BEAUTY contests open culture like a can opener.
I viewed recently a Facebook video showing the uncanny resemblance between Snake Princess and the Ms. Guam candidate for the 2017 Ms. Universe contest, Ms. Muñeka Joy Cruz Taisipic.
Ms. Taisipic is winsome. Yet, I might not have been able to single her out from the other contenders in the international beauty tilt if not for Medyo Maldito’s video.
Snake Princess and Medyo Maldito are social media influencers of Mugstoria, whose fame rests solidly on their viral memes about “hugot (love)” and Bisaya humor.
The video, “NAA SI SNAKE PRINCESS SA MS UNIVERSE !!!,” has 442,000 views, 2,790 shares, and about 228,000 reactions from Netizens.
According to the video’s top comments, Snake Princess—Mark Anthony Abucejo before she was discovered roaming the streets by Mugstoria founder Jonji Gonzales—is admired for making fans laugh.
Her online trademark is not just a “hugot” punchline but that tossing of her bangs, backed up by a melodramatic theme song.
In real life, fans say the Snake Princess is “buotan (pleasant)” and “hinagad (approachable)”. During a UP Cebu forum where Mugstoria was the guest, the Snake Princess, in casual dress and rubber slippers, made quite an impression with Iskolars ng Bayan, usually blasé about celebrities.
The Snake Princess may yet crack the culture industry of beauty contests, a feat unsuccessfully attempted by guardians of morality and women’s rights advocates.
A biological male, her online persona strikes fans as very “feminine”.
When she utters her lines in thick Bisaya–flavored English, she scores a point against the Filipino’s English snobbery. She advises the lovelorn, specially females, to love themselves first and never allow their partners to treat them like doormats.
If I were a Millennial, I would follow the Snake Princess, free to become who she wants to be.
Why would I want to be a poor young woman trapped in the archaic institution of the beauty pageant?
A beauty titlist must have the self-abnegation of a saint, the discipline of an athlete, and the mental preparedness of a journalist. Add a politician’s survival instincts, a diplomat’s reservoirs of good will, and a gymnast’s flexibility.
All these to become a spectacle, tottering in four-inch heels and posturing before gawkers mentally weighing them as cuts of meat. A beauty princess is resigned to have her past examined, her grammar corrected. Passing all these tests, she accepts that she cannot please everyone in the world/earth/universe.
A snake, able to shed off old skin and reinvent, seems to have a better time than any princess.
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* First published in the January 29, 2017 issue of the Sun.Star Cebu Sunday editorial-page column, “Matamata”