Exclusive: Why Michelle Dee and Her Pasarela Coach Chose To Change Her Snake Walk 

Exclusive: Why Michelle Dee and Her Pasarela Coach Chose To Change Her Snake Walk 


Here’s how Michelle Dee is walking her way to the Miss Universe crown with an air of Filipino pride, courtesy of pasarela coach Ian Mendajar

When Michelle Dee coveted the Miss Universe Philippines title last May, she was the talk of the town not just for her new crown. There was much to say about her walk, too. It was a slithering stride that smoothly went from left to right with a momentary pause at the beginning for her to stop and inject pointed angles through her body, creating an S from head to toe. With a subtle wriggle of her arms and a fierce look, Michelle fully embraced her mother’s legacy on stage. No, it was not the S Walk nor the pageant lineage of Miss International 1979 Melanie Marquez. It’s herself—as Michelle Marquez Dee. Months later, at the Miss Universe 2023 preliminaries, we would see a little less of MMD’s original Snake Walk, but we all know the saying—less is truly more. 

@missuniverseph ICONIC. Miss Universe Philippines Michelle Marquez Dee in Mark Bumgarner for the Evening Gown segment of the 72nd Miss Universe Preliminary Competition. #72ndMissUniverse #Prelims #MarkBumgarner#MissUniversePhilippines #MichelleMarquezDee #deepatapos #HelloUniverse #dee5tiny ♬ original sound – Miss Universe Philippines

RELATED: Miss Universe Philippines’ Crown-Worthy Signature Walks

An elevated step for the universe

The contender’s so-called Snake Walk at the Miss Universe Philippines stage made rounds online, prompting different takes on it. Some appreciated the theatrics of it, while others found it overdone. So, with an understanding that the international pageant is truly about carrying the Filipinos in everything she does, the beauty queen knew how to listen. 

Kami ni Michelle, the goal was always [between] the two of us. What we did was we acknowledged some points of view because we’re elevating [her walk] to the next level,” Resident walk coach Ian Lorenz Mendajar pointed out, looking back on their training journey since the national pageant. 

Michelle Dee and Ian Mendajar walk coach pasarela for Miss Universe Philippines

This time around, the pasarela tandem worked on two things—an impactful entrance and snap poses, which were a set of projections from the candidate that would be quick, yet remarkable. “It’s a tip from Pia Wurtzbach herself, our Miss Universe 2015,” Mendajar recalled. “Make sure na impactful ‘yung first 5 to 10 seconds na pagpasok ni Michelle kasi du’n talaga usually ‘yung judging or scoring opportunities.” 

At the preliminaries, the same tenacity and drive to win from Michelle could be seen in her walk. But while it was all smize and fierceness during the national competition, she gave an air of confidence this time around. 

@missuniverseph Miss Universe Philippines Michelle Marquez Dee set the stage on fire in the swimsuit segment! 🔥🔥🔥 #72ndMissUniverse #Prelims #MarkBumgarner#MissUniversePhilippines #MichelleMarquezDee #deepatapos #HelloUniverse #dee5tiny ♬ Crazy in Love – Beyoncé,Jay-Z

“There was a point in our training when I was shouting, ‘Smile! Smile! Smile!’ and then she [would] tell me, ‘Kapag actual na, I will smile.’ And I was like, ‘No! I want to see the smile now!’ Isa ‘yun sa factors na winork out namin,” the trainer further recalled.

A treaded journey to the crown

To others, the beauty queen’s penchant for pageantry came from her bloodline or her genetics. While this was a fact, Michelle wanted to tread a path of her own, too. Her crown was of her own doing, a story of endless question and answer trainings, pasarela sessions, and advocacy work. 

Ian noted that even with having a lot on her plate, MMD knew what she needed to do. “What I like about Michelle, what I love about her, is gagawan niya talaga ng paraan. So in between her schedule, isisingit namin ‘yung training. Minsan kapag wala talaga, midnight kami nagtetrain,” he recalled. According to him, they synced their calendars and plotted their individual activities so they could meet halfway and find the time to train. 

Michelle Dee and Ian Mendajar walk coach pasarela for Miss Universe Philippines

Mendajar added, “When it comes to the actual training, hindi na ako nahirapan. It’s not a trainer-trainee, teacher-student [thing.] It’s more of a relationship. Sinabi ko ‘to kay Michelle kasi we started in 2019. I [have been training her] since Miss World Philippines 2019. Technically, this is our fifth pageant [together.] When it comes to training, meron na kaming coordination and since ginamit namin ‘yung collaboration, hindi na kami nahirapan. It’s more on the schedule lang talaga.

We worked on ano bang meron sa Miss Universe. Kung ano ba ang kailagan mong ipakita. Nagback to basics kami a little bit. Then we acknowledged the comments like ‘yung arms, ‘yung movement, ‘yung facials.”

A presence that goes beyond movement

There is no denying that one of Michelle’s strongest suits as a beauty queen is her walk. Over the years, fans have pointed out that from her presence to her pasarela, Michelle now has a newfound lightness in her. It only makes sense that her Snake Walk is also known as the Air Walk, a stride that captures her readiness for whatever happens at the Miss Universe stage. But would you believe that for Ian, it is not Michelle’s pasarela that makes people stop and stare to turn their heads?

Michelle Dee and Ian Mendajar walk coach pasarela for Miss Universe Philippines

“It’s Michelle’s presence,” he affirmed. “Talagang no one can deny it. Kapag pumasok siya, kahit naglalakad lang siya sa hotel lobby, may presence siya na hindi mawawala no matter what happens.” 

“‘Yun talaga ‘yung best asset niya—‘yung presence niya. ‘Yung aura niya. Kasi ‘yung lakad, it’s something na you really can study, kahit quick lang. Pero ‘yung aura, that comes from motivation, [a] proper mindset, parang hinuhubog ka talaga to get that aura. It needs experience, and that’s one thing na strong kay Michelle.”

At tomorrow’s coronation night, Michelle Marquez Dee will walk her way to the universe with pride and purpose for the country. In her whole journey, she has been consistently bringing along the Philippines in every step of the competition. And for that alone, she can already be declared a true winner.

Photos: IAN LORENZ MENDAJAR (via Instagram)

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