Rabiya Mateo | Photo by @missuniverseph IG
NEW YORK – A Cinderella story ends before midnight with Miss Universe Philippines 2020 Rabiya Mateo ending her journey May 16 with a top 21 spot on the 69th Miss Universe Pageant held at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida.
Considered as one of the earlier standout candidates in the pageant, the 24-year-Ilongga beauty queen was the 15th candidate called to join the top 21 semifinalists as the suspense build up during the coronation night. As soon as the host called her name, Filipino fans from the audience were jubilant and felt relieved, overcoming their fears Rabiya would not make it.
Andrea Meza, a 26-year-old software engineer from Mexico, was crowned Miss Universe 2020. Meza beat 73 other candidates from around the world vying for the coveted title. Brazil’s Julia Gama was named 1st runner-up, followed by Janick Maceta Del Castillo from Peru, the 2nd runner-up. Adline Castelino, from India, and Kimberly Jimenez from the Dominican Republic, clinched the 3rd and 4th spots, respectively.
This is the third win for Mexico, following Ximena Navarrete in 2010 and Lupita Jones in 1991.
The pageant’s hosts were Mario Lopez and Olivia Culpo, the Miss Universe 2012.
The 2020 competition was postponed due to the pandemic until May 16, when they could safely hold the pageant at South Florida’s “iconic entertainment destination that fuses an electrifying nightlife scene and non-stop gaming action in a singular setting.”
Three contestants delivered powerful political messages during the costume portion. Miss Singapore donned a cape that read “Stop Asian Hate.” Miss Myanmar Thuzar Wint Lwin captured the world’s attention with a banner that read #PrayForMyanmar. Miss Uruguay Lola Delos Santos had a statement against violence, hate, rejection, and discrimination. Miss Myanmar won the Best National Costume Award.
The other candidates who made it into the Top 21 are Columbia, Peru, Australia, France, Myanmar, Jamaica, Mexico, Dominican Republic, U.S.A, Indonesia, Argentina, India, Curaçao, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Great Britain, Nicaragua, Thailand, Costa Rica, and Vietnam.
After the first round, Rabiya did not go further despite impressing the audience and judges in the swimsuit and evening gown segments. The Top 10 included Jamaica, Dominican Republic, India, Peru, Australia, Puerto Rica, Thailand, Costa Rica, Mexico, and Brazil. Then came the five finalists.
Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach thanked Rabiya for giving her heart to the competition.
“RABIYA WE LOVE YOU thank you for pouring your heart for the Philippines ❤ We see your heart Queen #MissUniverse’,” she tweeted.
Miss Universe Philippines National Director Shamcey Supsup-Lee, Miss Universe 2012 first-runner up Janine Tugonon, and Miss Universe Philippines 2014 MJ Lastimosa came all the way to Hollywood, Florida, to support Rabiya.
Those in attendance at the pageant and viewers at home, particularly women, will perhaps remember Meza’s statement on changing beauty standards. “As we advance as a society, we also advanced with stereotypes. Nowadays beauty isn’t only the way we look,” she said. “For me, beauty radiates not only in our spirit, but in our hearts and the way we conduct ourselves. Never permit someone to tell you you’re not valuable.”
While having the traditional final walk as Miss Universe 2019 before her successor is crowned, Zozibini Tunzi said, “From the moment I won, I knew my reign would be different, but I never imagined it would be during a global pandemic. However, I had the opportunity to touch twice as many lives because the world went virtual.”
Appearing the day after the pageant, Rabiya said during Miss Bolivia Lenka Nemer D’rpic’s Instagram live: ” [All of us] are queens even without a crown. It’s not every day we get to represent our country. This is a great opportunity for all of the girls. We’re happy to be here.”
Rabiya was named Miss Universe Philippines in October 2020 – the first winner of the title after the franchise was acquired by the Miss Universe Philippines Organization in 2019.