EXCLUSIVE: Miss Intercontinental 2018 Karen Gallman Kicks Off Our "Fascinating Women" Campaign
There's always a first time for everything. While some firsts are trivial they're just enough to spark a little joy, some are so significant they're life-changing. For beauty queen Karen Gallman, being the first-ever Filipino to be crowned Miss Intercontinental has steered her life's direction in ways she could only hope for.
In her previous Metro.Style cover feature last May, she said, “Wala pang Pilipina na nananalo sa Miss Intercontinental… That’s now my biggest motivation: thinking that I could be the first.”
The power of positive thinking has had a good effect on her and her life from hereon, because she is now living that dream. And her victory is a feat for the country—not only is she the first Pinay Miss Intercontinental titleholder, it's also worth mentioning that she is the first Pinay to have the elusive title precede her name in the pageant's 47-year history; she bested more than 80 other beauty queens vying for the crown.
Black suit by Rajo Laurel
For the Q&A portion at the Miss Intercontinental coronation night last January 26 here in Manila, Karen was asked, "How do you define success?" It was a question that sounded simple yet quite tricky to answer. Poised and confident, she said, "For me, success is not just about winning in life but setting goals, smaller goals, and achieving your dreams and working hard for everything you want, and always looking up to God and being thankful for everything. For me, that is success."
Success is the very word that can encapsulate how her journey has been so far. Despite trials, challenges, and even failures, she emerged from all these experiences with a better view of herself and a clearer grasp of the world she lives in and what she can do to make it a little bit better. Considering a few meaningful detours, she eventually found herself right where she belongs to, where she feels happiest, and where she is in a position to be a good influence to others.
From Karen's province in Ubay, Bohol, to Queensland, Australia where their family migrated to, to London where she landed a job as a financial analyst and management consultant, she is now at home in Manila, doing what she always felt was a calling of sorts. Karen first joined Binibining Pilipinas back in 2012, reaching the pageant's Top 12. Six years later, she pursued pageantry again, this time she was sure she could offer more, having grown smarter and more self-assured over these years. "I told myself, ‘I’ll come back stronger, more prepared, and more mature'—and I did just that,” she tells Metro.Style. “I felt that I could do so much better, but I had to wait.” Patience is a virtue, and waiting for the right time for her star to shine was the best decision she had made, and the right thing to do.
A beauty queen's life is not easy. There's that pressure to always look perfect; and as beautiful and glamorous as it seems, the ugly truth is that, it entails a lot of hard work, determination, perseverance, and drive to keep going. If you're going into it half-heartedly, then you don't have it in you to be the last woman standing. With Karen, the moment she had the realization this is what she really wanted to do, she gave it her all, giving up a comfortable life in London to start from the bottom of pageantry one more time. The long ride to the top, which includes many hours of training, can be exhausting but she wouldn't trade those experiences for a loftier flight to a destination she didn't intend to completely immerse herself in.
While this is the realization of her dream to be a woman with a platform where her voice can be heard loudly and her advice and insightful thoughts could be heeded, the thing that makes success feel sweeter is the opportunity to represent the Philippines.
"I got into the competition not just for myself but for the Philippines as well. And everyday [during the competition], I was so excited and full of energy. Halos wala kaming tulog e. Every day, ang daming ganap. We would only have two to three hours of sleep everyday, but I was just so ready. I was just so pumped and excited to be there, kasi not everyone gets the opportunity to represent their country on the international stage. I was just grateful everyday," Karen said.
Red dress by Rajo Laurel
The pageant proper may have ended, but her reign has just begun. She still has several months to help make a difference, and as Karen said, "a difference in any way, shape, or form" could still be a welcome change that can benefit people, the society, and the country. Interpreting her answer at the Q&A portion in this context, the small goals that were set could eventually make a big impact, resulting into what American author Earl Nightingale said is the "progressive realization of a worthy ideal:" Success.
Last September, as she was getting started with the preparations for Miss Intercontinental 2018, she was appointed by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process as one of the country’s peace ambassadors. Her unwavering dedication to drawing attention to peace, education, and children's welfare makes her a perfect fit for the role.
But her main advocacy is to help improve compulsory education in the rural areas across the country. Recognizing the importance of education and having been exposed to the quality of education in other parts of the world, Karen has made it her mission to make significant changes in this area. “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 explained.
