One of the most talked-about television events of 2015 was the coronation of Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach as Miss Universe 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Host Steve Harvey inadvertently announced the victory of Miss Colombia Ariadna Gutierrez-Arevalo, when it was actually Pia who had won the title.
When the contrite host apologized and named her Miss Universe 2015, Pia appeared dazed.
Almost immediately, she was plunged into her first challenge as titleholder.
She missed her own walk of fame, but with her crown now firmly placed on her head, she faced the world with aplomb.
When dissent flared up from the direction of sour grapers, she had the grace to just walk away from the issue.
She had just done her country proud, nothing else mattered at that moment.
More than 40 years had passed since Margie Moran won the Miss Universe in 1973.
As Pia had promised, she brought home the crown to a hopeful nation.
Pia's coronation brought hope to the Filipinos everywhere and inspiration for change for everyone.
Her memorable speech during the competition said it all, "To be a Miss Universe is both an honor and a responsibility.
“If I were to be Miss Universe, I would use my voice to influence the youth.
“I would raise awareness to certain causes like HIV Awareness that is timely and relevant to my country, which is the Philippines.
“I wanna show the world—the universe, rather—that I am confidently beautiful with a heart.”
COLLATERAL VICTORIES. Pia had another agenda when she joined the Binibining Pilipinas competition for the third time in 2015.
She supported the cause of the Filipino designers to be given a chance to shine on the Miss Universe stage.
For the longest time, a Colombian designer was making the gowns for the Philippines’ Miss Universe candidates.
But claiming her victory in a royal blue Albert Andrada gown was a triumphant moment for Philippine fashion.
In her Instagram post during the anniversary of her win, Pia wrote, "It's about time for Filipino designers!
"It didn't take long before I made a promise to myself that after years of not really having a choice on our final look, it's about time we show a Filipino made gown.
“Especially at Miss Universe. Tangkilikin ang sariling atin, di ba po?"
One way or another, her good relations with Miss Universe organization also helped in paving the way for the Philippine hosting of Miss Universe 2016.
Pia was "a fantastic Miss Universe,” Shawn McClain, vice president of Business Development and Marketing for the Miss Universe organization, had said.
McClain praised Pia at the press launch of Miss Universe in Manila last November at the Makati Shangri-La Hotel.
He said, ”People love her, she’s a very genuine person, she’s very easy to work with.
“She always comes with a great attitude and we couldn’t be more blessed to have her as Miss Universe."
BEING HUMAN. Thanks to the reach of social media, people get to know Pia more as a human being.
Conventionally, beauty queens give the impression of being an embodiment of perfection and grace.
Pia debunked the myth in an interview with PEP.ph (Philippines Entertainment Portal) back in October.
She challenged the public perception of a beauty queen, emphasizing that wearing a crown does not by any means equate to perfection.
She revealed, “I still have insecurities just like everybody else.
“We’re not perfect or parang unattainable.
“Just like everybody else… That’s how I want people to know me.
“For them to be able to relate to me, because I’m just like you.
“It just so happened that I have this crown.”
In the August 2016 cover story of Esquire Philippines on Pia as the Sexiest Woman Alive, the reigning Miss Universe underlined that the pageant was not after the “perfect woman.”
She told the magazine, “There are so many girls out there who are beautiful, but not everybody wants to join a beauty pageant.
“Many girls out there are stunning, tall, smart, who have the confidence—but they don’t want to join Miss Universe.
“I don’t think I’m the most beautiful woman in the world.
“I don’t think I’m the sexiest woman in the world.”
BEING HERSELF. In a separate interview with PEP, Pia remarked, "There’s really no need to change.
"You just have to improve on yourself.
“Sometimes you make mistakes and that’s okay.
"One thing I learned is that it’s not good to try to change yourself or try to copy anybody even though people could be...
“You know, especially in my position, in this line of work being Miss Universe.
"You have a lot of people… telling you, ‘You should be more of like this and more of like that.’
“But I keep reminding myself and Miss Universe, the organization, they also always remind me that you won for a reason and you won because you are who you are."
Aware that she is expected to please a multitude of people and be mindful of her demeanor, Pia is thankful for the expert guidance of Miss Universe President-on-Board Paula Shugart.
She said, ”I appreciated that, especially with Paula Schugart as our president-on-board.
“She’s very hands-on with me and she really tries to teach me how to love myself.
"She knows that I can be hard on myself and I’m a student kasi, e, and I try to please everybody.
“She knows that I take it too seriously.
“Sometimes nagigil ako na, ‘Yes! More work! Let’s do this, let’s do that.’
"But then she tells me, ‘Pia, slow down. What do you want? What does Pia want? What will make Pia happy?’
"And then, you know, that’s when I realized that there’s really much more to life than just pageants."