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The winner of Miss Universe Philippines made history with her African-American heritage. Did ‘diversity finally win’?

When Chelsea Manalo, 24, was crowned Miss Universe Philippines on May 22, the Filipino American made history as the first Philippine winner of African-American descent.

Manalo’s win was widely celebrated online as helping to usher shifting views on deeply held beauty standards in the Philippines, which has long focused on Western features such as fair skin.

“The Miss Universe Philippines platform is reshaping our country’s perception of beauty … Chelsea’s win challenges our ingrained preference for Eurocentric beauty and lighter complexions in our nation,” said one comment on the Miss Universe Instagram page.

“Diversity finally wins! In a country predominantly brown-skinned, it’s high time that a beautiful woman of colour represented the Philippines. This is extremely important for young girls who look like her or have similar complexions,” another user wrote.

But observers also point to some negative online comments about the beauty queen’s appearance, which seem to signal an undercurrent still present in society and perpetuated by Philippine pop culture in which desirable characters in shows are mostly portrayed by mixed actors with lighter skin and Caucasian features.

During the competition, Manalo referenced the struggles and prejudices she faced as a dark-skinned woman in the Philippines.

“As a woman of colour, I have always faced challenges in my life. I was told that beauty has standards, actually,” she said when asked how she would use her beauty to empower others.

“Because of these, I am already influencing a lot of women who are facing me right now.”

Analysts say Manalo’s win reflects a gradual shift in a society that has long prized fair skin and Western features as markers of class and status, which both have