I don’t take the risk now, in the end will I regret not joining?’ Sometimes, risks have to be made to get to where you want to be and achieve what you want in life.”
Megan credits former Miss Universe 4th runner up Venus Raj, one of her role models, for encouraging her to the very end. “She was the one who really motivated me, every time we would run to each other she’d ask me, ‘Bakit ‘di ka pa sumali?’ And seeing her drive, passion and knowing what she had to overcome was really inspiring.”
Would she encourage other celebrities to join pageants? “If they think they have what it takes why not? It’s a big risk though, that’s one thing I can tell them because you are getting an opportunity not many people get but at the same time it’s an entirely different aspect of life. Being a beauty queen is something that people really look forward to especially here in the Philippines. You become an ambassador for the people and a role model to all the young girls that aspire to be beauty queens. It’s a big responsibility but it is also something that you can cherish forever.”
Runway and runaway winner
The risk paid off as Megan not only won the Miss World Philippines title, she also brought home majority of the special awards at the grand coronation held at the Grand Ballroom of the Solaire Resort and Casino on August 18.
Besides the coveted title, which came with P1-million worth of management contract from the pageant organizer as well as gifts and services from the contest’s sponsors, she also won Best in Fashion Runway, Miss Sports by Fila, Miss Reducin, Miss Olay, Miss Laguna World, Miss Bold and Glamorous by Revlon, Miss Figlia and Miss Bench Body.
Palawan native Janicel Lubina placed second and was proclaimed First Princess, Best in Swimwear and Miss Photogenic. Zahra Bianca Saldua from Las Piñas City was crowned Second Princess and was proclaimed Miss Friendship and Miss Pantene.
Returning candidate Bianca Paz was proclaimed Third Princess and Best in Long Gown, which coincidentally were the same awards she won when she first joined pageant in 2011. Paz was also named Miss Redoxfat.
Completing the top five is Omarie Linn Osuna also from Olongapo City.
Other special awardees include Miss Talent Samantha Bernardo, Miss Friendship Zahra Bianca Saldua, and Miss Novu Hair Patricia Lae Ejercitado
Megan acknowledges that her showbiz and hosting background would really be helpful especially with the continuous question and answer rounds in the international competition.
“I’m really thankful I have my showbiz experience of being interviewed multiple times and being a host interviewing people and seeing how they answer. Looking back I guess that was my long term training—but you’ll still have to ask our Q&A coaches how I fare as a student.”
Her team is also preparing both mentally and physically for other fast track challenges when she represents the Philippines in the Miss World pageant, such as the sports challenge, the winner of which immediately gets a spot in the finals.
“I think the sports challenge is one of the biggest differences of Miss World because it really tests your endurance as you have to undergo intense physical challenges,” Megan noted.
Asked what she feels is the advantage of Filipino women in international competitions, she confidently replied, “One thing good about Filipino women is that because of all our mixed heritages, we don’t have just one look. It’s a nice mix of European, American, Asian etc. And each year it gives us the chance to send unique looking candidates, which gives international pageants something to look forward to.”
Beauty with a heart and purpose
It was only the third day of her reign as the new Miss World Philippines when The Sunday Times Magazine met with the new queen. Already, Megan’s resiliency had been put to test.
With less than a month to prepare for the Miss World pageant on September 28 in Indonesia, Megan’s already hectic schedule was made even more difficult by the onslaught of heavy monsoon rains.
Still, despite all her commitments, the new titleholder opted to devote some of her time to join the relief efforts of ABS-CBN’s Sagip Kapamilya for the flood victims of Metro Manila.
“I know I still have lots of preparations to do but I also want to help our fellow Filipinos, having experienced the same thing last year, and it was really a traumatic experience,” she said in a news interview.
As of Wednesday (the day of our interview) Megan still hadn’t been able to go home because all roads going to Sta. Mesa were not passable, and had been staying with friends.
Asked about her plans after her reign, Megan says her focus for now would be preparing for Indonesia. “I’d rather concentrate on the upcoming competition, and I still have one year to fulfill my duties as Miss World Philippines. I’m still open to hosting events and doing advocacy projects.”
Bessie wrapped up the interview with his two cents worth, “One misconception about a beauty queen is that once you win the title you become less visible. We admire the organizers of Miss World and Ms. Cory Quirino for encouraging the ladies to push for their advocacies and make them more visible—not only during their reign but even after that.”