Fan-fave Miss Thailand talks about her bittersweet feat at Miss Universe pageant
First, it was actor Mario Maurer, who was tapped by the Tourism Authority of Thailand to promote the Land of Smiles as a top tourist destination in Asia. Then came Miss Thailand Chalita Suansane, who ended up in the Top 6 of the recent Miss Universe tilt held in the country.
There are good reasons why Chalita is a snug fit for the job, as her participation in the pageant readily demonstrated. The 22-year-old-model-turned-beauty titlist knows how to make a grand entrance (she arrived in the country with 17 suitcases) and sustain the public’s interest in her.
She won the fan vote and became the first titleholder from Thailand to make it to the competition’s Top 6 since Porntip Nakhirunkanok won the Miss Universe crown in 1988. Not bad for a first-time beauty contestant.
And if you’re wondering about her amiable but don’t-mess-with-me countenance, Chalita has German blood running through her veins (her mom’s Thai-German), like our very own former Miss Universe Pia Wurtzbach. So there.
In Inquirer Entertainment’s revealing Q&A with Chalita, the 5’7” tall beauty talks about Pia, Maxine Medina and Miss Universe 2016 Iris Mittenaere; her friendship with Miss Colombia Andrea Tovar; the Philippines as a tourist haven, and why Filipinos should visit Thailand and eat scorpion—one of Bangkok’s “exotic” delicacies.
Congratulations for making it to the Top 6. Are you satisfied with your performance? Do you think you should have placed higher? It was a combination of two feelings. On one hand, I felt sad that I failed to make it to the Top 3, as I had hoped. But making it to the Top 6 was a reward in itself, given the hard work and effort I put into it to get to the finals. But it meant a lot to me because it was the first time in about 28 years that Thailand made it up to the question-and-answer round.
Let’s try that final question-and-answer for the Top 3: Name something over the course of your life that you failed at, and tell us what you learned from that experience? I’ve never looked at anything in my life as a failure. Everything that has happened to me offers a good lesson to learn—and an opportunity to do better in the future.
What are your thoughts about Pia (the former Miss Universe titleholder), Iris (the current Miss Universe from France) and Maxine (Miss Philippines)? I consider all three ladies my friends. Everyone is beautiful in her own unique way. Pia possesses the character of a leader. Like Maxine, Iris—the current Miss Universe—is very nice to everyone.
You’re good friends with Miss Colombia (Andrea Tovar), as seen from your Instagram posts, especially the one where you talk to each other via FaceTime. Is she planning to visit Thailand soon? Yes, Andrea and I still keep in touch. She told me that she could come to Thailand because she received an award in Colombia that would let her travel to her destination of choice. I’d be very happy to welcome her in Thailand.
What was your favorite part of the Miss Universe experience in the Philippines? The most significant is the friendship forged among the 85 candidates. Truly valuable.
What surprised you the most about the Philippines and its people? How similar and different are Filipinos and Thais? It was my first time to visit the Philippines, so I was very surprised that everyone knew my name. Wherever I went, even in places outside Metro Manila, everybody would call me by my name, Chalita!
The most noticeable similarity is in the way we look. Filipinos and Thais look the same, as if they’re brothers and sisters. But one distinct difference is the food. I didn’t have the chance to try as many Filipino dishes as I wanted during the pageant, but with the few that I had tasted—which, by the way, were delicious—I’d say that the flavors were quite different.
For Filipinos who are planning a trip to Thailand, what are the must-see places and to-do activities that you would recommend? Thailand has a variety of attractions to offer, but I would highly recommend Bangkok—where the Royal Grand Palace and the Wat Phra Kaew, which houses the Emerald Buddha, are located. Our country also offers sumptuous dishes (and street food), activities involving health and wellness, and shopping.
We’re also noted for our hospitality. Thai people treat tourists like their relatives or friends.
Let’s discuss specific Thai dishes you’d like tourists to try. What were those fried insects that you tried in the footage for the Miss Universe telecast? Yeah, the scorpion! It was my first time to try it. But I would recommend three Thai dishes—the tom yum goong, pad Thai and mango sticky rice.
You came to the Philippines with 17 suitcases for the Miss Universe pageant. Did you return to Manila for the tourism-promotion trip with the same number? No, no…just one (laughs)!