Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach, the German-Filipino model who was crowned Miss Universe in 2015, acknowledges the role of social media in helping her win the world’s most prestigious beauty pageant title.
Wurtzbach, the third representative out of the Philippines to become Miss Universe after Gloria Diaz (1969) and Margarita Moran (1973), is an active user of Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
“My best experience in social media was of course everybody’s help in online voting during the 2015 Miss Universe. We actually crashed their website, because there was so much of us [Filipinos],” Wurtzbach, 27, tells journalists at the sidelines of ACC 2017, formerly Asian Carriers Conference, dubbed as Asia’s premier tech and telco event which was hosted by PLDT Inc. at Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort & Spa in Lapu Lapu City, Cebu.
Wurtzbach, a five-foot-eight stunner whose father was from Stuttgart, Germany, got the highest scores from the judging panel, the contestants and the online voters during the competition held in Las Vegas on Dec. 20, 2015. Prior to this, she won the Binibining Pilipinas pageant on March 15, 2015.
“From what I know, it was actually a unanimous decision from the judging panel. So all voted for Team Philippines. The girls voted Philippines also, and during the online voting, the Philippines was also number one. It was a big help. If in case the judges voted 50-50 on me, then maybe that [online voting] would have been the difference,” she says.
“But it also really showed that we are number one, that we are the biggest fans of pageant, of Miss Universe and we have proven that through the statistics, especially during the online voting. That is why they had the pageant held here early this year,” she says, recalling Manila’s hosting of the 65th Miss Universe pageant in January.
Wurtzbach, who studied at the Center for Asian Culinary Studies, says the existence of reliable Internet connection in the Philippines played a part in delivering Filipinos’ votes during the online voting segment of the competition.
She recalls that in 2015, the Miss Universe organizers changed the mechanics of the competition. “I found out when I was already in Vegas that there would be a fifth judge for the competition, and the fifth judge was going to be you –the people who were watching at home. There was a small window that the votes could come in. If you missed that opportunity, the votes would not count anymore. So it was important that you had a fast Internet connection, whether at home, in your mobile phone, or your tablet. It was important that you got the live streaming, real-time,” she says.
“When I came in until I exited the stage, that’s when you voted. After I exited, the votes would not count any more. We wanted the Philippines to win, so it was very important for me. And social media has been very helpful for me, also to reach a lot of people, not only during my journey towards Miss Universe, but also after Miss Universe,” she says.
Wurtzbach has been an active social media user, with millions of followers for several years now. She has 5 million followers on Instagram, over 1.67 million on Facebook and 574,000 on Twitter. She describes her social media accounts as records of her life’s training and career.
“I needed to work on my physique, my public speaking skills. I needed to work on a lot of things. A lot of people were l0oking down on my chances at Miss Universe because of the way I look, because I am not pure Filipino, but I am by heart. I used social media as a tool to show my progress, and to show people how dedicated I was in winning the crown for the Philippines. And you can see through my social media accounts that it is like a diary,” she says.
“When you go back to my timeline, you will see the changes, the progress. You will see me going to the gym. You will see me doing the catwalk training. You will see me lose three times as Binibini even. Everything is there. If you go to my social media account, and you go way, way back, you will see the first time I joined Binibini, the second time I joined, the third time, and finally Miss Universe, and now after Miss Universe,” she says.
Wurtzbach says it is now very important to connect with people through social media. “It is really how we are all connected,” she says, in describing the power of technology.
“So it is also kind of a responsibility, isn’t it, for each and everyone, not just for me as a beauty queen or ‘celebrity’, but for every individual? Personally, it has helped me to share what my life is after Miss Universe and what I am up to now. Now, social media is really the way to connect to other people. Don’t you guys notice that whenever you want to check up on someone, instead of going to their house, you just search on Facebook or Instagram?” she asks.
“I would say that in the last five years, the growth of social media use has been significant. Nowadays, you can find old relatives online,” she says.
On what things she avoids posting on social media, she says: “If you have the smallest doubt that you have to share it, don’t share it. That’s how I go by it. If you think that it is something people will like, that it is something fun and it is harmless, go for it. But if you have a little bit of doubt, then think about it, sit on it, don’t do it yet,” she says.
Wurtzbach says she has also learned how to respond to negative comments on social media. “During my early years joining pageants, I used to reply to people who did not like me. But I have learned, with the guidance of my trainors, that it is better to just avoid negativity and ignore it is as part of the job. There will always be people who are going to have negative opinion about you. So it is just better to ignore this. Especially if you are going to join a competition, it can really get into your head, and you can lose your focus,” she says.
“My worst experience was when I, during the competition, would still see or read comments that would upset me, and then it would kinda rattle me for the night or for the day. It was really unnecessary because you were about to represent the Philippines in Miss Universe, and one comment on social media should not let you lose your focus on your ultimate goal. I have learned just to ignore, ignore,” she says.
“We can be helpful when it comes to boosting our representatives in other countries, especially when they are about to go on competition representing the Philippines. We have seen that with beauty queens. We have seen that with athletes. We have seen that with artists or talents who are showcasing their abilities in the international stage. And we are very proud and it becomes a trending topic if a Filipino is joining the competition in other countries,” Wurtzbach says.
“With that also comes some bashing, some nitpicking and I think it really comes with it. You can’t control everything we see online, or what we read online. What we can do is control how we feel about it, or our action,” she says.
Wurtzbach says she is excited about the future of social media. “I can’t wait to see how it will become in the next five years. I really did not imagine five years ago that I would be able to find, connect to titas and cousins, or that I would be able to see my niece or sisters, even though they are in another country.”
She says social media is generally good. “It has its disadvantages of course, but that only comes with irresponsible action or use of technology, but I think in general, technology can be very good,” says Wurtzbach.
Wurtzbach is one of the speakers during ACC 2017, which was attended by more than 1,500 delegates from more than 60 countries representing over 400 companies. This year’s ACC ran on the business theme ‘Reinventing Customer Experience in the Digital Age’.
ACC provides a venue for industry leaders to discuss and share the latest technologies and breakthroughs in telco, ICT and related industries. It brings together delegates from the wholesale fixed and mobile telco carriers, network and infrastructure providers, applications and service developers, handset and equipment manufacturers, and entertainment and content distributors around the world.
“Apart from providing an ideal venue for discussion and sharing of ideas, the ACC also spearheads Thought Leadership on the future of technology and telco around the world,” says PLDT Global Corp. president and chief executive Kat Luna-Abelarde.
Aside from PLDT and Smart, other platinum sponsors of the event are Huawei of China, BICS of Belgium, Ciena of Singapore, Orange of France, PCCW Global of Hong Kong, Sigma Telecom of Istanbul and XiComm of the US.