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Thursday, June 20, 2024

Creating a Pageant: Julianne Vera Cruz of Queen Mother of Cebu

It takes a phenomenal amount of work to create a pageant and even more to make it successful. Meet Julianne Vera Cruz, the heart, soul and legacy behind the Queen Mother of Cebu beauty pageant.

What inspired you to get involved in managing a beauty pageant, and what do you find most rewarding about this role?

I have always been a pageantera (a Filipino vernacular which means someone who joins beauty pageants since a young age.) The first time I joined a pageant, I was 16 and it was a barangay pageant in my area. After that experience, I continued joining, gained several runner-up titles and crowns. I stopped when I pursued my college degree of nursing and eventually, married and had a baby. The words ‘a pageant enthusiast’ to define me is not enough. Performing has always been in my blood. I am a visionary. I love to create.

Mrs. Cebu 2008 was my first crown as a mother and I told myself I wanted to pass this crown to another mom in the next year, but it didn’t happen due to lack of funds from the Organization which hosted Mrs. Cebu back then.

Creating Queen Mother of Cebu, The Pageant, for me is the realization of that unfinished dream and the fulfillment of that great ‘itch’ to create something meaningful for myself, for others and for the community.

Being a producer of a pageant is no easy task. It has its ups and downs. A lot of sleepless nights, mental, emotional, physical, and financial challenges. But what I find most rewarding about being a pageant producer is I get to meet new mothers and hear their stories and be inspired myself. It is creating beautiful and long-lasting relationships with the candidate mothers that makes this path worthwhile.

This is my legacy.

How do you ensure that the pageant maintains high standards of fairness and transparency throughout the competition?

For me, it is a cocktail of ‘musts.’  To ensure fairness and transparency throughout the competition, the Organization:

  • Must simply draw a line. Draw a line between you and the candidate. The Org must set boundaries that both parties respect and recognize.
  • Must set expectations – what the Org expects its candidates and what the candidates expect from the Org.
  • Must brief on the first meeting so that all questions and concerns will be addressed on the very first day. And of course, the Org must follow up and remind about the expectations and the boundaries (especially if the pageant preparation takes months.)
  • Must invite judges that are credible and trustworthy. This is very important and whether the general public agrees or not, it does make or break a candidate.
  • Must have enough funds.

The following many be controversial, but I’ll share it anyway.

I believe that if an organization doesn’t have enough funds to sustain the pageant, the Organization will quickly succumb to the rabbit hole – the rabbit hole of money. Fairness and transparency disappear if the Org is in that hole.

What steps do you take to support the contestants’ personal and professional growth beyond the pageant itself?

Growth is constant, but growth is also subjective. I can’t support a candidate’s personal and professional growth if the candidate herself doesn’t want growth. First and foremost, I have to know if said contestant is willing to grow through joining the pageant.  If she is willing, there and then I can support her.

If she’s one of the winners, the Queen Mother of Cebu Organization’s queen activities can help her grow both personally and professionally. We focus mainly on community service, along with her bonding moments with her co-queens, so her personal growth is already covered.

As for the professional growth, it comes with the crown. There are many invitations for judging stints, acting and ambassadress offers simply because they have the QMC title. This is very humbling and I am truly grateful that this is happening.

Also, my 2023 queens are a testament to this, because they surely grew a lot from the day they won the crown, until today. I am very proud of them and what they have become.

If the contestant is a non-winner, she’ll always be welcomed by the QMC Organization especially in our charity works and missions. Plus, she can be one of the production crew for our next pageant season (with salary of course), if she desires to help the Org. My 2023 non-winner candidates are a testament to this too. They supported the QMC Org during the 2024 pageant and I’m indeed very lucky to have them with me.

Can you share some of the key logistical challenges you face in managing a beauty pageant and how you address them?

First is food. Definitely food.  I always make sure to feed my candidates properly every single time we meet. I am a hands-on producer and all my candidates can testify to that. I buy the food myself. I carry the boxes of water myself, especially if my core group is unavailable in a certain activity.

I address this food logistics problem by ordering it directly from food apps, and have the food app delivery drivers bring it to me. And for that, I am truly grateful for their service. And of course, my older sister, Lovelyn, who is also the Secretary General of the Organization, helps me a lot during the transfers of food and drinks in many of our activities. I’m fortunate to have a big sister like her.

Second is the pageant preparation itself – the LED, lights, sounds, crowns, sashes, plaques, bouquets, leis, decorations, and the staffing. I address these by contracting suppliers and crew that are very reliable and trustworthy. I only contract the people I know and the suppliers and professionals who had already shown dedication and expertise on their craft.

How do you keep the pageant relevant and appealing to modern audiences while preserving its traditions?

I’ll have to answer this within the context of the Queen Mother of Cebu, the Pageant.

When you talk about pageant tradition, you talk about the segments of the competition – the talent’s night, the swimsuit, the production number, the evening gown, and the Q&A portion. These are the basics and in the QMC pageant, we still stick to the basics.

However, considering the contestants are mothers and the QMC Org is for inclusivity and diversity, we changed the talent’s night to a cooking competition (visiting the barangays directly and have the audience taste the dishes of the candidates) and the swimsuit competition to a recycled funwear segment.

Through this, the QMC pageant stays relevant to its mission and goal which is a pageant for mothers, a pageant which supports a greener environment, and a pageant for a cause.

I believe that Queen Mother of Cebu Organization and The Pageant has come a long way and this is all thanks to its sponsors, crew, media partners, supporters, candidates and the candidates’ families.

And most especially, to our Almighty God.

Everything has a reason, that’s what I always believe. Founding the QMC Org and creating the pageant, and eventually crossing paths with so many amazing people, I believe, is a life-changing experience I could never exchange for anything.

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