This March, we celebrate the Women's Month with a campaign called the "Fascinating Women," wherein we honor the remarkable achievements of Filipinas in various fields. With her incredible success, Karen kicks off this campaign, grateful for the past that helped shape her future.
In this exclusive interview, Karen recounted her experiences as a beauty queen while looking forward to all the things she can do with her role as Miss Intercontinental 2018.
What does winning mean to you?
"For me, winning is not just about actually winning, but it’s how you’ve fought to win. It’s the process talaga and how you fought to win. I think that’s more important than actually winning the crown."
Now that you're the reigning queen, what do you intend to do?
"My advocacy is to promote compulsory education in the rural parts of the Philippines, and I would love to make a difference and still create an impact because I wasn’t able to do it when I won after Binibini. It was quite hectic and I had to prepare for the international pageant. It isn’t an easy advocacy to tackle. So hopefully, after my media interviews [after winning], I can do something about it and maybe partner with the Department of Education."
Gold dress by Sheiralyn
Is there anything you have discovered about yourself during the pageant?
"A lot. I think I've really grown. Before joining the pageant, I thought I knew myself na talaga, until I joined Binibining Pilipinas, and I got to know myself more. Talagang you dig deeper e. You get to know yourself more, emotionally. Because ang hirap sumali ng pageant. Some people think it’s so easy. Binibini was for two months, and it was really tiring. It was challenging, and it was such a test.
There were a lot of interviews that asked me personal questions, and you know, sometimes nga hindi ko masagot 'yung mga personal questions because I would never think about them on a daily basis. But parang you just get to know yourself more. And the pageant is so good, because society also tells you that you shouldn’t be making mistakes, that you shouldn’t fail in life, you should be perfect, but joining a pageant, you’ll realize that you’re still a winner even if you don’t win kasi you learn so much about yourself and you’re out of your comfort zone. And that, for me, is more important than actually winning a crown. It’s the process and learning about everything. And learning about yourself, na kaya mo pala. Especially if you doubt yourself, you start to realize na you have the strength needed to succeed and to be outside that comfort zone."
What was the biggest change in yourself? How have you changed from the start of the competition to now?
"I’ve gained a lot more confidence. Kasi before joining Binibini, I was working in London. I was based in London, working at a desk job. I was an analyst in financial services. I left that and then I moved to Philippines and I trained for only four weeks bago mag-Binibini. So I had four weeks of training, and then it was just so different—from financial services to pageantry. It’s huge. It’s different, so I wasn’t really comfortable with all the media around me, putting hair and makeup, lahat ‘yan.
I had to learn everything from scratch talaga. So that was really quite difficult and I was adjusting everyday and learning everyday. And then now, after I won Binibini, I got to do a lot of interviews, TV guestings. So I got comfortable, and I’ve gained a lot more confidence in front of the camera, talking to people."
White dress by Pia Gladys Perey
Did the Miss Intercontinental pageant also help you find something else that you can be passionate about? Did it open your eyes to something after the whole journey?
"So far, I just take it day by day. I don’t really have a clear idea of what I really want to do yet. After winning Miss Intercontinental, I’m under them for another year. So, I’m working closely with them, but I never thought I would get back into pageantry. Nu'ng sumali ako sa Binibini nu'ng 2012, I knew na gusto kong subukan ulit, i-try ulit ang Binibini when I was more mature. I just didn’t know when talaga. And then after six years, bumalik ako, sumali ulit ako ng Binibini.
And then after winning, I realized, 'Wow, this is such a great platform actually.' Ang laki ng pageant dito sa Pinas and there are so many pageant fanatics, and you can actually make a difference. It’s such a great platform for you to raise awareness and raise issues, and people do listen. People look up to you and admire you. And beauty pageants can really make an impact, impact on many young women. It’s an opportunity to be that great role model for these young girls and women, and also to be a spokesperson for those marginalized people and the 'voiceless.' So that really opened up my eyes, and I think I’ll continue to be in this field."
Produced by Geolette Esguerra
Photography by Xander Angeles
Creative direction by Chookie Cruz
Liaison editor: Grace Libero-Cruz
Makeup by Anton Patdu
Hairstyling by Georgi Petkov
Styling by Carvey Samonte for Mesmyrrhized
Interview and video produced by Joan Ko
Videography by Gian Escamillas
Special thanks to Rodgil Flores