A Marianas High School senior showed her true Filipino lineage Sunday night after being crowned Ms. Pusong Pinoy 2013.
Melody Margaret Johnson outshone seven other candidates to win the second year of the beauty pageant that serves as the highlight of the signature Valentine event of the United Filipino Organization.
Johnson, who also won the Best in National Costume, beamed as she accepted her crown and was later joined on stage by family members and friends.
“I'm so amazed. I'm glad that I showed everyone that I have true Pinoy side,” Johnson said in an interview following the coronation.
A multi-sport athlete, Johnson revealed that she joined the beauty pageant at the last minute and even played in a tennis tournament hours before being crowned last Sunday.
“I didn't expect to win but once I stepped foot on the stage, confidence came over me. I knew I was going to win,” she added.
Johnson earned the nods of the panel of judges-Mar Masilungan, Abel Pellegrino, Vicky Concepcion, Ms. Teen CNMI Gina Duenas, and Ms. CNMI Universe Kimberly Reyes-when she answered during the question and answer portion that she does everything for her father, Edwin “Ed” Johnson, who passed away in 2011.
“Since I was little, he's always been the one to push me to do things that I didn't even know I could do,” said the young lass. “He taught me that I can do whatever I want to do and I could be the best at it, too.”
Johnson describes herself as just like her Filipino mom, Delia, who also loves to sing and dance and speaks to her in Tagalog at home.
“I'm so proud that my daughter won,” said Delia Johnson, adding that her daughter's confidence and focus in whatever she does gave her the edge.
The younger Johnson said she had her first brush with beauty contests a few years ago when she won second runner up in the Little Ms. Marianas pageant.
Johnson disclosed that she didn't embrace the other half of her lineage until this year when she traveled to the Philippines and met with her cousins who taught her about the Filipino culture.
“I just want to tell other Filipino girls that they're beautiful and to embrace their Filipino side, too,” added Johnson who plans to major in psychology at the University of Pittsburgh.
Winning first runner up is Renita Shanel Fleming, who also bagged the Miss Photogenic, Best in Long Gown, and Best in Island Wear awards.
“I feel proud and happy,” said the first-time beauty titlist. “I'm proud of myself that I had the opportunity to experience this pageant.”
Fleming noted that her successful stint in Ms. Pusong Pinoy is her first step toward achieving other beauty titles in the future.
“Never give up. Just believe in yourself that you can achieve great things,” advised the Hopwood Jr. High School student.
Roshiel Pascubillo, who won second runner up and Best in Talent, said joining the competition helped her gain not just new friends but also self-confidence.
“Now I'm no longer afraid to face a crowd,” said the MHS student.
Other Ms. Pusong Pinoy contenders were Carla Flores, Stevie Jocelyn Jeter, Jasmine Guanzon, Gilda Maria Bautista Ogarro, and Nelly Saturno. The candidates were choreographed by Ernie Molina and received free hair and makeup from sponsoring salons: Trends Beauty Salon, Serenity Salon & Spa, Ai Fashion, Infinity 8, Jojo Beauty Salon, Nila's Salon, and Tropical Blend & Spa.
UFO president Annamae Adaza said the pageant is a “good exposure” for young contestants. “We've seen these young girls transform from being shy to being confident and outspoken and that's a great thing,” she told Saipan Tribune.
Pusong Pinoy began with a free health screening held from 7am to 10am, sponsored by the Tau Gamma Phi/Sigma-Triskelion Group. Community members availed of free blood sugar and blood pressure screening, flu shots, and vision checkup.
The post-Valentine event was also highlighted by the Panlasang Pinoy culinary contest won by Shirley's. Tang's won second place, and D'Elegance, third place. Other participants were Jhem's Restaurant and Jologs Bbq.
The entries were evaluated by Eli Arago of Tan Holdings, Jake Villanueva of Naked Fish, Manny Pancha of Mariana Resort & Spa, and Peter Crisostomo of Emon Lodge.