27 year old North Cotabato beauty, Mary Jean "MJ" Lastimosa is confident and ready to finally clutch the crown for the Philippines on the Miss Universe pageant happening on January 25, 2015 in Doral, Miami, Florida.
The Philippines has landed the runner up position in the pageant for 4 consecutive years. Previous placements of Binibining Pilipinas bets include Miss Universe 2014 4th Runner Up Venus Raj, Miss Universe 2011 3rd Runner Up Shamcey Supsup, Miss Universe 2012 1st Runner Up Janine Tugonon and Miss Universe 3rd Runner Up 2013 Ariella Arida and pageant fans are excited more than ever to bring back the title to the Philippines after 41 years.
Asked if she feels pressure to win, MJ answers "The pressure will always be there, but I channel it to fuel me to become more competitive and focused. I don't let the pressure get to me. The Miss Universe is a once in a lifetime event, and I hope to treasure every moment, be grateful for the experience and just showcase the beauty of the Filipina the best way I can."
And MJ is very well poised to become the next Miss Universe. Under Binibining Pilipinas, she took courses on personality development and cultural immersion from Dale Carnegie, had Q&A practice sessions from Entrepreneur School of Asia, and focused on doing toning exercises at Gold's Gym. She also shares she firmed up on her communication skills to give her a greater competitive edge.
She is also given valuable insights and full support by her best friend, Shamcey Supsup. "Shamcey told me to know myself better, to know my values and where I stand in life. It's easy to be consumed by the competition, but knowing myself gives me confidence that allows me to shine. Venus Raj, Ariella Arida as well as Janine Tugonon (through online conversations) also told me to not feel pressured because people can see through the nervousness, and instead look natural, bubbly and show off the real me."
MJ's desire to win is even more fueled up, as she dedicates her fight to her uncle, Sergio Lastimosa, who passed away last Friday. An acting father figure when her parents left for Saudi Arabia, Sergio was very supportive of MJ's Miss Universe mission and had wished to watch the pageant despite his illness.
Early Christmas charity
With a heart for public service and an innate desire to help others, MJ held a unique charity send off last December 18. MJ, together with the reigning Binibining Pilipinas Queens supported Dairy Queen's 'Queens Give Back' initiative, and donated school supplies, shoes and held a special early Christmas party for underprivileged kids from the Diocese of Novaliches.
"The preparations for the pageant is really hectic, but I wanted to prioritize doing charity. I have been very blessed this year, and I hope to give back. I am fortunate that through Dairy Queen's CSR initiative, I can spread the love and happiness for kids."
The Binibining Pilipinas 2014 pageant is presented by the Araneta Center, ABS-CBN, Cream Silk, PLDT Home, JAG Jeans, AVON, PAGCOR, Titan Watches—the official watch sponsor, PAGCOR, Manhattan Garden City, Pizza Hut, Lactacyd White Intimate, Philippine Airlines, Sofitel—the official residence, Manila Bulletin—the official print partner, David's Salon, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Gold's Gym, J.A.C. Motors, Picture City, Dale Carnegie Training Center, Entrepreneur School of Asia, Charter Ping An Insurance Corporation, and Raymond Saldaña Photography.