Many pageant fans were thrilled to learn that former child star Isabelle de Leon was joining a national pageant.
Isabelle and fellow GMA-7 talents Michelle Dee and Kelley Day were named among the top 40 candidates vying for the Miss World Philippines 2019 crown. The announcement was made after the pageant's final screening held last Sunday, August 4, at C3 Events Place in San Juan City.
PEP.ph's (Philippine Entertainment Portal) Instagram post about Isabelle joining the pageant was filled with comments expressing support for the Kapuso actress-singer's bid for the beauty title. Some even went down memory lane and recalled their fondest memory of Isabelle when she was just a child star.
Isabelle started her showbiz career in 2000 via the Kapuso mini-series Munting Anghel, where she played the role of Angelina. The series also starred Antoinette Taus, Glydel Mercado, and Wendell Ramos, among others.
The following year, she landed the role that won the hearts of Filipino viewers. Isabelle portrayed Duday in GMA-7's sitcom Daddy Di Do Du, which aired from 2001 to 2007.
Duday was the youngest daughter of Kul, played by Vic Sotto. The sitcom also starred Danica Sotto-Pingris as Dinna and Maxene Magalona as Donna.
In an interview with PEP.ph after the announcement of Miss World Philippines 2019 contestants, Isabelle said she remains grateful that her fans still remember her as Duday.
She told PEP.ph, "I'm forever grateful sa name na yun kasi hanggang ngayon, naalala pa rin ako ng mga tao because of that. For that role, I'm truly grateful sa opportunity na yun."
Isabelle said even her former co-stars still call her Duday every time she meets them.
She recalled one time when she made an appearance on one of Vic's TV programs, "'Pag nagkaka-guesting ako with them, they still call me 'Duday.' Nakakatawa kasi parang hindi talaga ako nagdalaga sa paningin nila. They still see me as 'Duday.'"
Isabelle considers Vic as one of her father figures in the showbiz industry. She explained, "Ang tagal ko rin silang nakasama. It's like, seven years na I was with them. I actually literally grew up with them na."
The 25-year-old actress-singer also revealed being in contact with her Daddy Di Do Du sisters Danica and Maxene even after the show ended in July 2007.
Isabelle said, "We guys follow each other on Instagram, and we're still in contact through Instagram."
As a movie star, she made her mark in 2003, the year she played Helen, a child with cerebral palsy, in Magnifico, which was top-billed by Jiro Manio and was directed by the late Maryo J. de los Reyes.
The role earned her several awards.
In a previous interview with PEP.ph, Isabelle recounted, "Nine years old po ako at that time, and isa po yun sa pinakamahirap kong role. I was blessed with five acting awards for that role. Sa FAMAS, Gawad Tanglaw, Guillermo Mendoza, Pasado Awards, at sa Star Awards. Ang Magnifico po ay isang napakagandang pelikula, matalino, at may puso ang pagkakasulat."
Isabelle did three more TV series with the Kapuso network, including Love to Love: Rich in Love (2003), Mulawin (2004), and Fantastikids (2006).
After that, she starred in three movies—Soliloquy, Litsonero, and Padre de Pamilya—before finally taking a break from showbiz in 2009.
During her hiatus, Isabelle felt she had entered her "awkward stage."
She told PEP.ph, "I was a chubby kid, and I wasn't the cool kid, so I've experienced bullying and cyberbullying."
But she decided to brush off the negative comments.
"I guess, at the end of the day, you just have to listen to your own voice, that you're carefully and wonderfully made. So whatever they say to you shouldn't put you down. It shouldn't let you down."
Isabelle with Joonee Gamboa, her Lolo Gener in Daddy Di Do Du.
Isabelle officially made her comeback in 2011 through ABS-CBN's Nasaan Ka Elisa?, after which she starred in Maria Mercedes (2013) and appeared on Ipaglaban Mo (2014). She also did several projects with TV5, including Trenderas (2014) and Wattpad Presents (2015).
In 2013, she decided to launch her music career via her debut album LoveZone.
She told PEP.ph in an interview, "I finished high school po and dun ako nagkaroon ng time na tumutok sa musika. That's why I came back as a singer-songwriter, aside from being an actress."
Since 2015, Isabelle has remained a loyal Kapuso star. She starred in Vampire Ang Daddy Ko (2015), Magkaibang Mundo (2016), Meant to Be (2017), Super Ma'am (2017), and My Guitar Princess (2018). Her last Kapuso drama series was Dragon Lady, which ended on July 20, 2019.
With acting and singing checked off her bucket list, Isabelle has decided to expand her horizons. This time, her goal is to become a beauty queen.
Isabelle told PEP.ph, "Siguro, you're never too young or never too old to set a new dream. I never expected myself to become a beauty queen. But I guess, even though this is my first pageant, life can change you into becoming a beauty queen."
One thing that inspired her to join Miss World Philippines was the pageant's "Beauty With A Purpose" advocacy.
Part of her advocacy is to raise funds for Child Haus Manila, a non-profit organization which helps children with cancer.
"Even before joining the pageant, I really believe—you know, 'cause I'm a singer and songwriter—that music should uplift and inspire other people. That's why I joined Miss World Philippines. I believe in what it stands for, which is 'Beauty with a Purpose.'
"So, on my free time kasi, I play music sa children's hospitals and I support Child Haus. Kung papalarin tayong makuha yung korona, I would love to promote my advocacy for Child Haus."
Like most candidates, Isabelle also trained to become a beauty queen before she officially signed up for Miss World Philippines.
She said, "It was really hard, it was really hard, but it was a pleasant surprise to me because everyone was so kind, everyone was so nice to me. I'm really enjoying it, and savoring every step of the way.
"We did the pageant walk. They had to train our walk with heels, also basic styling, hair and make-up, question and answer, and personality development. It's really hard, but the [mentors] are really good at it so they make it fun. We're all enjoying it talaga."
Isabelle was scouted by Aces & Queens, the pageant camp that has produced several international Pinay beauty queens, including Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach and Miss World 2013 Megan Young.
When asked about beauty queens she looks up to the most, Isabelle named Pia, as well as Miss World 2016 Top 5 finalist and current Miss Universe Catriona Gray.
She explained, "They worked hard for it and it shows with the way they walk, the way they speak. They really prepared for the crown and they deserve it. So I really look up to the both of them."
If she wins a crown at the Miss World Philippines 2019 pageant, Isabelle wants to be remembered as a "beauty queen with a big heart."