On Saturday, the coronation night for Miss World 2019 is happening in London, United Kingdom and Michelle Dee is ready to represent the Philippines amidst the expectations that her last name carries.

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Michelle Marquez Dee is no stranger to the limelight, having grown up in a star-studded family. With her mom, Melanie Marquez, who was once crowned Miss International 1979, and her father, Derek Dee, a prominent action film star and movie producer in the 1980s.

Clearly born for greatness, she took to the light at her time and pace, but now, Michelle is making her own way to the top as she gears up to compete for the crown to be Miss World 2019 this December 14.

On a Thursday afternoon at the MEGA headquarters, exactly a month ahead of the coronation night of Miss World 2019, 23-year-old Michelle Dee sits in front of the camera, stripping off her makeup with a wet wipe after spending two hours posing for the cover shoot. “This is going to be one of my makeup looks for the pageant,” she says while removing her makeup.

Michelle looks divine in nothing but an oversized white polo, her hair falling loosely down her shoulders as she wears an almost natural bronze makeup look. There was something cathartic about the process of going bare face in front of a camera–let alone answering personal questions while doing so.

When pageants are known to judge contestants based on looks, body figure, and fashion sense, here is Michelle Dee, pouring her heart out, without all the glamour, for the world to see.

“I feel like there’s a lot at stake. There’s representing the country and upholding the legacy of my family…” she enumerates, before hearing her phone ring from across the room. “That’s mine, I’m sorry,” she quickly apologizes, laughing sheepishly as she tries to be unfazed by the demands that waited for her outside the constraints of the studio walls. It’s a mere reflection of the pressure she was about to face in the weeks to come.

Miss World 2019 is a month-long competition held in London and Michelle has started all the training to prepare for the big competition. There’s walk training, Q&A, wardrobe styling, dances of the world, and singing for the talent portion. “A lot to do,” she downplays with a snicker.

She thanks Aces and Queens for the training and mentions the personality development training that seemed like she didn’t need to do. From the moment she walked in, down to the last minute of the shoot, Michelle was a natural sweetheart. Maybe it’s because she grew up near the spotlight, but she could carry herself in a way that seemed like she had already won. She’s successful and confident in her own path.

“I’m very humbled, because the Philippines, as we all know, is a pageant-powerhouse country. So to be able to see how the whole country comes together to support me to win Miss World is a very humbling experience.”

Contrary to the belief that a crown was something she was destined for her whole life, Michelle didn’t always have a burning ambition to become a beauty queen. But growing up with a family of queens, (her mom and cousin, Winwyn Marquez, are both international titleholders) many people close to her would tell her that she had the potential.

“I never really grew up wanting this kind of life…Through the years, the number of people that believed in me just increased and I started asking myself, ‘if so many people believed in me, why can’t I believe in myself also?‘ I say this all the time, but I dream of living a fulfilled life, so I feel like I would have regretted at least not trying,” she says.

Between her desire to become her own person and stepping out of the shadow of her mom, Michelle was quick to explain why she doesn’t take it negatively when people point out the comparison. “Honestly the thing about growing up in a showbiz family is the comparison and the pressure to be just like them has always been there. It’s something that I’ve always had to deal with… I am basically on the same track as my mom, she was a model–a very good one for that matter. There’s pressure everywhere but I always take it positively,” she says.

At some point in the conversation, Michelle shares that she wanted to become a doctor. In her first year in college, she studied Biology at De La Salle University but graduated in Psychology because of her desire to help her family. “My plans changed when I realized that I have more to contribute in Psychology. I do have family members with mental disabilities, I have two autistic siblings, one older and one younger.”

The path to finally deciding to compete for Miss World started two years ago when she became the judge of Mister World. “It was the first time I was on a pageant stage, in front of thousands of pageant fans. And then, I felt the energy, the support—just the unison of everybody cheering for me, it kind of just flipped a switch…” She then adds, 

“The conversation was always there, it was always part of my plan to join. The question was just when. I’ve backed out a couple of times in the past, but it was because of that moment, I feel, that was my driving force to be where I am now. It was because of all of you.”

Michelle Dee

In front of the camera, Michelle could come off as intimidating and cool, but in person, she was a breeze to talk to. She calls herself the shrink among her friends and she loves knowing that she’s a pillar of hope. This brings her to talk about her advocacy for mental health and autism awareness. “I’m more of a listener than a talker.”

“To be able to gain a voice, especially if I win Miss World, then it will really give me a platform to speak about my advocacy, which is also for my siblings.”

At this point, the makeup on her face is gone and she’s ready to leave. When asked what she wants to be remembered by, she pauses for a moment to really think.

In one breath, she answers,  “Michelle Dee is somebody that wants to be known not for her looks, not for what she’s accomplished, but somebody who has a really good heart.”

Photography by Kitkat Pajaro
Art Direction by Shaira Bungcag⁣⁣
Fashion Direction and Styling by RJ Roque⁣⁣
Assisted by Daniel Reyes⁣⁣
Sittings Editor Angelo Ramirez De Cartagena⁣
Shoot coordination Thea Martin⁣⁣
Shoot assistant Joy Almero
Makeup by Dave Quiambao
Hair by July Vito
Nails by Liz Fortuno of Triple Luck Brow & Nail Salon
Special Thanks to GMA Artist Center