Forty-seven long years. That’s how Miss Intercontinental has existed since the beauty pageant began in 1971 as a tourism event in Aruba, a tiny Dutch island territory in the Carribean. But in all that time, the beauty powerhouse known all the world as the Philippines never had a winning bet until Karen Gallman was crowned on January 26 at the SM Mall of Asia (MOA) Arena.
Initially a teen pageant, the contest truly became an intercontinental parade of beauties when it adjusted its age requirement of candidates to 26 years old, thereafter mounting coronation nights around the world in such destinations as Cartagena, Colombia; Berlin, Germany; Huangshan, China; Mahe, Seychelles Islands; Minsk, Belarus; and Nassau, Bahamas. Its current headquarters is located in Panama City, and again for the first time, its biggest event of the year made its way to Manila, Philippines.
No matter that original plans for the 47th coronation night were being made in the Land of the Rising Sun, which unfortunately had limited venues available this early in preparation for the 2020 Summer Olympics. The Philippines still emerged as the first choice of this year’s hosts, Miss Intercontinental-Japan, and after almost a fortnight of activities in and around the capital, the pre-pageant activities all through the main event at the SM Mall of Asia Arena unfolded beautifully and without a hitch.
And fortuitous as it may seem, the support of an entire nation still high on the win of the Philippines at the Miss Universe pageant automatically boosted the confidence of the country’s delegate to the final crown still up for grabs by a Binibining Pilipinas 2018 queen.
Pressured to clinch the only remaining major title elusive to the Philippines right after Catriona Gray won the country’s crown in December, Gallman was nevertheless a picture of poise and grace the moment the Miss Intercontinental fever began to rise on home ground. It was therefore not surprising that she emerged an early favorite bagging special awards through from day one of the pre-pageant activities.
Gallman was chosen as H&H Salon’s Standout Beauty, Media Favorite and Miss Fiber Health Body Beautiful, while garnering attention at the Evening Gown, Designers Filipiniana and the National Costume competitions.
It was at the sidelines of the National Costume Competition on January 19 that Gallman told The Sunday Times Magazine how grateful she is for the support she has received from everyone through her Miss Intercontinental journey.
“I’m overwhelmed by it all and I’m having fun [in all the activities]. I promise to do my best, hopefully makuha natin [we snag the] ang first crown [for the] Philippines!” she enthused.
And that she did.
Twenty semi-finalists were chosen proportionally from continents of Africa — Ethiopia and Ghana; Asia and Oceania — Japan, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam; Europe — Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Netherlands, Slovak Republic and Ukraine; North America — Costa Rica, Mexico and USA; South America — Paraguay, Colombia and Ecuador.
After the Swimsuit and Long Gown Competitions, the Continental Beauties were announced: Ethiopia for Africa, Philippines for Asia and Oceania, Slovak Republic for Europe, Costa Rica for North America, and Colombia for South America. The sixth finalist as People’s Choice was Vietnam.
One common question asked of the candidates was, “How would you define success?”
With Philippines the second finalist to take the spotlight, Gallman gave a straightforward and concise answer: “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.”
Binibining Pilipinas Charities Chairman Stella Marquez-Araneta, also the national director of the franchise, was seen heartily applauding and cheering soon after Gallman ended her speech within the allowable 30-second answer. Of course, the largely Filipino crowd at the MOA Arena erupted in cheers, chanting “Philippines!” and “Karen! Karen!”
Rounding up Gallman’s court were Miss Costa Rica Adriana Moya Alvarado as 1st Runner-Up, who earned netizens’ praise for fixing the crown on the new queen’s head as it fell off after a few steps of her victory walk; Miss Slovak Republic Laura Longaurova, 2nd Runner-Up; Miss Colombia Hillary Hollmann del Prado, 3rd Runner-Up; Miss Vietnam Ngan Anh Le Au, 4th Runner-Up; and Miss Ethiopia Bella Lire Lapso, 5th Runner-Up.
Marquez-Araneta in her ecstatic message, congratulated the newly crowned Miss Intecontinental 2018, a first for the Philippines, “Karen brings home the crown as a true honor to the country, a testament of her being a true Binibini, and the epitome of an inspiring Filipina everyone around the globe can look up to. We are proudly behind you in your continuing journey.”
