Arielle Diane Garciano experienced an epiphany while witnessing for the first time a fashion show participated in by beauty titlists—she wanted to be a beauty queen herself. At 22, she made her dream come true by besting 15 other finalists vying to represent New Zealand in the 64th edition of the Miss World pageant on the 14th of December in London where the Philippines’ first Miss World, Megan Young, will crown her successor.
This young beauty hopes to be New Zealand’s first Miss World title-holder.
Her name reminds us of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid,” a beloved tale of a mermaid wanting to become human. Arielle might as well be a mermaid because she has the uncanny ability to mesmerize people with her half-Cebuana half-Kiwi beauty (she is a deadringer for a young Dawn Zulueta). Criss-crossing two cultures while growing up proved to be the proverbial “best of both worlds” for this Miss World representative.
Last month, the youngest of four siblings Arielle visited her dad Melvin’s town of Poro in the island of Camotes, Cebu. She was warmly received in her father’s hometown where she chose to shoot her “Beauty with a Purpose” video as part of the competition. From rescuing a five-year-old Filipina who needed life-saving facial surgery to saving the world in a swimsuit, charity for Arielle is second skin.
How has your Cebuano homecoming been?
I have always looked forward to coming back here in Cebu. Both my parents are now here, and it’s timely that it is just before Christmas before I go to London… I thought it would be a good time to come here with the family. And I really would love to do charity work here. Cebu is my home.
How does it feel to be wearing that crown in your head?
This has got to be the heaviest crown! Hahaha! I have been wearing this many times, and still it takes a little getting used to. But I think I am getting the hang of it. Today I have been wearing it for about three hours and I somehow feel it has become a part of my head. I am just happy to be wearing one right now.
Tell us about your life in New Zealand?
I work full time in an office and I do accounts and office administration.
Most of our beauty queens here in the Philippines have foreigner fathers. But your father is Filipino. How does it feel to be carrying that Filipino blood all the way?
Very, very special! My parents have inculcated in me the Filipino heritage. I always tell everyone in New Zealand about my being a Filipino—most of them would ask since I don’t look purely Filipino as well as I don’t look pure Kiwi. So I am always half-Filipino and half-Kiwi. Always proud.
What challenges did you face during the pageant?
Public speaking was one of them though I feel better now. The thought of speaking in front of a large crowd was just very, very scary, but of course I have no choice. I have to really do it. But now I feel so confident and it has become more of like a fun thing to do for me now. It is fun being interviewed.
And look at where you are right now!
Yeah! It is kind of different there in New Zealand. Here in the Philippines most people take beauty pageants seriously. It’s a cause for something big, a celebration.
Tell us about your growing up years as the youngest child?
I am really lucky because I’m the youngest, a bit spoiled by my parents. That’s why I’m really passionate about charity work, because doing it makes me realize how very lucky and privileged I was while growing up. It’s hard for me to see children struggling. Time to share the love.
Is this your first time to be in Cebu?
Actually, it’s my fourth time. I always look forward to bonding with my cousins because I only get to see them every four or five years. It’s really special when we’re together.
Is this your first pageant ever?
Yes, it is!
What kind of preparations are you doing?
Dieting, leading a healthy lifestyle, going to the gym… and trying to balance my personal well-being with family life as well as doing charity work.
What’s the biggest lesson you had when you became a beauty queen?
Winning Miss World New Zealand turned me into a grown-up quite a bit. Mostly, I learned that I can do anything I put my mind into. That’s the same lesson I want to teach kids… that they can reach their dreams if they put their mind, soul and heart into it. Upsets are the rule in beauty pageants, not the exception.
Why do you deserve the blue crown on your head come Dec. 14?
Miss World is all about beauty with a purpose.
The crown itself represents charity, so it’s all about being someone out there to help other people, not because it’s your job, but because it comes from your heart. I believe that Miss World is someone who wants to give, someone who is selfless, and I believe I have those qualities.
What is your advocacy?
I think it’s really important because it’s such a big thing in schools, and it shapes who you are as a person. New Zealand has a high suicide rate… you hear a lot of horror stories of people bullied by their peers. My parents have always told me that friends are one’s treasures. And up until she passed away, my 93-year-old grandma was still very close with her best friend, and that was really beautiful.
That’s what I want to encourage—friendship rather than bullying.
What do you like to do when you’re here in the Philippines?
I like spending time with my cousins because I don’t see them most often. And it is really, really special… seeing them grow and all. And since then I have been doing a lot of charity work, I also enjoy this as well.
And when you’re away, what do you miss most about Cebu?
The jeepney rides. I totally enjoy it.
What is your favorite Filipino food?
Filipinos have gone through a lot of calamities. What is your message to Filipino survivors?
I can relate because I am a Christchurch earthquake survivor. It was really devastating, and I am just lucky to still have my family—much luckier compared to what my countrymen went through, and especially here in the Philippines.
The conditions were really hard. So my heart goes out to all of those people because I do know how it feels—having your whole life as well as your family’s and the whole community on the line. To overcome the odds, it really helps to stick together, and extend a helping hand in whatever way you can.