Note: Profiles is the Qrown’s category, featuring candidates, photographers, stylists, makeup artists, and other members of the creatives behind a candidate’s pageant journey.

Many people dream of going abroad and living a comfortable life considering the challenging times. But for Mika Leonardo, leaving the US where her family was based was a risk to follow her dream of becoming a beauty queen.

In our fifth Miss World Philippines profile, we talk to Mika about the challenges of living independently in Manila and why she deserves to be one of the Miss World Philippines queens.

Qrown: What makes you feel beautiful?

Mika: I feel beautiful when I am able to put a smile on someone’s face. Whether it be through my actions, my encouraging words, or through my talent in singing. I love to make others around me feel comfortable and lift up their spirits.

As a candidate of Miss World Philippines 2021, especially in this time of the COVID 19 pandemic crisis, I am compelled to show acts of kindness, serve the needs of others, and share the message of hope because this is what motivates me. I feel beautiful when I follow the passions of my heart. Lastly, I feel beautiful because God made me beautiful. Nothing is more impressive than a woman who is confident and knows that she is beautiful inside and out – which stems from having God-confidence. 

Qrown: What is the one thing people really don’t know about you?

Mika: I like to live life to the fullest, make new experiences and take on new adventures. With that being said, I moved to the Philippines from the United States earlier part of this year to pursue my dreams in pageantry. This is my first time living alone away from my family. It was a very hard decision, but my passion to follow my dreams gave me the courage to conquer my fears – that not even the COVID 19 pandemic will stop me. There is something about living alone that evolves you to be a more mature and independent woman faster. It is nerve-wracking and challenging but it is ALL worth it. In life, you will never learn to swim and discover how good you are unless you jump in the water.

Qrown: Can you tell more about your work with the Puso Foundation? Any story that drove you to bring light on nutrition and healthcare issues?

Mika: I accepted the position as program coordinator of the PUSO foundation because of what it stands for  –Purposely Unconditional Service to Others. Being purposeful in serving others unconditionally is what motivates me. There is something about serving that rewards me with such an uncontainable joy in my heart. Especially In this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, my advocacy of Proper Nutrition and Quality Healthcare is very relevant.  What greater way to stop the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic is by building IMMUNITY in the community, educating our people how to live a healthy lifestyle, and the importance of practicing safety protocols. With this conviction in my heart, I organized an outreach project called the “Bitamina at Gulay,” in Paranaque City. I asked permission from the Mayor of Paranaque – and with his approval, I organized this event with the help of the staff of the PUSO foundation, and together as a team, we made this event happen. We distributed vitamins, vegetables, milk, meat, facemasks, can goods, and many more.

We also took the time to explain important health information, encouraged our people to get vaccinated, and made them realized that TOGETHER WE ARE STRONGER to fight this COVID 19 virus. We also shared the message of hope to our people and encouraged them to continue to press on – knowing that we will get through to these difficult times and that we are stronger than any challenges that come our way because our faith, trust, and strength are on Him who is on control of everything even when things seem out of control. 

Photo courtesy of Mika Leonardo

Qrown: Despite the pandemic, what pushed you to go and compete in Miss World Philippines?

Mika: Despite the pandemic and because of the pandemic, I push through in joining and competing in Miss World Philippines because I felt the urgency to serve the needs of our people and to encouraged them to press on in this time of crisis.  What greater influence as Miss World Philippines titleholder to be able to use this platform to use my voice to give the message of hope to our people especially to the young generation and use my advocacy for Proper Nutrition and Quality Healthcare to serve their needs unconditionally.                                                                                                                                                                 

My advocacy started at a very young age. When my parents got divorced, my mom being mission-driven, introduced me and my siblings to school evangelism and medical mission in different regions of the Philippines for several years with the Grace International Fellowship and in 2019 with the Hope Global Medical Mission. We shared the message of Hope from school to school too young students in the morning, in the afternoon we assisted in the medical mission station giving free medical and dental care and at night time we held praise and worship concerts.  It was very hectic and challenging because of the heat of the sun BUT it is all worth it because of the overflowing joy that rewards you from serving others.

