Mary Jean “MJ” Lastimosa was a crowd favorite and one of the strongest contenders in the Miss Universe 2014 pageant. It shocked the nation when she was not even called into the Top 5, ending the Philippines’ streak of making it that far in the competition in recent years. But there was no one else that could have handled this as gracefully as MJ Lastimosa did. Kind, fun-loving and hardworking, she arrived back home with only great things to say about her experience and was steadfast about her advocacies and dedication to public service.
She has definitely come a long way from being the simple girl from North Cotobato. “I really never thought that I could be a beauty queen, that I could be someone that people admire. Kasi nga hindi ako marunong mag-ayos; I didn’t wear high heels or makeup. I didn’t even own lipstick! Kasi taga-probinsiya eh! Alikabok palang makeup na sa akin yun eh (I really didn’t know how to fix myself up. Since I was from the province, dust was makeup enough for me),” says MJ, laughing. “Life in the province was the simplest you could ever imagine. And so I used to think that if you have a simple life all you could have are simple dreams. Now I’ve realized na kahit simpleng buhay, pwede mangarap ng malaki (Even if you have a simple life, you can still dream big).”
On her biggest takeaway from her journey, MJ tells us, “Regardless of your goal, you must use your time wisely. Any waiting time given to you should not actually be spent waiting.” She talks about how important it is to have discipline. “You have to undergo the training that you need, you have to eat healthy and you have to exercise. Do this habitually, without faltering, so that when the crucial days come, you don’t cram or panic. Surprisingly, the important thing to do when it’s ‘go time’ is to relax. So you can enjoy the experience naman, diba? And go build friendships with the ladies from all over the world, from all walks of life!”
Life is set to take her to new heights, but it is evident that MJ keeps her feet firmly planted on the ground. No matter how demanding her work schedule could get, MJ makes it a point to stay connected with her supporters. She visits closed groups on Facebook and replies to her fans there. She does her best to read all the comments left for her by those who send her their support and love and although it’s impossible to read everything, she makes it a point to give time to recognize the love and support. She adds, “There is never enough time to say thank you.”
And the industry that made her famous may be one that involves having outer appearances be the major asset, but what immediately shines through with MJ Lastimosa is her good heart. The first thing one would immediately notice is how she is the same way with everyone—personable. She cracks jokes and makes everybody laugh without even trying. She makes comments that one cannot help but find endearing. She makes sure that everybody feels included. However, once MJ steps in front of the camera though, she transforms. She goes from playful to fierce as if she had a switch for it. She strikes a pose and the resulting photos are beautiful yet effortless. The raw photos of MJ could go straight into the pages of a magazine.
Having already passed down the crown to her successor, Pia Wurtzbach, MJ leaves this piece of advice for Pia: “Get to know yourself better in order to be genuinely confident. If you know who you are, no one can break you.”
MJ’s Ultimate Spring Style:
‘‘While every woman would ideally have a Little Black Dress, I was always fond of the LRD: the Little Red Dress. There’s really just something about the color red that changes the mood of a woman. She looks instantly sexy and confident. That’s something I’m so excited to bring into my spring and summer style. I’ve also learned that less is more when it comes to accessorizing. Sometimes, all I’ll need to go with my spring outfit is a large floppy hat. The rule though does not apply when it comes to fabric meant to cover skin. You don’t need to wear the shortest skirts and most revealing tops in order to be sexy.”
Art direction by: Alexandra Lara
Photography by: Jerick Sanchez
Styling by: Francesca Atendido and Nicole Blanco Ramos
Makeup by: Gio Flores
Hair by: Katchie Mejias
Nails by: Triple Luck Brow & Nail Salon
Cover story by: Nicole Blanco Ramos
Special thanks to Skull & Bones, Big Guys Pizza, and Jo Cabuay Catering.