EXCLUSIVE: Bb. Pilipinas Intercontinental 2018 Karen Gallman Is A Queen On A Mission
A QUEEN ON A MISSION • . #BinibiningPilipinas2018 marks #KarenGallman's (@karen_gallman) second effort to place in the country’s most prestigious pageant. With everything that Karen has to offer this time around, she could very well prove the old proverb wrong: the second time—and not the third—might just be the charm. “Wala pang Pilipina na nananalo sa Miss Intercontinental … That’s now my biggest motivation: thinking that I could be the first.” . . Produced by @gracelibero Photography by @rxandy Creative direction by @theonlychookiecruz Styling by @stylizedstudio Makeup by @antheabueno Hairstyling by @donaldlapez for @revlonphl, assisted by @dyosam03 Writer: @saraloopdeloop Shoot assistant: James Mangile . Special thanks to Gines Enriquez, Ivan de Lara, Terry Dy of @cafeamazonph, and Stephen Capuchino . Shot on location at @zoomburst #BbPilipinas2018 #BbPilipinasonMetroStyle #Queens #wellstyledlife #lifestyled #lifegoals #inspiredliving @bbpilipinasofficial
She is a queen on a mission. Unintimidated by what lies ahead, Bb. Pilipinas Intercontinental 2018 Karen Gallman has set out to become the first Filipina to win the Miss Intercontinental crown in the name of her beloved Philippines.
For Filipino-Australian stunner Karen Gallman, everything leading up to this point was all about readiness—her readiness to try again, to commit, and finally, to own the moment that was meant to be hers.
Binibining Pilipinas 2018 marks her second effort to place in the country’s most prestigious pageant. With everything that Karen has to offer this time around, she could very well prove the old proverb wrong: the second time—and not the third—might just be the charm.
Good things come to those who wait
“I didn’t realize pageants were so difficult. It’s good that I experienced it beforehand. I told myself, ‘I’ll come back stronger, more prepared, and more mature'—and I did just that,” Karen reveals, as she thinks back to when she first joined Binibining Pilipinas when she was 19 years old and finished as a finalist.
“I felt that I could do so much better, but I had to wait,” she continues.
Six years later, Karen seems to have shed her naiveté and metamorphosed into a woman with full trust in herself and in what she can accomplish. Not only has her beauty blossomed over the years, but so has her understanding of what it means to work for her crown and carry the responsibilities of a beauty queen.
Come coronation night last March, as Karen’s name was called and as she was named Miss Intercontinental Philippines 2018, one and only one thought crossed her mind. It wasn’t rest, it wasn’t sleep, and it certainly wasn’t slowing down. Rather, she kept her pace and thought, “Wala pang Pilipina na nananalo sa Miss Intercontinental (No Filipina has won at Miss Intercontinental)… That’s now my biggest motivation: thinking that I could be the first.”
The secret ingredients of independence and experience
While there has been little doubt that Karen has what it takes to make it to the top, what she is today—responsible, well-rounded, and focused—is a product of a journey of learning to be on her own.
“I have lots of experience through my education and my professional job. That helped mold me into a more mature and experienced person. Now, I can cope with more,” she shares.
For Karen, the molding of her character began years ago, all the way back to when she was a child who called Ubay, Bohol her home.
For the first eight years of her life, Ubay’s sleepy seaside vistas were her kingdom. Instead of spending hours online, Karen spent her time discovering the majesty of the great outdoors. Instead of gadgets and toys to keep her busy, she had countless trees to climb and beaches to explore.
And when it came to her family, there was no one to spoil her or encourage bad habits. Karen had a mom who tempered fun with priorities, and a no-nonsense dad who once served in the Australian military and was strict yet also loving when the time called for it.
Then, as life dictated, Karen saw herself migrating to Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia. She spent most of her youth in this laidback beachside town where she concentrated on becoming a student achiever, all the way to university.
Eventually, this winning combo of style and substance saw her first taste of real independence when she was offered a job in London before graduating from the University of Queensland, where she was majoring in business management.
“Landing that job in London, since it’s very competitive, I think that’s a great achievement for me… I was always interested in commodities; Australia is a major player in metal and agriculture, so I was curious about that and wanted to learn more,” she expounds.
There, she tried her hand at being a financial analyst and management consultant. And when it came to personal growth, she learned how to balance work and play, adapt to unfamiliar situations, relate to people from all walks of life, manage stress, and be reliant on only herself to get things done.
Taking all her life experiences as a whole, it’s clear that Karen has grown into an independent and mindful woman. She's learned to navigate her surroundings with mastery and assertiveness—qualities essential in a beauty queen who, at the end of the day, has only herself to depend on to bring home the gold.
Yet despite everything going as planned—graduating, securing a job in London, having a supportive family and a healthy relationship—there was something at the back of her mind that continued to call her back to a life in pageantry. Deep in her heart, Karen knew that she had left unfinished business behind, and there was something else that she needed to pursue before moving on from beauty queen dreams for good.
