Nancy Leonard is a woman with vision. Ever since she could strut her stuff in high heels, she’s been out and about joining pageant after pageant. Now that’s she has finally achieved her dream of participating in one the most prestigious pageants in the country, Binibining Pilipinas 2015 (the pageant Pia Wurtzbach won a year ago), she’s decided that she wants to put all of her efforts into modelling. We have no objections to her choices if it lets us see more of her.
When did you start entering pageants?
I started joining pageants when I was only 17. Joining local pageants was just a stepping stone for me to be able to enter national pageants just like Binibining Pilipinas (in 2015) and Miss Tourism International 2016 in Wenzhou China. I’ve been in the pageant business most of my adult life.
What sparked your interest in becoming a beauty queen in the first place?
When I was a little girl, there was a beauty queen from our province, though I don’t remember her name, her queenly aura still resonates with me. I wanted to be like her and it was also my mom's dream to see her daughter become a beauty queen.
What exactly is a "queenly aura?"
It's basically the way they talk, walk, and carry themselves. Beauty queens go through loads of practice to get to where they are now, that’s why it looks so natural yet gorgeous on stage.
Do you think you’ve developed that aura?
Yeah, slowly but surely, I think I’m getting there. Having a queenly aura mostly has to do with having confidence in yourself and what you believe in. It’s not about just being beautiful but also having something you want to fight for.
What does Nancy Leonard fight for then?
I took up psychology in college and working with special children, specifically the autistic, had a big impact on my life so I wanted to give back to them. I want to help these kids build more self-worth since most children with these conditions tend to lack confidence much like myself before I entered pageants. I plan to conduct modelling workshops and personality development programs so I can help them like how modelling helped me.
How does it feel being able to inspire people like you were inspired when you were just a child?
It feels great. I remember my younger self whenever I meet little girls so I always try to be a great role model to them.
How does it feel being in the spotlight now? Was it all that you dreamt it would be?
We had our parade of beauties along the streets of Araneta last March 2015 and there were a lot of people who wanted to take photos with me. It was a bit overwhelming at first, sometimes even scary, but when I saw the security protecting us it put me at ease.
How do you feel about recent beauty queens becoming celebrities now?
I'm happy to know that beauty queens are given more attention now. Now that they have the people’s attention, they can accomplish so much more with the added support.
Most of us only see the beautiful side of pageants, how are pageants behind-the-scenes?
There's a lot of training you should go through to be prepared for a pageant and it helps a lot if you’re prepared for worst-case scenarios, like if your makeup artist or stylist want to sabotage you. There will always be favoritism in competitions like these.
What do you mean sabotage? Like making you look bad, sabotage?
Yes! You won’t even know if they’re doing it on purpose or not but it’ll just feel like something is off, so it’s best that you know how to do your own makeup and hair. You will only have 30 minutes to fix what they did. It’s not about being maarte but rather, we just want to feel confident about how we look because whatever negativity we have in our heads will surely manifest itself in our performance.
You seem so invested in pageants, what made you decide to switch over to modelling?
I’ve always been modelling on the side to help support the cost of my preparations for pageants. I needed to buy my own wardrobe, makeup and skin care products, as well as fees for entering workshops. But now that I’ve accomplished my goal of participating in a international pageant, I think I would like to concentrate on modelling for the time being so I can save up for the future—you can’t be a model forever!
How different is participating in pageants from modelling for shoots like these?
Based from my experience, a beauty queen should be more careful with her ideas and opinions on relevant topics since she is representing not only herself but also where she comes from. Models on the other hand shouldn’t really care about what other people say about them. You can’t please everyone so as long as you’re true to yourself, I think you’ll do well.
What did you learn in pageants that's now helping you in your modeling?
I have learned to develop thick skin. Most people call it the art of ignoring negativity. Not everyone will love you no matter how hard you try to convince them. I have learned that the forces who believe in you are way stronger than the forces that want to drag you down. This mentality helped me in my modelling career because it made me love myself more.
You can see more of her photos in the gallery below.
Produced by Mary Rose A. Hogaza Photography JB de Leon Styling Debra Bernales Makeup Cats Del Rosario for Shu Uemura Hair Rhoy Cervantes