Pennsylvania teen Alexa Kirby wins Miss Philippines Quest-USA

'Being beautiful is to be yourself.' Photo by Yetboloverita

‘Being beautiful is to be yourself.’ Photo by Yetboloverita

By Cristina DC Pastor

An 18-year-old high school graduate from Pennsylvania who would love to have dinner with Demi Lovato, given a chance to dine with an inspiring celebrity, was crowned Miss Philippines Quest-USA on July 12 at a beauty-and-talent pageant held at Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

Alexa Kirby, who, by serendipity, was also Candidate No. 1 because of her name, will represent the East Coast Filipino American community in the Miss World Philippines contest to be held in Manila in August. She was judged most beautiful out of 10 candidates from New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

“Everyone is beautiful on the outside, but not everyone is beautiful in the inside,” writes Kirby on her Facebook wall. “Being beautiful is to be yourself , and (to) show people you care is important. Giving a compliment to someone is beautiful because you are able to feel better and make someone else smile.”

On top of her free ticket to the Philippines, Kirby will also receive a pocket money of $1,000.

Kirby, who lives in Romansville, a town an hour and a half away from the capital city of Harrisburg, is not a stranger to beauty contests. She was a contestant in the Miss Teen Pennsylvania USA and Miss Teen Philippines. She graduated from Downington West High School, and is currently working as a summer camp counselor.

Grace Labaguis, who holds the East Coast franchise of the Miss Philippines Quest-USA, said Filipinos love beauty contests.

“Our fascination with these competitions are proven to be deeply rooted in our culture wherever we go,” she said.

Miss Philippines Quest-USA is the search vehicle on the East Coast for Miss World Philippines, headed by long-time pageant impresario Cory Quirino, who was one of the judges in the Quest-USA contest. Quirino is widely credited for getting the Philippines to win its first Miss World, a title that went to Filipino American actress Megan Young in 2013

“This pageant will definitely be a springboard for many modern-day Filipina beauty queens to promote and support worthy causes and advocacies,” said Labaguis.

The four finalists in the contest were Erin Manansala from Garfield, New York; Jenica Balmes from Pennsylvania; Isabella Estella, a public relations and marketing practitioner and filmmaker; and Misook Mendonca, a nursing student from New Jersey.

The hall at Symphony Space on Broadway and 95th streets, was practically divided among the different camps rooting for their candidates. It was a rowdy evening, with the gallery erupting into cheers complete with bullhorns when their favorite candidates’ names were called.

Some in the audience were torn between pure Filipino beauty versus what they call “hybrid” beauty referring to biracial contestants, such as Kirby, whose father is American. Someone made a comment that biracial Filipinas have a better chance at this type of pageant because she may as well represent not just one but an amalgam of cultures with her looks and upbringing.

Alexa and the four finalists: Erin Manansala, Jenica Balmes, Isabella Estella, and Misook Mendonca. Photo by Troi Santos

Alexa and the four finalists: Erin Manansala, Jenica Balmes, Isabella Estella, and Misook Mendonca. Photo by Pierre Santos

Grace Labaguis (left) with Cory Quirino

Grace Labaguis (left) with Cory Quirino

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