Savannah Lyn Delos Santos: Beauty with a purpose  


Miss Northern Marianas Savannah Lyn Delos Santos participates in the Liberation Day Parade. (CONTRIBUTED PHOTOS)

Regal yet unpretentious, with a charm that has captivated fans in Oceania and Asia and a caring heart for the vulnerable, Savannah Lyn Delos Santos is not just another pretty face: she is an advocate for protecting victims and survivors of domestic and sexual violence with her work as a manager of the Sexual Assault Response Team at the Northern Marianas Coalition Against Domestic & Sexual Violence.

Fresh from her history-making star turn as the first Northern Marianas beauty queen to land in the Top 15 of an international beauty pageant, Delos Santos believes the prestige of being a Miss International candidate has given her a bigger platform to amplify her advocacy for victims and survivors of domestic and sexual violence.

“Being a survivor motivates me to do good in this world. My mom also taught me the value of being kind and doing everything in life with love,” Delos Santos said.

And it’s not just her work with victims and survivors of domestic and sexual violence that sets her apart. Delos Santos started her volunteer work as a teen and her experiences include, among others, being a wish granter for Make-A-Wish Hawai’i as well as serving hot meals to disadvantaged children in India and homeless individuals on Skid Row in Los Angeles.

This beauty queen’s story, from her childhood until she made it to the 2021 Miss International pageant, is a journey to self-discovery and acceptance. Before her foray into the pageant world, Delos Santos was an outstanding student at Chaminade University, where she was working on her master’s degree in business administration. While in university, Delos Santos juggled her various academic pursuits while doing part-time work on the side.

She first ventured into the pageant world when, at 16, she joined Miss Teen Marianas upon the encouragement of a classmate. “She believed in me and that meant so much. If she didn’t encourage me to join, I would’ve never gotten involved in the pageant world,” recalls Delos Santos.

Miss Northern Marianas Savannah Lyn Delos Santo poses with her mom, Elena, at the hotel where they stayed for the 2021 Miss International pageant.


Supporters greet Miss Northern Marianas Savannah Lyn Delos Santos at the Francisco C. Ada/Saipan International Airport after returning from the 2021 Miss International pageant.

After failing to win in her first pageant, Delos Santos tried her luck again in 2021 when she vied for the title of Miss Northern Marianas. At that time, she was just visiting Saipan to attend a cousin’s wedding. That’s when she was again presented the opportunity to return to the pageant circuit. Although hesitant at first, the opportunity to reconnect with the island and reestablish ties with the community were enough to convince her to join. “My intention wasn’t to win. I just wanted to get more involved in my community. I was away from home for almost seven years and I felt so disconnected.”

After meeting with the national director of Stellar Marianas where they talked about the group’s future and their action plan, Delos Santos made the decision to give herself a second chance to join. This time she won the crown and the opportunity to represent the CNIMI in the international pageant circuit.

The 25-year-old Chammorita’s journey to the 60th Miss International pageant was not without its challenges. “I encountered several situations that weren’t necessarily in my favor while both preparing and getting into the pageant itself. I didn’t have a lot of resources for the pageant until about three weeks before I was supposed to fly out. Of course, it wasn’t any one person’s fault. …I felt there was a lack of support for a hot minute. The odds seemed to be stacked against me!”

Delos Santos acknowledges the need to be mentally prepared to overcome the pressures of any form of competition. “Mental fortitude. All I was sure of was that I was going to perform my absolute best with what I had, and I was going to walk away from this third pageant feeling proud of myself.

Delos Santos also sought the help of a personal trainer to ensure she was physically prepared for the task. “He was awesome! As much as I got a lot of negative comments about my weight, I loved how I looked on stage! I’m a Pacific Islander, and most Pacific Islanders have my same body type. It’s beautiful; I’m beautiful!”

The slew of criticism Delos Santos received during the competition were wide-ranging and, at times, hurtful—from her physical inadequacies in height and weight and questions on why a small island nation can justifiably represent the Miss International brand. Like the queen that she is, Delos Santos took all the feedback with grace and forged her way into the competition.

In an interview on local television, Delos Santos stood her ground and claimed her right to be one of the top picks at the 2021 Ms. International pageant. “I am so grateful for all the feedback that people are giving, but despite some people saying that I am not deserving, I definitely feel that I am deserving of being in the Top 15 and I’m never going to take that back.”

Delos Santos acknowledges the love and support she received from the community as the driving force behind her determination to continue in the competition. “I would not be as happy and as positive if I wasn’t representing the Northern Marianas and our people. I am very grateful to all of them. We made history!”

Recalling the moment when she was called to join the Top 15 lineup of Miss International contestants, Delos Santos said she was “a whole ball of mixed feelings—excitement, fear, shock. Initially, I thought of this little girl and her mom whom I met while I was volunteering at a domestic violence shelter in Los Angeles and how proud they would be to see me as a pageant finalist. I thought of my mom and brother, especially my mom. She loves pageants! I saw her jumping out of her seat, ecstatic, and that’s what mattered most to me.”

When asked how she represented the Northern Marianas, Delos Santos said, “With kindness and genuine love” and by proudly acknowledging that some of the best people she has met in life are from the Northern Marianas.

Among the major takeaways Delos Santos learned in her pageant experience is the importance of self-care by adopting a healthy mindset and developing mental fortitude, which is strength in facing adversity, putting to action this quote from Robert Kiyosaki: “Remember, your mind is your greatest asset, so be careful what you put into it.” In addition, she believes that maintaining a humble and grateful spirit opens the door for more blessings.

Delos Santos also stresses the importance of managing expectations, especially of oneself and of others, and being realistic with them. “By managing my expectations, I learned how to make friends and to empower my pageant sisters. I’m happy to share that I walked away feeling incredibly proud of myself after the Miss Marianas pageant. In the end, I just wanted to be proud of myself. I learned how to embrace all moments in life—both good and bad. I credit my pageant years with this unexpected but beautiful growth.”

Delos Santos considers three people as her role models: Her mother, Elena;, her brother, Christian, whom she refers to as a walking encyclopedia; and NMI Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence executive director Maisie B. Tenorio.

She considers each of them as influential individuals whom she admires for their strength, intelligence and compassion.

In the next five years, Delos Santos may take up further studies, but, for now, she is happy just being the reigning Ms. Northern Marianas, a title which she will be holding for two years by March 13.

To those who want to join the pageant, she has these to share: “Reflect and find your intention for joining. Winning a title should not be the goal. Prepare yourself mentally, physically and emotionally because you are representing the Northern Marianas and its people. This is a once-in- a-lifetime opportunity that requires hard work.”

TERI M. FLORES, Correspondent 
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