Miss Universe delegates strut in Filipino-made shoes named after Michelle Dee
MANILA, Philippines — The 2023 Miss Universe delegates battled it out in the crucial preliminary competition at the Jose Adolfo Pineda Arena in San Salvador, El Salvador, on Nov. 15 (Nov. 16 in Manila) wearing Rubin Singer swimsuits of their choice, and regulation shoes all provided by Filipino designer Jojo Bragais. And with every step they took on stage, they brought with them a piece of Michelle Dee, the delegate from the Philippines and the inspiration behind the footwear.
“The shoe design this 72nd edition is a tribute to ‘MMD’ (Dee’s initials). This is the only time in Bragais history that a pair of shoes is named after the current competing queen on the Miss Universe stage,” the shoe designer told INQUIRER.net in an exclusive online interview while he was en route to El Salvador.
“The name of my pageant shoes has always been a tribute to [Filipino] queens who I believe made an impact, and inspired not only me but a lot of pageant fans and followers,” Bragais explained.
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For his first collaboration with Miss Universe in its 69th edition, he used the shoe design inspired by 2018 Binibining Pilipinas Supranational Jehza Huelar simply called “Jehza.” For the pageant’s 71st edition, the competition saw his “Maureen” design, named after 2021 Miss Globe Maureen Montagne.
For his third time with the Miss Universe pageant, Bragais debuted a new design, never before seen nor used on any stage. And he said part of the inspiration behind the ‘MMD’ shoe is Dee’s identification as a bisexual woman. He said he expanded his interpretation: “We are capable of being in two worlds, we just need to accept it and let it flow naturally without the need to stress yourself with the choice.”
To depict this on the shoe, he incorporated two thin lines in a clear strap that meet at the center. “Because same with life, you just need to find the center/balance, and everything will be clearer,” he explained.
Bragais also said he took into consideration the quick changes happening backstage in pageants when he developed the new design. “I just want the girls to easily slide the shoes in and out of their feet so they can save time and avoid stress dressing up, and use their energy into other aspects of the pageant,” he shared.
Miss Universe Organization (MUO) President Paula Shugart said she is happy to partner anew with Bragais for the competition. “The Jojo Bragais shoes empower women across the universe to walk and win, not just on the competition but in life. Every step each young woman takes on that stage, she knows she can be confident in the shoes she is wearing,” she said in a video.
Reigning Miss Universe R’Bonney Gabriel chimed in, and said, “there’s an uncompromising dedication to craftsmanship, quality, and style that is present among all Jojo shoes.”
Bragais has also released an advocacy campaign video for Dee that has already garnered more than a million views. “I want people to see [Dee] for her good qualities, other than her wit and her beauty, those aligned to [Miss Universe owner Anne Jakajuttip’s] vision of transformational leadership,” he said.
In the video, Dee showcased her multifaceted life, and the many aspects of her personality, bringing to the fore her work on autism awareness, and pushing for inclusivity. Bragais said he discovered from his many encounters with people around the country who are not aware of these things about the Filipino queen.
“So, I wanted a campaign that will tell people the story of Michelle and how I find her awesome. Because she is one of the few queens we have with a legit advocacy. We know too well that so many others only make up their advocacies,” continued Bragais, who collaborated with Brand Republic, Sicklab Studios, and many other artists for the campaign video.
Bragais said Dee arrived on filming day earlier than the 5:30 a.m. call time, and the work for both still photos and videos, with six layouts, extended for 10 hours. “It was a long shoot! Like long! I was already concerned, her being tired, but she was like a dynamo! She keeps saying ‘let’s finish this, I am okay.’ Thats why she really got my respect. I admire hard workers,” he shared.
Dee is competing against 83 other woman to earn the Miss Universe title and become the fifth Filipino woman to wear the crown, after Gloria Diaz (1969), Margie Moran (1973), Pia Wurtzbach (2015), and Catriona Gray (2018).
Gabriel will relinquish her title to her successor, who will be chosen after the final competition in San Salvador on Nov 18 (Nov. 19 in Manila).