EXCLUSIVE: Bb. Pilipinas Grand International 2019 Samantha Ashley Lo Is All About Setting A Good Example For Today's Youth
Bb. Pilipinas Grand International 2019 Samantha Ashley Lo was born and raised in Florida to a Filipino-Chinese father and a Cuban mom. Hers was a happy childhood filled with wonderful memories of her doing ballet and playing various sports. “I’m in a traditional Chinese family with four other siblings. At home, we practiced a bit of Hispanic flare and Filipino as well. It was generally happy because I had everything a child could ever want, which is a loving family and I feel so blessed about that," she tells Metro.Style. Growing up immersed in different cultures and traditions helped make her a well-rounded person.
At school, meeting people who came from different backgrounds likewise allowed her to develop a deeper understanding of how to best communicate and truly connect to them. This fueled her love for nurturing others, and eventually made her decide to apply into a nursing program in Florida. “I went to college in Florida and I applied for a nursing program but unfortunately, I didn’t get in,” she recounts. Though this saddened her, it also made her see the beauty in uncertainty. Things happen for a reason, and who knows, if it weren't for that, she may not have discovered the Philippines. "My mom told me, 'Why don’t you take a vacation in the Philippines?’ And I did and as it turns out, it’s her way of saying that ‘you’re going to finish school in the Philippines.’ I was basically tricked into coming here but I regret nothing.” At the University of Cebu, she is now pursuing her dream to become a nurse.
"Growing up, I was surrounded by Filipino culture. We did all the Filipino parties, traditional food... All I can say about my childhood is that it was really good. I was very fortunate to be well rounded at that age"
For a woman with such striking looks, Sam sees herself as a shy person. But with the help of joining beauty pageants, she was able to step out of her shell and blossom into a woman with a compassionate soul and a strong mind.
When asked about her interests, her love for animals is what’s taking over her free time. She shares, “I have a huge passion for animals. Back in Florida, I rescued my first dog. She had 11 puppies, and I had no idea that she was pregnant. It was a nice surprise because pitbulls have bad stigma of being aggressive when they’re really not. They’re the biggest sweethearts.” In the future, she dreams of opening her own sanctuary for dogs.
“Being a beauty queen means you have to set a good example"
Like how fate brought her to the Philippines by chance, Samantha's Binibining Pilipinas journey also started unexpectedly. She shares, “My little sister was scouted first to be a model. And then her talent manager asked me to join the agency and I gave it a try. After a month or two, he found a pageant for me which is Ms. Mandaue.” She may have failed at taking home the crown on her first attempt in a beauty pageant, but it didn't let her down. Instead, she turned this into a learning experience and aimed for a higher goal by joining the most prestigious pageant in the Philippines.
This time, she was successful at winning a crown and a title: Binibining Pilipinas Grand International 2019. She tells Metro.Style, “Being a beauty queen means you have to set a good example. People talk about change all the time. We could start that change by doing better in the little things. We may feel small but our voice is very strong and I want girls to know that they can make a difference.” Through her advocacy, she plans to nurture the youth by focusing on education. With the help of her father, she was able to get guidance on how to champion this cause. She shares, “My dad and his batchmates are with Couples for Christ and, in Cornerstone, they do the reading and writing program for the children who come from lower class families.” On Saturdays, she makes it a point to visit and teach the young students and some adults to read and write.
"We may feel small but our voice is very strong and I want girls to know that they can make a difference”
With an advocacy dedicated to the youth, she knows she can make a role model out of herself, too, that's why she remains focused on her goal to finish college. Her biggest inspiration is her sister who’s a clinical psychologist. Samantha shares, “She works with a lot of veterans back home and now she has her own private practice. She’s been my role model and I just want be able to take care of people and let them know their worth in this world.”
An adventurous woman, Samantha courageously dips her toes into the world of pageantry, hoping she also grows in the process. “It’s just so beautiful to appreciate and I feel like it’s a way to express yourself and to let loose. Being on that stage doesn’t mean that you’re above everybody else, it’s a venue for people to inspire and showcase the set of skills you worked hard for,” she points out. She also sees the importance of this industry through the opportunities it has opened for artists, saying, “It has created jobs for designers, makeup artists, hairstylists, and a whole lot more. I really feel like this whole industry is really an art.” This new chapter in her life holds so much promise, and the priceless learning she can get from the whole experience is what makes it all worthwhile. Day by day, she discovers something new about herself. She adds, “I like to get things done and I know that I’m very focused. And I do believe in quality over quantity.”
"Being on that stage doesn’t mean that you’re above everybody else, it’s a venue for people to inspire and showcase the set of skills you worked hard for”
Red outfit by Mark Bumgarner | Printed blazer by Randy Ortiz and wide-legged pants by Jaz Cerezo
As she becomes more fearless with her life choices, she identifies herself as someone who's hardworking. Samantha says, “No one was born smart. People who are smart worked hard to get everything that they have in life.” Now that she’s evolving to be smarter beyond her years, she looks back at the failures that turned her into a spirited woman. “I used to be close-minded with certain ideas because I wasn’t confident with myself. Anything that intimidated me, I just pushed off the table.” But by identifying what she lacked before, she was able to assess what needs to be done and improved. “There’s no need to be scared. What do you have to lose?” She keeps her mind focused on the future by taking one step at a time and believing in herself. She ponders, “I’m at my happiest when I go to sleep at night, knowing that I haven’t done anything I’ll regret and that I was able to fulfill things in a way that God wanted me to fulfill.”
"There's no need to be scared. What do you have to lose?
Samantha is compassionate and empathetic, and these qualities allow her to draw inspiration and strength from people she meets along her journey. “One doesn’t dominate the other. We work to make sure that everyone’s satisfied and reach each other’s goals. And it just helps you really grow in this industry and learn how to respect everybody that you meet,” she points out.
People have different stories, and hearing these unique experiences may at some point help in others' development and healing. That's why Samantha's philosophy in life is to master the art of listening. She says, “When we get upset and start spouting off, we say some things that we regret because we don’t take time to fully understand the situation where everyone’s coming from. So whenever I’m in that kind of situation, I keep my mouth shut and be more understanding.”
“I’m at my happiest when I go to sleep at night, knowing that I haven’t done anything I’ll regret and that I was able to fulfill things in a way that God wanted me to fulfill”
Samantha cannot contain the excitement she feels about the upcoming competition. “I look forward to showcasing all my skills because I’m already at this point where I started training in any aspect that I can. Even the way I speak, I tried to correct that," she shares. "Everyone knows me to kind of have the element of surprise. And each event that went on, I just improved more and surprised more people.” Now, with beauty, brains, and great personality included in her overall package, what won't be surprising is seeing Samantha standing confidently on the Miss Grand International stage and doing the country proud.
Read our exclusives on the other reigning Binibining Pilipinas queens:
Produced by Grace Libero-Cruz
Photography by Seven Barretto
Creative direction by Chookie Cruz
Makeup by Mary Jane Arpa of Ever Bilena
Hairstyling by MJ Rone
Styling by Bonita Penaranda
Video producer: Joan Ko
Videography by Spotlight Creatives
Shoot assistants: Sara de los Reyes and Renee Nuevo
Shot on location at Cove Manila in Okada - New Seaside Drive, Entertainment City, Parañaque
Special thanks to Annie Alejo and Binibining Pilipinas Charities, Inc.