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Rachel Peters: Accidental Beauty Queen

She collectively stole hearts on pageant night in her scene-stealing red gown and dazzling smile. She also aced the Binibining Pilipinas Q&A portion, giving rise to hopes that yet another Filipina beauty queen will soon be crowned as the most beautiful woman in the Universe.

What is so poignant about her journey is that she didn’t even dream of wearing the coveted crown, and that she describes her teen self as a chubby tomboy. But there she was, 25-year-old British-Filipina beauty, Rachel Peters, being proclaimed as this year’s Bb. Pilipinas-Universe. “I was not like other girls who watched the pageants and hoped that one day I would be the one walking that stage. I actually had no clear vision of what I wanted to be when I grow up” she grins. Her childhood dreams include being a marine biologist, then a veterinarian, then a preschool teacher, all borne from her love for animals and babies. Her love for nature was inspired by her childhood spent in Camarines Sur, where her family would frequent the beach and do what she terms as “outdoorsy stuff.”

What pushed Rachel to enter the pageant circuit, first with a Miss World stint where she won 4th runner-up, was her mom’s encouragement. She laughs, “I don’t think that there is any Filipino mom who didn’t dream of having a beauty queen as a daughter. She also taught me to try everything and do as much as you can, so one day you won’t have any regrets.” So when the opportunity came around to join the beauty pageant, she thought, “why not?”  She adds, “It opened a lot of doors for me, so now I am excited to find out where it would take me.”      

So, Rachel took the on the challenge, even if it made her feel like a total newbie. “I didn’t know anything about makeup. I had to learn so many things. Growing up, I was not a girly-girl. There were also not a lot of opportunities for me to dress up. I had to buy everything, starting from foundation, and work my way up.” She explains, “I literally started from scratch. In the beginning, I couldn’t even name one beauty queen.”

One of the other things that she needed to learn was to smile more. The camera pans to catch the beauty contestants always smiling and waving, and it takes a toll on them too. “Your muscles begin to hurt!” she grins. “In the beginning, people would take candid photos, and I would be caught not smiling. You have to understand that we also get tired, and it is hot. We can also get sleepy, but I learned to feed off the energy of the other girls. I reminded myself that it was a competition. I am in it to win it, and that it was only for a few weeks, so I should enjoy the experience. I also wanted to do this for all the people who were supporting me. I didn’t want to let them down.”   

She was also quite self-conscious about her body growing up, she reveals, “I had this awkward stage, where I would wear a one-piece suit, and then board shorts over it. Looking at those photos now, I would laugh and go, ‘what was I thinking?’”

Rachel recounts, it was her time abroad that helped her loosen up. She was born in Bahrain, and with her mom wanting to go back home to her roots, the family moved to the Philippines where she lived for 15 years. Rachel moved to Thailand and went on to study in Australia. With all the options that were open to her, she still decided to make the Philippines her home. “I love it here. I honestly had the best childhood. I got to know my family, and I got to form a group of friends who are still my closest friends to this day. We call ourselves the Ministry of Friendship. We still love doing things like going to the beach. It’s also great because we all live in the same village in Makati now.” 

Her first try at beauty pageants did not prove to be successful, and at first, she thought that was the end of that. “I had quite a traumatic experience with my Q&A back then, so that was it. But people were messaging me every day, for two years on my social media, telling me ‘please join.’ So, I thought to myself, if these people think I should join, they must see something in me to push me to try again. I am 25, so this is my last opportunity.”

Pia Wurtzbach’s win also inspired Rachel to try again, when she saw how Pia was able to inspire people and reach out to so many with such a loud voice. “I was kind of in the sidelines after my pageant try, and after I watch other girls on the stage, I started wishing that it was me,” says Rachel. “One morning, I just woke up, and decided that I wanted to do it. From that day on, it was all push for me. And now, here I am,” she gestures at her space, where she was being made up in preparation for the Metro shoot. 

In the interim, she was busy in her involvement in the family business of producing concerts. Her family has been in this industry for so long; she watched Bryan Adams as her first concert when she was a few months old.  Her latest memorable projects were working closely with the Moffats (whom she describes as so much fun to be with) for their throwback tour, and comedian Russell Peter’s rip-roaring show. “Working with these celebrities made me realize something important—that they are also people like you and me. People around me are going ga-ga over somebody famous, but I realized that people are all the same and that regardless of who you are, whether you are a celebrity or a janitor, you deserve to be treated the same way.”    

On the other hand, people are also the cause of frustration for the beauty queen. “It frustrates me when people in the pageant world have a lot of doubts,” says Rachel. “We get a lot of trolls and haters; they don’t realize how hard it is for us to be in a competition along with 39 other gorgeous girls. So they send messages, really horrible messages that can really undermine your confidence. What’s worse is that they say all of these things about you on the internet as if they know you. I want to tell them sometimes, ‘Hey, get out from behind your computer screen and say it to my face. If you have a problem with me, say it to me directly. We are working our butts off, and it is hard when people say things that are mean.”   


This is why Rachel advocates something that may be simple in the grand scheme of things, but is also very much needed in these times. While she is active in civic duties together with her boyfriend, Camarines Sur Governor, Migz Villafuerte, she also talks about being a role model for self-confidence and self-love. “It is all about celebrating differences. We are living in a time when people, especially the youth, feel that they need to conform to a certain ideal of beauty that is constructed by society and social media. When I look at my own Instagram feed, I often have thoughts that compare my body with someone else’s, or compare my life with someone else, who seems to have a life that is so much fun. I am 25 years old, so imagine how a 15-year-old would feel when she sees posts like that.”

She wants to be a beauty queen that makes a difference in that aspect. “I want to be able to remind young girls that you don’t need to be what everyone wants you to be. I want to inspire them to celebrate their individuality, so they will become empowered and confident, and hopefully inspire other girls to feel the same way. On a larger scale, if everyone would be more open-minded about differences, and be more tolerant of these differences, then our world would be a much better place.”        

This feature originally appeared in Metro Magazine July 2017 and was repurposed for Metro.Style
Producer Jenica Chuahiock                                                                    
Photographs Rxandy Capinpin
Styling Ton Lao
Makeup Chie Gonzalez for M.A.C Cosmetics
Hair Dave Grona for Revlon Professional Brand.
Location 2nd’s, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig
Special thanks to W Talent Management