Michelle Dee crowns first delegate to 2024 Miss Universe Philippines pageant
MANILA, Philippines—Michelle Dee has not competed in the Miss Universe pageant yet, but she has already crowned the first aspirant to her national title, Matea Smith, who recently emerged as the new Miss Filipina International winner in the United States.
The reigning Miss Universe Philippines had flown to California to serve as one of the judges in the search for 2023 Miss Filipina International, which culminated in a grand coronation show at the Beverly Hills Hilton last Aug. 5 (Aug. 6 in Manila).
Smith from Coral Springs, Florida, inherited the Miss Filipina International crown from last year’s winner, Blessa Figueroa. The new winner bested 35 other aspirants, who are women of Filipino descent from all over the world, and has now become the first official delegate for the 2024 Miss Universe Philippines pageant.
The Miss Filipina International pageant will also send two more ladies from the Top 5 to the national competition in Manila next year. Two other women from the Top 5 will fly to the Philippines later this year to compete in The Miss Philippines Culture and Heritage Celebration, the new national contest that will choose the country’s representatives to the Miss Supranational and Miss Charm contests.
Smith, 21, was also proclaimed as “Best in Swimsuit” in the Miss Filipina International pageant. She studies behavioral and cognitive neuroscience at the University of Florida. She said she hopes to become a trauma surgeon someday so that she may have a positive impact on people’s lives.
The Miss Filipina International Tourism title went to Amanda Russo, who was also proclaimed as Miss Jojo Bragais Collection earlier in the evening. The 18-year-old sports buff is into volleyball, basketball, lacrosse, track and field, biking, hiking, weight training, dancing and singing. She was born in Delaware and studies finance and international business at the Penn State University.
Lauren Skeoch, 26, from Sacramento, California, was proclaimed as first runner-up, while Makati-born Patricia Tapia, 25, finished as second runner-up. Eighteen-year-old Rylen Steinbuch from San Diego, California, rounded up the Top 5 as third runner-up.
Skeoch has roots in Cagayan de Oro City, while Tapia’s family is from Tanauan, Batangas. Steinbuch, who took home the Miss iSkin Beverly Hills and Miss Philippine Airlines awards, traces her lineage to Isabela.
Pageant veteran Beatriz Mclelland from Aklan finished in the semifinals, and received the Best in Evening Gown and Miss Metro Manila Film Festival awards. In 2019, she was crowned Miss Teen International Philippines, and competed in the Miss Teen International pageant in India where she was proclaimed Miss Teen Intercontinental. In 2022, she joined the Miss World Philippines pageant where she earned the Miss Eco Teen Philippines title, which took her to the 2022 Miss Eco Teen International contest in Egypt where she scored a second straight first runner-up finish for the country, duplicating her predecessor Tatyana Austria’s accomplishment.
Dee will represent the Philippines in the 72nd Miss Universe pageant in El Salvador in November. She will try not only to become the fifth Filipino to win the title but also bring the country’s glory back in the international competition after her predecessor Celeste Cortesi broke the Philippines’ 12-year placement streak in the most recent contest held in January. /ra