In Full Bloom featuring Katarina Rodriguez

“Some women are lost in the fire, some women are built from it.”

Katarina Rodriguez is no stranger to competition. She first rose to public consciousness when she, along with fellow Filipina representative Jodilly Pendre, battled head to head with a handful of female models in Asia with an honor to hailed as Asia’s Next Top Model.

Left: Top, jacket, and shoes, all f21. Pants, Zara. Right: Top and shoes, f21.

But her second runner-up finish a good four years ago, led her to an even bigger arena of proving that her journey goes far and beyond the narrow confines of being a blank beautiful canvas in the world of modeling. It was at this moment that beauty queen maker, Jonas Gaffud, saw that Rodriguez’ mystique, distinct beauty, and elan serves a bigger purpose.

Born of pure Filipino descent to a mother from Manila and a father from Davao in Orlando, Florida, Rodriguez’ childhood memories were set in the Philippines before moving back and forth to the States for her studies. She then earned her degree in Business Management and Psychology at the De La Salle University.

While being thrust in the world of beauty pageants seemed to be a far cry from her life as a certified track and field athlete, it was finding a platform for her advocacy on cultivating HIV/AIDS awareness fortified by her long-time partnership with Red Whistle that pushed her further to compete for the elusive crown.

Top, Armand Marco. Pants, H&M. Shoes and belt, f21.

Early on this year, social media and the pageant circuit was awash with well wishes for Rodriguez’ trip to Egypt to clinch the country’s first-ever Miss Intercontinental crown. The media and the pageant elite all nodded in approval, declaring her as an easy shoo-in for the crown. Rodriguez then set out to conquer the pageant and did so effortlessly, and consistently impressed the international communities with her beauty, grace, and eloquence.

During the coronation night, the Philippine bet was asked, “What is the most important thing that you have learned about participating in Miss Intercontinental?”

With a smile, she waxed philosophical, “The most important thing that I have learned while participating in Miss Intercontinental is actually an Arabic word, which is named after one of the resorts in Sunrise. It’s called Meraki. It means to do all things with passion, soul, and creativity. When I heard this word and the definition, it resonated with me ’til now and I think it will for the rest of my life. Therefore, that is the most important thing I learned while participating in this pageant. Meraki, to do all things with soul, passion, and creativity.”

Top, Sevastra shop. Pants, H&M.

It was an answer that was met with a roaring applause that cemented her place as the pageant’s frontrunner. During the coronation, the crown was awarded to Mexico’s Veronica Salas Vallejo. She may not have nabbed the country’s first-ever crown for the year, but she came out victorious of her mission.

In a lengthy post, summing up her Miss Intercontinental journey, Rodriguez perfectly book-ended her pageant experience, with the stint at the international pageant opening up a whole realm of possibilities and opportunities in continuing to be a voice of power and strength for women.

Top, f21. Skirt, H&M. Belt and shoes, f21.

She wrote:

“Here is the EXACT moment where I turned FULLY into a woman. Congratulations to Miss Mexico, the new Miss Intercontinental 2017! You are a vision, truly. I came to Egypt for one thing and one thing only: the Miss Intercontinental crown. This crown to me represented my becoming a real woman. Myself, and DOZENS of people behind me dedicated so much time and effort to ensure I would win. I cannot say I would have done anything differently because I was very aware from the moment I stepped into the NAIA airport of every action and word I produced. I can tell you that after rewatching the coronation last night I can confidently say I was FLAWLESS. Never had I been more ready for anything in my life. I had hundreds of thousands of people right behind me and each of you were the gas to my fire. It was not about me anymore it was about YOU.”

“Here is the thing though, a queen does not necessarily have to be flawless. The Intercontinental crown did fall off Miss Mexico’s head when she was crowned and YES, I did have to pick it up and hand it to her. How could I not say it was such a painful thing for me to do? But when giving the crown to her I swear to you there was this energy that went through her and straight to me and this is where I knew I am no longer a child but a woman.”

“Seeing her beautiful face while handing it back to her, well, I felt PROUD for her, and no pain at all. It was the lightest feeling I have felt in weeks. That crown was never mine and somehow always her’s. I don’t want to read any comments talking superstitions or anything hurtful especially from my Filipinos. Vero is a queen and she is MY queen, MY Miss Intercontinental 2017. She is a sweetheart and very much deserving. She taught me grace by her energy and warmth in a matter of seconds and only a true queen could empower another woman in such a manner. Let us keep that grace Philippines, for this is only the beginning. Viva Mexico, Viva Pilipinas.”

And it was at this moment that, with or without the crown, Rodriguez had grown into a real royalty.

Photography by Advan Ramirez

Creative direction and styling by Aldrin Ramos