It was in these mission trips that my eyes were exposed to the realities and hardships of life. It breaks my heart to see malnourished children crying, or families not knowing when will their next meal be, squatter homes that would easily crumble, sick people not getting the quality healthcare they deserve, children wandering in the streets, and the look at their eyes with a sense of hopelessness. This mental picture got stuck in my heart and it became one of the defining moments in my heart. I promised myself, that if given the opportunity to make a catalyst of change and have a positive impact in this society, I would do whatever it takes to share my success with society to change lives. It is my utmost desire to turn my success into significance.

I also decided to join, because it has always been my dream as a little girl to be a princess. This little girl, use to pack her blue Cinderella gown in her backpack, bike to school, and change into her gown in almost every class picture. Now having the privilege to be a contestant of Miss World Philippines 2021, my dream is so close to becoming into reality – if given a chance to get the crown….it would indeed be a magical dream come true. 

Qrown: Women have faced so many challenges in the past years. How will you use your platform to promote gender equality and causes close to your heart?

Mika: I agree that women have faced many challenges in the past years especially in the social issue of gender inequality. Being given this platform is both a privilege and a responsibility that we contestants are given because as we stand – we represent the whole women population.  My role if given this opportunity to be Miss World Philippines is to be the voice to the voiceless and to lead by example as I put causes close to my heart into action with passion and determination. In doing this, it is my desire to inspire, motivate, encourage and empower women to BELIEVE, have confidence in themselves, and STAND UP for what matters most in their hearts. To challenge themselves to get involved in their communities, be part of the workforce, get educated, and take courage to pursue their passions and build their potentials to the fullest.

I speak to all women out there, pursuing my dream despite the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, which seems impossible but it is possible. Let nothing stop you because we women are capable, able, and beautiful. It is about time that we show the world what we are made of. 

“NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE, EVEN THE WORD SAYS I’M POSSIBLE”.

Photo from Miss World Philippines

Qrown: Next year, the country will be voting for a new set of leaders. How will you use your platform to encourage people to vote wisely?

Mika: In the upcoming election of 2022, we will be voting for a new set of leaders to govern the Philippines. I would use this platform as a Miss World Philippines contestant to use my voice and lead by example to encourage and educate our people on the importance of voting and voting WISELY. Voting gives us the power to decide on the quality of life we want for ourselves and the future generation because elections have consequences. Our votes also give an opportunity for change and create a positive impact – that is why it is important to know your candidate and the policies he would implement if elected. If you don’t vote, someone else will make the decision for you. Your power is in your vote. This is your life: take time to decide what’s best and make your voice heard in this time of elections. Our votes will determine the future leaders, exercise our right to self-determination and it is the essence of genuine democratic governance. I strongly urge every Filipino to register and vote wisely in the upcoming 2022 election, because our vote is our future.  Our vote counts.

Qrown: Why should you be one of the titleholders in this year’s Miss World Philippines edition?

Mika: I believe I should be one of your titleholders in this year’s Miss World Philippines edition, because first and foremost I am proud to be a Filipina! I represent not only myself in this competition but my family, my supporters, my country, and most importantly every Filipina woman. My goal is not just to win a crown or a title but to portray the true essence of Beauty with a Purpose and if, given the crown, I will use this platform to magnify my voice and lead by example to inspire, motivate and empower women to believe, have confidence in themselves and to put their purpose into action with passion and determination. I will also continue my advocacy on Proper Nutrition and Healthcare Accessibility during this time of a pandemic crisis and share the message of hope to my people especially the young generation because they will be the future leaders and citizens of the next generation.

It is my utmost desire that these youth will be a prism of hope that will shine brightly in this dark generation … that they will continue to pursue their dreams and to continue to press on even when the going gets tough because that is the only path to victory.  And the ripple effect of that hope engraved into their hearts will not only last for a lifetime but will last from one generation to the next.

About The Author Alexa Villano