In an exclusive interview with Ian Mendajar, he explains how he was able to train our reigning queen, Michelle Dee, to success
When it comes to the world of beauty pageants, preparation is key, and Ian Mendajar knows this better than anyone. Ian is the pageant coach who trained Michelle Dee, the newly crowned Miss Universe Philippines 2023, and in an exclusive interview, he shared the inside scoop on what it takes to train a dedicated queen like Michelle Dee.
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“I trained her this year, but I also trained her for Miss World Philippines. So we’ve been together since 2019. And I really saw her growth. Her growth—grabe the improvement! Ibang level talaga from before because she’s really dedicated. Michelle would come home after a long day of work and [train at 12 midnight]. She even transformed one room in her house to be a studio so she can train anytime,” Ian shared.
Dedication like that is what it takes to succeed in the competitive world of beauty pageants. But it’s not just about hard work and long hours—it’s also about paying attention to the details and finding inspiration in unexpected places.
“So it’s Mother’s Day, right? And we had this conversation, Michelle and I, that we really want to bring Melanie Marquez on stage. And that walk was her mom’s walk because when Melanie walks on stage, she does a letter S before she moves forward. So that’s why, during the evening gown competition, she moved like the letter S before moving forward, before that final pose. Plus, that final pose, we got [the idea] from a photo of her mom.” Ian also added that apart from it being his birthday, Mother’s Day was also after the coronation night, which is why Michelle wanted to give Ian and her mom, Miss International 1979, the best gift: the Miss Universe Philippines crown.
Inspiration can come from anywhere, and it’s clear that Michelle and Ian found it in the legacy of past beauty queens. However, they wanted to bring something fresh and new to the competition, aside from paying homage to those who came before them.
“Actually, we had a shoot. She had her glam team and her stylists. While we were having the shoot, it was for the photos for the night of Miss Universe Philippines, [and] the photographer kept on saying, ‘Melanie Marquez, Melanie Marquez, Melanie Marquez,’” Ian revealed. And it worked. Michelle’s performance was as stunning as her mom’s while bringing a new level of energy and joy to the competition.
“So the night before [the coronation], Michelle and I were together. We did everything we planned for, but somehow, she was even able to make it better for the actual night. What I did not expect is not the pasarela. What I did not expect was that she was really smiling a lot this time. Last year, she was lacking smiles, but her performance this year looked like the pressure was off her shoulders and she was able to enjoy the moment. Now, she was just smiling and enjoying. And even at some point, when there were no headphones yet, she was listening to the answers of the other candidates, and she was happy about it. She was really smiling and happy the entire time. She had the coronation glow,” Ian shared.
It’s clear that Ian’s training and consistent guidance played a significant role in Michelle’s success, but it’s also evident that Michelle brought her own unique qualities to the table. And that’s what makes a true beauty queen: the perfect combination of hard work, dedication, and natural grace and charisma.
Photography EXCEL PANLAQUE
Featured Image: IAN MENDAJAR (via Instagram)