And so, the 25-year-old Karen made a life-changing decision after a two-year stint in London: “I quit my job, and said, ‘Let’s do Binibining Pilipinas one more time.’” Her parents, friends, and boyfriend all gave their resounding “yeses.”
"For many years, they’ve been telling me to go back and join again, because I have potential to win a crown. So I did!" Karen says with palpable enthusiasm.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Tough, but worth it
As Karen is now living the reality she was once only dreaming of in London, she's come to the realization that the most rewarding things in life—pageant successes included—don’t come easy.
“I’ve been out of [pageantry] for six years! Hindi ko na alam paano mag-hair and makeup, o mag-suot ng heels. (I don’t know how to do my hair and makeup or wear high heels anymore). I had to start from scratch. I thought, ‘Can I still do this?’
“We trained for two to three months for Binibini. It really was challenging. Not many people see that the hard work is done backstage,” Karen describes. The jam-packed nights, early mornings, non-stop engagements, and pressure to be calm and collected at all times are also other factors that Karen says were the most difficult for her to cope with.
Luckily, she’s had the backing of her fellow queens throughout the whole process, with all six of them having each other’s backs since the beginning. (After celebrating with cake on coronation night, they even made promises to try their best to watch each other's pageants in support of each other).
But above all other things, Karen reveals something has made all the challenges worth it: the pride in knowing that she's a member of a new generation of queens that's equal parts beauty and brains. Beautiful and glamorous as they are, they're also intelligent, purpose-driven, socially responsible, and big picture-thinkers.
When it comes to today's beauty queens, the essence behind their charm comes to life with their advocacies, chosen charities, causes, and professions. Having the power to influence others—girls and young women in particular—to support movements for a greater good is what keeps Karen running towards the finish line.
In her own words, "In this batch, we have doctors, nurses, lawyers, and myself, a financial analyst. We’re not just pretty faces; we have substance behind the beauty. It’s good that we’re being the role models influencing the younger girls. You don’t have to be just a pretty face. You’ve got to have the personality as well. I’m glad that we can be such an influence to the younger generation.”
Looking to the future, Karen specifically hopes to shed light on the need to improve compulsory education in the Philippines. Having been educated abroad and in Bohol, her eyes were opened to the stark differences of the quality of education, academic standards, and teaching materials in each place.
“That’s something I really want to focus on. I read the Philippines has the lowest budget allocated to education among ASEAN nations, so I really want education pumped with more funding and its standards raised," she explains.
At the end of the day
At the end of the day, even with all her best efforts, Karen admits that one can only do so much. The rest, she says, she leaves up to a greater power.
It's also why she stresses that it's important for her to enjoy every step of this process for all its ups, downs, and everything in between, so she can look back at the experience with fondness regardless of the results.
"I’ll do my best. Si God na bahala. (I'll leave it up to God). Let’s see. All you can do is do your best, but the decision is still from the judges, so I just let it go," she says with a contented smile.
For now, she's concentrating on sharpening her Q&A skills by reviewing constantly and paying attention to the news, while not forgetting to find time to hit the gym, relax at the beach, travel from time to time (Oslob and New Zealand are two of her favorite spots), and eat healthily.
Karen is, after all, the complete package—a woman, or rather, a queen, worthy of bringing home the Philippines' first-ever Miss Intercontinental title.
Q&A with Bb. Pilipinas Intercontinental 2018 Karen Gallman:
What is your idea of happiness?
Surrounded by family, friends and people you love. That’s happiness for me.
What do you like most about yourself? What would you like to improve on?
I’m not plastic. But I'd like to get better at public speaking, because I get nervous.
Which living person do you most admire, and why?
Aside from parents, Queen Rania of Jordan. She doesn’t let her “queen” label diminish her, and she’s an advocate of education.
What do you most like about your appearance?
What is the quality you most like in a man?
Kind and family-oriented.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
Nothing. I like myself for who I am.
What is your greatest regret?
None, because I try to live without regrets. I try to do everything that I can. I want to live my life with no “what ifs.”
What's your motto?
Just to be you and try not to live up to the arbitrary bar the society sets for you. Do what’s important to who you are, and what you want to do in life.
White shirt, Massimo Dutti; shoes, Charles and Keith
Silver gown, Rob Ortega
Green tulle gown, Steph Tan
Produced by Grace Libero-Cruz
Photography by Rxandy Capinpin
Creative direction by Chookie Cruz
Styling by Stylized Studio – Danae Dizon, Patrick Perez, Joy Bernardo, Steven Coralde, Aina Ampil, and Aia Tabuzo
Makeup by Anthea Bueno
Hairstyling by Donald Lapez for Revlon Professional Brands
Shoot assistants: Jovi Figueroa, Mariel Abanes, and James Mangile
Special thanks to Gines Enriquez, Ivan de Lara, Terry Dy of Café Amazon, and Stephen Capuchino
Shot on location at Zoomburst Studios