Michelle Dee credits mom Melanie Marquez for being her inspiration to ‘stay strong’
Michelle Dee was emotional as she opened up about her difficult childhood and acknowledged her mom, model and beauty queen Melanie Marquez, for raising her into a strong individual and believing that she’s “capable of greater things.”
During an interview with Boy Abunda on Wednesday, Feb. 22, the Miss Universe Philippines candidate spoke about this after she was asked what she thought she “did wrong” in last year’s pageant, and which she would improve in this year’s competition.
“Last year, I really feel [that] I fell short [in terms of] relatability. Hindi ko na-share ang stories and struggles ko—kung bakit ako matapang or bakit ako strong like my mom (I was not able to share my stories and struggles—why I am brave or strong like my mom),” she told Abunda. “There is a side of me that I really need people to see, that I’m not as privileged as people think I am, and that I [did have] a hard childhood also.”
Michelle, whose voice was shaking as she held her tears back, recalled how their family moved to the United States when she was younger to “get away” from the drama caused by Marquez and her former husband Derek Dee’s “rough marriage.”
“I grew up in the States because my mom wanted to protect us from the noise,” Michelle said. “People don’t know that me and my sister were the only two Asians in Utah so we were subject to a lot of racism and to top that off, I grew up with two autistic siblings.”
Michelle revealed that she experienced physical bullying from people who put into question her beliefs and the culture she grew up in. Despite this, Michelle soldiered on with the help of her family—above all, Marquez whose values Michelle has imbibed.
“But I’m so grateful for my mom, my dad, my grandmother, especially my mom because she’s the one who taught me how to stay strong, to believe in the goodness and your worth, and to show that to people. So just like my mom, I really want to inspire people to achieve their best self and to take that struggle and turn it to your strength.”
Michelle then disclosed that Marquez, who reigned as 1979 Miss International, as well as Derek figured in separate accidents last year, which prompted her to take on the responsibilities of both families.
“My mom is with me 100%. Did she force me to join the pageant? No, she did not—even my first pageant, she didn’t,” Michelle noted. “But she believes that I’m capable of greater things and a greater version of myself, and she supports me through and through.”
“Last year was a very difficult year—actually, one of my most difficult years,” she continued. “That’s why I’m here, I’m joining the pageant again because I feel like I have so much to share and so much to prove… The [crown] is really more than just a title, it’s really a platform for positive change.”
In last year’s competition, Michelle finished second to Celeste Cortesi and earned the Miss Universe Philippines Tourism title. The 2023 pageant is Michelle’s last chance to win the crown as she’s now 27—just a year shy of the pageant’s age limit of 28. /ra