Miss World Philippines 2018: Solar Sports reporter Monique Tuzon overcomes body image fears to reach beauty pageant final
Swapping gym shoes for high heels scared Monique Tuzon, who counts Manny Pacquiao as a friend, but pageant helps Basketball TV presenter beat self-confidence struggles
Monique Cuyugan Tuzon could not really believe it herself. Though she had been into sports since childhood, playing and watching, and then becoming a sports television reporter in her native Philippines, she lacked confidence in her body image.
The next thing she knew, she was entering her name in the Miss World Philippines 2018 (MWP) beauty pageant. She had to swap gym shoes for high heels and put on evening gowns and swimwear instead of shorts and T-shirts – a prospect that frightened her.
As a television reporter, her job was to focus on top basketball players from the Philippines and the NBA, as well as other athletes – she is also friends with boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao. Now, she is the one in the spotlight, along with 39 other finalists who will compete for the MWP title on October 7 in Manila.
“The moment I decided to enter the pageant I was thinking, ‘am I really doing this?’” Tuzon told the South China Morning Post. “I was very nervous because this pageant world is a whole new ball game for me.
“Coming from a sporty background, I had to learn a new set of skills for pageants,” added Tuzon, 25, who graduated with a degree in communications from the University of North Carolina in the United States. “When they announced my name as one of the 40 candidates [finalists] I was in shock and so thrilled.
“I was thinking, ‘OK Monique, this is it. You’re in this pageant for a reason, so just do your best and have fun … trust the process.”
Tuzon is one of the most popular sports presenters in the Philippines, working for Solar Entertainment in Manila. Growing up, she played tennis, badminton, football, basketball and was on a nationally ranked high school rowing team.
After the swimsuit stage of the pageant, Tuzon posted a message on Instagram about overcoming psychological and physical barriers to walk in front of cameras in a two-piece garment.
“Pageants are often associated with women who are confident with their body image, something that I have been struggling with for the longest time,” she wrote. “Getting in shape was a feat I’ve dealt [with] the hardest. However, yesterday’s event – wearing a two piece swimwear in front of many people and the cameras – was a battle I’ve conquered with grace.
“Thanks to my coaches and nutritionist who pushed me to lead and embrace a healthier lifestyle not just for the pageant but to improve my overall wellness in the long run. My pursuit to being in tip top shape is still a long way ahead but I am proud of what I have achieved and the added confidence that I have gained.”
Tuzon’s journey towards becoming a journalist started in the US, where she was given the chance to join the sports department of a local news station as part of her university internship.
While in college, she won the Miss Asia Carolinas beauty contest but said the only reason she entered was to earn a study scholarship. Armed with a degree and experience, she landed a job with Solar Entertainment in the Philippines and launched her career as a sports journalist.
“I joined Miss World Philippines pageant for the opportunities,” she said. “Win or lose, I am already happy I made it this far as an official candidate [finalist]. The experiences I gained from this and the friendships I am making along the way, I am very happy already.”
Being one of the biggest sports in the Philippines, Tuzon has covered plenty of basketball. And she is delighted with the performances of Gilas Pilipinas and their NBA star Jordan Clarkson at the recent Asian Games in Jakarta, where they ran gold medallist China and South Korea close and eventually finished fifth.
“I think the team was great and did the best they could,” she said. “It was a dream for many Filipino basketball fans, like myself, to have Jordan Clarkson play as a member of Gilas Pilipinas.
“The team had a strong line-up with guys like James Yap, Christian Standhardinger, Stanley Pringle, Chris Tiu, and of course, Jordan Clarkson. Clarkson made an impressive debut for Gilas, having only been given late clearance by the NBA to take part in the Asian Games.
“I am very happy with the way the team played and represented my country. This is only the beginning of Gilas Pilipinas and I am super excited to see what the future will look like for this team.”
Tuzon is also hoping to one day cover a boxing match featuring the Philippines biggest global star, Pacquiao – who is reportedly set for a rematch with unbeaten Floyd Mayweather in December after the American won their first bout in 2015 by decision.
“I know Manny through church,” she said. “My pastor actually introduced us during a mission trip. I told him I was a fan and that I enjoy watching him and I hope to one day cover one of his fights.
“I think it’s possible that he will fight Floyd in December. And it’s good publicity. This fight may be Manny’s redemption from the previous one. So fingers crossed, let’s see if it happens.”
Tuzon is also an advocate for same-sex marriage and has some advice for the thousands of Filipino domestic helpers in Hong Kong and around the world who may be mistreated by their employers.
“To the Filipina domestic helpers in Hong Kong and around the world who are facing hazards such as violence from employers, sexual abuse etc, to them I would like to say: know your rights, educate yourself. If you need help, go to the Philippine Embassy, they are there precisely to help. Report abuses right away.”
Tuzon has a Hong Kong connection through her maternal uncle, who works as a pilot for Hong Kong Air and lives with his family on Lantau Island.
“I visited them last year in Hong Kong, and I love it so much,” she said. “I am actually going back there after the pageant with my family to visit again. I love to travel, I took a year off after I graduated from college to travel and backpack across Southeast Asia.
“I also would like to call myself a foodie, I love everything about food, and I actually love to cook and bake. If I did not take the mass media route, I would have been a chef. I am also very adventurous and spontaneous. I love to live life to the fullest with no regrets. My motto is to ‘try everything once’. My ultimate dream job is to be a television host with my own show.”