On January 28, after her first long rest from the rigors of the pageant, and her win finally sinking in, the country’s first-ever Miss Intercontinental conveyed her heartfelt thanks to the whole nation via social media:
“We did it Philippines! I’m so proud to bring our nation its first Intercontinental crown. The overwhelming support from you all has been amazing and I can’t thank you all enough nor have done it without you. This crown is not just for me, it’s for all of you and a representation of what we can achieve as a nation. Keep pushing to be the best version of yourself by ‘always looking up to God and being thankful for everything.’ Thank you to my MIC queens, chaperones and the team for a wonderful three weeks that I will always cherish!”
Up close and personal
Born and raised in Ubay, Bohol as Karen Juanita Boyones Gallman on September 27, 1992 to a Filipino mother and Australian father, she migrated to Australia at a young age. Gallman finished college in Australia then worked as operations analyst in London before finally returning to the Philippines where she joined Binibining Pilipinas in 2012. That year, she ended in the Top 12, and was also named Miss Photogenic.
Upon the urging of friends and under the tutelage of Rogie Flores of Kagandahang Flores (KF) beauty camp, Gallman joined Binibining Pilipinas anew in 2018 and won the right to represent the Philippines in the Miss Intercontinental pageant.
Recalling her decision to try again, Gallman said it was also her boyfriend of five years, Australian Ian Garton, who encouraged her the most to return to Binibining Pilipinas.
“Siya nga yung nag-push sa akin na mag-Binibini. He knows that it’s one of the things that I’d been thinking about for six years. He’s the one who pushed me, na you have to do it if that’s what you want to do. Kahit may plano na siyang mag-propose, he still supported my dream,” Gallman said in November.
“The wedding would be around 2020 pa, so win or lose, it would be 2020, so it’s a safe year. Matagal pa,” she explained then.
Back in June, Gallman broke the news of her engagement to Garton on Instagram, where she showed off her diamond ring.
In that post, Gallman wrote, “Two weeks today, the love of my life asked me to marry him… I said yes of course! Thank you for making me the happiest girl on the planet, I am so blessed to have you in my life.”
Soon after the coronation, a press conference and photoshoot was held for the new queen in MoA backstage and by chance, The Sunday Times Magazine was able to engage her boyfriend into conversation.
“I’m happy for her,” Garton genuinely declared. “We’re engaged but, well, she has a responsibility as the winner and that should be the priority now. Marriage can wait until her reign is over.”
Garton was with his parents proudly watching Gallman clinch the first Miss Intercontinental crown for the Philippines in its 47 years of existence.
To conclude The Manila Times’ extensive coverage on Karen Gallman’s journey to the Miss Intercontinental crown, it is but fitting to re-print the very words that led her success in the hopes that it will also inspire her fellow Filipinas never to give up on their dreams.
“I am Karen Gallman and I’ve always been a firm believer in the law of attraction combined with hard work; and the idea of creating one’s own happiness. Self-awareness was something instilled in me at a very young age by my mother and late father. I was taught nothing is ever too big to achieve; that everything is possible if you set your mind to it and are willing to work hard for it.
“After completing my tertiary education at a top-tier University in Australia, I’ve been fortunate enough to reap the rewards and establish a successful career in London. It gave me the chance to travel to many parts of the world. Traveling, and the experience gained from it, widens your horizon and gives you a bigger knowledge of the world — something that not only inspires you but also gives you better empathy toward different kinds of people. Having had the opportunity to live and work in different cities, I became good at coping in different environments, and living in harmony with the people around me.
“Those close to me know me as a risk-taker; someone who relishes a good challenge. I would say being part of this prestigious pageant is one of the biggest challenges I have faced so far — and not only am I ready for it, I would enjoy every minute of it and come out an even better human being from the experience. I would live to be a stellar example of a Filipina, and a woman of substance for people to look up to, and be the light of love and positivity to everyone I meet.”
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Queen Karen’s ‘most expensive crown’
The Miss Intercontinental Organization (MIO) claims that the “Oriental Holy Water” tiara placed on the head of the Philippines’ Karen Gallman is the “most expensive pageant crown.”
According to pageantry-dedicated website Missosology, the Miss Intercontinental crown is designed by Fuqi China, the official jewelry sponsor of the 2005 Miss Intercontinental by the World Beauty Organization (WBO). It has 720 diamonds and one huge .50 diamond carat for a grand total of 21 carats on a single crown. It is valued at $361,446, or at the exchange rate of P52.32 as of this writing, an estimated P18,910,854.72. Put in perspective, the Miss Universe pearl-studded Mikimoto crown is worth $250,000 or P13,080,000
According to MIO, the crown’s inspiration came from water — the source of life, representing the natural beauty and purity of women, signifying strength and power with the image of a woman in the center, thus the pageant’s tagline, “The Power Of Beauty.”