If the newly crowned Miss Grand International 2020 Abena Abbiah, seems to be a familiar face to Filipinos, that’s because last Saturday’s pageant wasn’t the first time we heard of her wit.
The first time Abena made us swoon (and laugh!) the first time was back in 2019, during the Miss Earth pageant which emanated from Okada Manila’s Cove Manila stage. Abena, who went by Evelyn Abena Appiah at the time, represented Ghana to the occasion, and it was through her interviews and public appearances before the pageant when she tried to jump in our brand of humor.
It was a short clip of her interview with ABS-CBN that first made her a local star. When asked if she already knew Filipino, she shared that she “has been learning” through MJ Lastimosa, her batchmate back in Miss Universe 2014, who taught her the language bit by bit. Then, she showed it off by saying, “ang batang malakas kumain ay laging may gana!” with the enthusiasm akin to pageant introductions.
After the clip went viral, the Ghana puns just keep coming from Miss Abena. In a preliminary pageant event, the 27-year-old beauty was asked a question about conservation, to which she wittily responded: “Let’s conserve water… Gumamit ng tabo, timba, at palang-Ghana!”
The audience erupted into applause immediately after, and deservedly so.
She even references the Filipino culture’s unique quirks from time to time. In the following Instagram post, she poses fiercely while clad in all-black, with a sort of dissonant caption that disclosed her craving for kwek-kwek.
Despite falling short of the Miss Earth 2019 crown, Appiah was still full of kind words to the Philippines, the country that “accepted her and let her embrace its beautiful culture.”
“Ako ay Filipino sa pamamagitan ng puso. Mahal na mahal kita lahat at ipinagdarasal ko na mapapasaya kitang lahat,” Appiah fondly wrote.
But that’s not where her flourishing relationship with Filipinos stops. In the recent MGI pageant, Appiah wore her iconic national costume inspired by the “Black Lives Matter” movement, which was made by the creative team of Laguna-based designer Dr. Mark Lixcel Lantican.
She also trained under the renowned beauty pageant mentor Rodgil Flores through his Kagandahang Flores beauty camp. This is the same boot camp that coached beauty queens Precious Lara Quigaman for Miss International 2005, MJ Lastimosa for Miss Universe 2014, Rachel Peters for Miss Universe 2017, and most recently, Gazini Ganados for Miss Universe 2019, among others.
In her Instagram post following her Miss Grand USA win back in July 2020, Appiah made sure to express her gratitude to her coaching team, and to the Philippines at large.
“Philippines, Mahal kita. Do not think I will ever forget you. I am Aeta and forever will be,” wrote the multi-crowned beauty queen.
A musical therapist and flight attendant by profession, the Ghanaian-American Appiah is a staunch anti-bullying advocate. To wit, she runs a school in Ghana that helps young women hone their talents for the entertainment industry.
“My ultimate goal is to create an organization that helps individuals feel confident after suffering severe bullying,” Abena shared.