THE UNIVERSE first discovered the Filipina’s beauty with Gloria Diaz. At the young age of 19, she exuded the grace and confidence that won her the Miss Universe crown in1969.
Now at 62, she maintains a lifestyle that is still very much like a beauty queen’s. Her days are spent working out, rushing to TV show tapings, and dating a gentleman 10 years her junior.
With Filipino beauty queens gaining attention in international pageants these days, the former beauty queen generously shared her experience on winning the much-coveted crown, ending her reign, and moving on after a year from the world’s attention.
In an interview with The Sunday Times Magazine, Gloria Diaz looks back on her life as a beauty queen, and gave her expert opinion on today’s pageant industry.
“It’s really not about the girl. At the very last second, it’s all just a matter of luck. You may have all the qualifications, but if the judges preferred a different look that day, then you’re out of luck,” the former beauty queen said when asked why she thought Miss Philippines Ariella Arida only placed third runner up on the November 10 Miss Universe Pageant.
“It’s like choosing over apples and oranges. It doesn’t mean that one is better than the other. It only means the judges felt different that day, tipo-tipo lang yan,” she added.
Even as a runner up, Diaz considered Arida as winner. “I think it’s fantastic that she made it to the Top 5. Imagine out of 86 countries, she was chosen as third runner up—that’s not bad at all. Her answer was really good and her overall performance was impressive.”
“I think we’ve faired really well in the international beauty pageants, more so recently. It’s been due—in fact far due that we should win all these contests. I just don’t know if people put in mind that runners-up are still winners,” Diaz said.
In her own experience, Diaz never thought winning Miss Universe was difficult. She did not go into any formal training, nor did she rigorously prepare for the international pageant.
“It was just a fun and exciting experience for me. I just turned 18 then, and I felt I was there for the fun. I was not under pressure,” she shared with The Sunday Times Magazine.
“It was in June  that I won the local competition then I went to America the following month to compete internationally. No, I didn’t go into training,” she reiterated.
According to Diaz, she only prepared through mental conditioning, different from the intensive training that beauty queens go through nowadays. She acknowledged that the playing field was much different before.
“I readied myself by simply maintaining a positive outlook. That was just the way it was, so with other winners before. There weren’t intensive aerobic workouts, and of course, we didn’t add on to our breasts, or fixed noses and stuff like that, so it was less pressure then than now,” Diaz narrated in her famed frankness.
It will be remembered that Diaz made a huge impression with her answer at the Q&A portion. Since the first man had landed on the moon that day, Diaz was asked, “If a man from the moon landed in your hometown, what would you do to entertain him?”
The intelligent beauty replied, “Oh! Uh, just the same things I do. I think if he has been on the moon for so long, I think when he comes over he wants to change, I guess.”
With confidence and simplicity, she delivered her winning answer without putting much thought into it. It was a reply she said she would give to any other person who asked the same question.
“I don’t think I did anything special. It wasn’t a mathematical problem and my answer was simple. Sometimes, the simplest answers are the most interesting ones. Just like when I judged a pageant one time, the girl answered ‘eating junk food’ as one of her regrets. It was simple, funny, yet interesting,” Diaz said.
Beauty of family
Diaz revealed that one of her most memorable moments as a beauty queen was the day her one-year reign ended.
“The night that I was going to pass on the crown to the next girl, I wasn’t feeling too well. So before the actual coronation, six doctors were attending to me. After I got on stage and passed on the crown, people started coming to the new girl and I was almost pushed off stage,” she recalled.
“Of course I was able to balance myself. But when the show was done, I was waiting for the car and realized that the car I had for a year was with the new girl already.
Even my bodyguard was with the new girl. Good thing my family was there!” she laughed.
It was then that an important lesson dawned on her, Diaz related. She realized that she was just passing through everything, and that no matter what happens, it is the family that will always be there for you.
Beyond Miss U
After her year of traveling and doing charity work as Miss Universe, Diaz quickly moved on and pursued an acting career—something that naturally came into her life.
“It’s a natural thing for me to experiment. I could have done more things, but I chose show business and was happy with it. I would pretty much do the same thing if I had a choice to turn back time. I would have done more, like go out and party, but I would still be in show business,” she reflected.
Now, Diaz lives simply, far from the glamorous pageant days she lived in her youth. She makes sure she doesn’t have any debts, and she tries to do as many activities she enjoys independently and on her own sweet time.
“I have a very simple lifestyle. I need a lot of sleep, and like I said, I don’t have utang. I have a comfortable relationship, and I have children who as of now don’t have any real problems and are very supportive of what I do. They are also happy with what they do, and we’re all there for each other,” she shared.
Diaz’ children, Isabelle and Ava, are now also independent, making their mother very proud. “Belle is in the movies, and she’s not with the wrong guy. Ava is in New York and recently texted me to say, ‘I love you so much Mama’.”
Diaz added she would never encourage her children to join beauty pageants. “They are not the ones whose going to be stressed, I am!” she joked. “One beauty queen in the family is enough.”
Like a true beauty queen, she ended this very freewheeling yet interesting interview with The Sunday Times Magazine with her secret to feeling and looking young.
“I’m a recipient of so much love and care that I invested all this time. So I’m receiving all of that in return and it helps me feel good.”
Incidentally, Gloria Diaz has just been launched as the brand ambassador of Unilab’s Neurogen-E, a Vitamin B-12 supplement against nerve damage and recommended for men and women of her generation, for the promotion of nerve regeneration and growth.
Very much aware of the aging process, Diaz knows that symptoms like numbness, tingling and burning pain in the hands and feet that may creep up and cause permanent nerve damage.
“People think nerve aging is a natural process that you can’t do anything about. But I for one know for sure that if you take the proper vitamins, it doesn’t have to be problem,” she imparted.
Diaz is very much involved in the supplement’s “Life in your hands” campaign, which seeks to promote a more active lifestyle for senior citizens.
In line with this, Neurogen-E will be hosting a series of lifestyle activities through the month dedicated to enabling women to pursue their passions. Enrichment workshops will be conducted in different venues with such topics as the Art of Ikebana with Japanese Floral Art Master Professor Searpion Metilla; and gift-wrapping and food-styling workshops for the holidays with domestic arts expert Frieda Colet-Lim.
The company is also rolling out a livelihood program that seeks to provide opportunities for women living under difficult circumstances. In partnership with Haven for Women, a non-government organization that supports battered Filipino women, domestic abuse victims will be given a chance to reclaim their lives through workshops featuring income-generating activities like soap-making and dish gardening.