MANILA -- Filipina pageant candidates were left inspired after getting a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have a virtual conversation with reigning Miss Universe Zozibini Tunzi.
Miss Universe Philippines (MUP) recently uploaded a video showing highlights from Tunzi's video call with its candidates, with the South African beauty queen revealing that she was supposed to be in the Philippines for the national pageant.
"So sad that I can't be there in person because I was supposed to be there initially," she said. "But I think having this opportunity right now to sit here and have this chat, I think it's incredible."
"I want to congratulate all of you for making it this far," she went on. "You guys should be proud of yourselves, of where you are sitting, and know that I am incredibly proud of all of you."
During the call, selected MUP candidates were given the chance to talk to Tunzi, with some of them sharing how the reigning Miss Universe has empowered them and many other women across the globe.
"You broke the status quo, you broke the typical beauty queen mold... I just really want to thank you for doing that. You are amazing. You inspire me so much, and I never had this much confidence before, with short hair, to join a pageant," said Cavite representative Kimberly Hakenson.
To which Tunzi replied: "I love that you said you got that confidence because beauty comes in all shapes, forms, and sizes. I feel it should be celebrated."
Others, like Lou Dominique Piczon of Mandaue City, asked Tunzi how it is like to be a beauty queen during the pandemic.
"It's been challenging," the reigning Miss Universe admitted. "I think this time has been challenging for all of us, really. I think nobody expected this to happen, nobody saw it coming. So we kind of all had to quickly adjust to what's happening."
"But I quickly found my feet," she continued. "I was so blessed to be living in an age where we can go virtual, where we can go digital. So I think we were quick to grab that opportunity to say, 'Listen, just because there's a pandemic, it doesn't mean the dream has stopped.'"
A handful of MUP candidates, meanwhile, asked Tunzi for tips. Among them is Taguig's Sandra Lemonon, who asked how the South African beauty queen how to stay motivated and on track throughout the pageant.
"Mind your own lane, that's what I always tell people," Tunzi replied. "If you keep looking left, right, center, up, and down, you'll be distracted so much. So that would be my biggest advice."
She went on to remind the MUP candidates to stay true to themselves and not copy what their predecessors have achieved.
"Cat (Gray, Miss Universe 2018) is amazing, Pia (Wurtzbach, Miss Universe 2015) is amazing, Gazini (Ganados, Miss Universe Philippines 2019) is amazing. But I'm pretty sure that Miss Universe Philippines is not looking for those people because they already had those people... They're looking for you, your unique you," she stressed.
"So that would be my second advice, to let that shine. Don't try to be those people because they already did an incredible job by being themselves. And nobody can do a better job at being you more than yourself," she added.
Watch the MUP candidates' conversation with Tunzi below: