Empire TV Philippines/ YouTube
Chelsea Manalo was crowned as Miss Universe Philippines on May 22, 2024.
CNN  — 

Filipino American Chelsea Manalo became the first Black woman to be crowned Miss Universe Philippines on Wednesday.

Born to a Filipino mother and African American father, the 24-year-old’s win was celebrated on social media as helping to “shatter” traditional beauty ideals long held in the country.

“Chelsea’s win challenges our ingrained preference for Eurocentric beauty (features) and lighter complexions in our nation,” wrote one user in response to an Instagram post of the win on Miss Universe Philippines’ official account. “Filipino beauty standard shattered into pieces,” read another.

Representing Bulacan, a province to the north of Manila, Manalo beat out 52 other contestants from around the archipelago and overseas. The competition was held at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay.

As the competition narrowed down to the top five finalists, Manalo was asked on stage how she would use her beauty and confidence to empower others.

“As a woman of color, I have always faced challenges in my life. I was told that beauty has standards, actually,” she said, adding that she was taught to “believe in my mother, to always believe in yourself, uphold the vows that you have.”

“Because of these, I am already influencing a lot of women who are facing me right now,” she said, gazing out to the packed arena.

Empire TV Philippines/ YouTube
Chelsea Manalo will be representing the Philippines at the Miss Universe pageant in Mexico in September.

Manalo’s win is part of a wider conversation about diversifying notions of beauty in the Philippines, a country where certain Western ideals have long persisted, shaped in part by the country’s colonial past.

Lighter-skinned actors and models typically star in major TV shows, movies and fashion campaigns and as common in other Asian countries, skin lightening treatments and products are pervasive.

Manalo, who began modeling at 14, described her own insecurities growing up, in a YouTube video on Empire Philippines, which livestreamed the event.

“I grew up having insecurities as I was always bullied because of my skin and my hair type,” she said, crediting her friends and family for helping her “realize that I am beautiful in my own extraordinary way.”

Manalo will represent the Philippines in the Miss Universe pageant to be held in Mexico in September.

She is vying to earn the fifth title for the country, following the footsteps of Gloria Diaz in 1969, Margie Moran in 1973, and Pia Wurtzbach in 2015 (after host Steve Harvey initially declared the wrong winner.) Catriona Gray was the last Filipino to win the title in 2018.

Over 100 countries will be represented at Miss Universe 2024. This year will see the competition remove any upper age limit set for its contestants — previously, those competing were required to be between the age of 18 and 28.

The Miss Universe organization has come under scrutiny in recent weeks, as the parent company of the Miss USA organization. Both Miss USA and Miss Teen USA resigned from their roles earlier this May, amid allegations of mismanagement, a toxic work environment, and conditions that impacted their mental health.