Philippine bet Rabiya Mateo has been impressing pageant fans since she arrived in the United States on Saturday, April 10, 2021 to vie for the Miss Universe crown.
Dressed to the nines in eye-catching OOTDs during pre-pageant activities, the 24-year-old Illongga beauty queen sure draws the crowd.
And according to her stylists Rain Dagala and Em Millan, they ain’t seen nothing yet.
Rain told PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal) on Friday, April 16, 2021, "Marami pa yan and we haven't started yet, technically.
“Marami pang mangyayari, marami pa kaming pasabog. As in, sobra. Nagwa-warm up pa lang kami ngayon.
“So kung happy na kayo dito, hopefully, mas maging happy pa tayo in the days to come.
"Kasi lumalabas na yung pagka-competitive namin."
Talking about their styling project with Rabiya during this exclusive interview, he declared exuberantly it has been the "greatest performance of our lives.”
In coordination with Jonas Gaffud, the creative and events director of Miss Universe Philippines, Rain and Em have been styling Rabiya for her special events and TV appearances since she won the Miss Universe Philippines 2020 title on October 25, 2020.
Asked about their experience curating looks for Rabiya, Rain said it has been challenging given the pandemic scare in the country and with the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) adding to their anxiety.
The stylist said, "Parang mixed emotion siya kasi number one, sa lockdown, sa ECQ, at saka sa COVID.
“As in all honesty, takot na takot kami lahat doon. Lalo na eto nga in-announce ni Jonas na their departure was unplanned.
"Immediate yun kasi nagsa-spike na nga yung mga cases ng COVID here sa Philippines.
“So dahil doon, everything that we had planned out properly, na-revise siya last minute at nagmadali kami.
“Buti na lang, lahat ng clothes nasa amin na."
WORKING ON A BLANK CANVAS
Rain remembered Rabiya telling them during their session that fashion was not her strong suit.
He said, ”Nung pumunta si Rabiya sa amin, parang she was really a blank canvas. Aminado siya na fashion was not her strength.
"So nung pumunta siya sa amin, care of Mama Jonas and sina Mau [De Leon], parang sinabi niya na, 'Help me kasi gusto ko ma-discover yung personal style ko as we go along.'
"Kaya yung mga looks niya nung una namin siya binihisan, if you look at it, iba-iba yung mood.
“Buti na lang, yung mga guestings niya noon, hindi ganun ka-critical like noontime-show appearance..."
Eventually, Rabiya would find her style preferences and, according to Rain, she loves feminine clothes that exude sexiness and confidence.
Rain continued, ”We took our time to play and discover.
"Through the process, parang she realized na she's gearing towards clothes that are feminine, gusto niya yung pa-girl.
"Gusto niya rin ng sexy na hindi masyado nagpapakita… Minsan may konting skin, minsan wala, pero she feels sexy.
"Parang pag susuot daw siya ng ganung damit, she feels powerful and strong."
Rabiya also got playful with her color choices, which her fans can also expect as she goes through her Miss Universe 2020 journey in the coming weeks.
Rain averred, "In terms of colors, you will see a lot of colors. She will be wearing lots and lots of colors.
“Kukumpletuhin namin ang rainbow. Bright colors work for her."
Are there clothes that Rabiya avoids wearing?
Rain answered, "No-no sa kanya yung silhouettes that highlight the shoulder area kasi parang kaka-develop pa lang nun, she's still working on it.
"Those clothes make her frame look smaller. She's not petite.
“She's 5’7", but in the beauty pageant world, that is petite so parang ina-apply din namin ni Miss Em ang petite dressing rules sa kanya.
"So no-no yung mga awkward length. No-no din sa kanya yung mga anything that makes her look smaller.
“Yung parang mga clothes in-between ankles and the knees, shoes that cut her ankles, yung mga nakakaputol.
"No-no din sa kanya yung mga fabrics that tend to eat you up, yung mga voluminous.
“Yung volume-on-volume dress is a no-no for her kasi nada-drown siya.
"At saka hindi talaga yun part ng style mantra niya. Gusto niya as a lady."
STLYSTS' EXTRA PREPARATIONS
Rain and Em started preparing dozens and dozens of OOTDs for Rabiya in January 2021, a harried time for both of them.
Rain said they had to isolate themselves for a week and get swabbed before they met with Rabiya for her fittings.
He recalled, "Nag-lockdown kami and nag-isolate kami ni Em for seven days.
“Sinunod namin yung protocols kasi ayaw naman naming mag-positive si Madam because of us.
"Kasalanan ko pa pag nawalan tayo ng candidate, di ba?”
Still, they were given only one day with Rabiya, "We spent the entire day fitting all the looks.
“As in ibibigay ko kay girl [Rabiya] yun. Nag-start kami siguro mga 8 a.m. tapos natapos kami ng 11 p.m.
“We tried all the looks nang walang assistant, walang anything. Just the three of us."
As a stylist, Rain counts showbiz personalities, including Maymay Entrata, Edward Barber, Ellen Adarna, and Bianca Gonzales, among her clients.
And for him, his work entails a lot more than just making his clients look good.
He told PEP.ph, "Honestly, I think sinabi ko naman din sa iyo ito before, the success stories that we have with our clients is when we build a connection with them.
"In the case of Rabiya, parang prinessure ko talaga yung sarili ko para bilisan yung process na iyon because that process can take time.
"So yung kay Rabiya, every time we were given the chance to meet her, talk to her, plus we have this WhatsApp group na lagi kami nagkakamustahan.
"I always find a way to build a connection with her. True enough, ang bongga niya.
“Na-realize ko along the process na mabait siyang tao. And I'm not saying this in a very showbiz way kasi hindi naman ako yun.
"We have a queen who is genuinely nice and genuinely aware sa pinasok niya. That's why we were able to do, kahit na sobrang haggard, super fun."
But what was particularly harrowing for Rain and Em was organizing Rabiya’s outfits without the official itinerary.
Rain shared, "Nung inayos namin yung wardrobe, wala pang itinerary. So isa rin yun sa pinakamahirap na challenge. We have to send everything.
"Hanggang, alam mo yun, kung mag-tree planting siya... Yung biglang sa ano may tree-planting event, alangan namang naka-gown siya dun, di ba?
"So hanggang tree planting meron tayong dala. As in lahat ng events, finorecast namin ni Em. So it was difficult pero isa dun yun sa mga fun part, kasi guessing game talaga siya. You'll never know what you'll expect.
"Given all the constraints, kung hindi maayos na tao yung nakatrabaho namin, it would have been more difficult."