Last October 25, 2020’s Miss Universe Philippines was crowned: Rabiya Mateo, a 23-year-old Ilongga from Iloilo who stunned the judges with her intelligence and personality. However, she’s not the only one who has caught the public’s eye.
While she wasn’t able to snatch the crown, Cavite’s Kimberly “Billie” Hakenson, the fourth runner-up, still managed to be the talk of the internet. The brains, self-assured attitude, and grace she displayed throughout the various stages of the competition made her a favorite among pageant fans online.
Out and Proud
She first became the talk of the internet when her preliminary interview went viral. In her interview, she stated, “I’m Billie Hakenson, representing Cavite, and I’m a bisexual, and I’m proud to be here.” It’s a simple statement about who she is, but her saying it confidently still resonated with fans – especially those part of the LGBTQ+ community – because of the lack of representation when it comes to openly queer pageant queens.
When people started taking notice and framing it as a coming-out moment, Hakenson made sure to clarify that she was already openly bisexual. “I certainly did not come out on the Miss Universe Philippines stage. I simply reiterated my truth,” the caption of her Instagram post about the matter read.
She also used it as an opportunity to say that, although her sexuality doesn’t define her entire identity, she is a proud member of the LGBTQIA+ community and dedicates her journey to “every single person who has been pigeonholed, discriminated, or dehumanized for their gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation.”
When she became one of the top 16 finalists, it meant that she had the chance to show how well she could do in the question and answer portion. And she didn’t disappoint. All of the candidates were asked, “How can you create a positive and lasting impact to the world around you?”
Billie Hakenson’s answer ended up going viral and for a good reason. She shared that she has experienced gender-based abuse and highlighted the importance of fighting against it by speaking up for herself and others.
“I was a survivor of gender-based abuse. And without knowing it, maybe so are you,” she started. “I am not here to just be a voice. I am here to amplify voices because we will not be silenced by fear anymore. We are here to be empowered by truth.”
And while her answer – and the sincerity and determination with which she delivered it – was already great in itself, many also pointed out that it particularly packed a punch now with many recent issues about people, especially women, being silenced when they speak up against injustices.
Pageants can be tricky, and you can fall on either side of the debate when it comes to its place in women’s empowerment. Either way, though, giving platforms to women like Billie Hakenson, who represent a more diverse and outspoken demographic of modern women, feels like a step in the right direction.