CEBU CITY, Philippines – She had worked with some of the biggest and up-and-coming names in the pageant world like Nicole Borromeo, Bb. Pilipinas Globe 2022 Chelsea Fernandez, and Miss Universe 2020 Rabiya Mateo.
For Michelle Joy Padayhag, helping beauty queens and kings from around the country achieve their dreams is not just a job. It’s a calling.
“It’s all about the passion to help – to help them make their dreams come true as well as empower them in pursuing their advocacies,” Michelle said.
Since 2019, the 29-year-old native from Badian town in southwestern Cebu had been supporting candidates in various pageants as their public speaking coach.
Michelle’s core objective is to help her mentees ace the Question and Answer, also known as Q&A, in what pageant experts consider a crucial aspect in bagging the coveted title.
“Back then, I always think about my purpose in life. When I realized that I could mentor pageant kings and queens, I knew it was my calling”
Michelle’s first exposure to the wonders of pageantry was when their village in Badian held a Ms. Kawasan Tourism competition. At that time, the young Michelle would follow her mother, a public school teacher, backstage where preparations were being made.
There, she saw how mentors and managers of the lovely candidates would do prep talks, makeup and final briefing before the show will start.
It was love at first sight, according to Michelle.
“I used to watch pageants in our barangay where Ms. Kawasan Tourism was being staged. [And] I was quite interested in how pageantry emphasized the advocacy, strength, and substance of women,” she said.
Fast forward to several years later, she found herself writing stories for Cebu Daily News, and her love for pageantry rekindled when in 2016, she was given the opportunity to write entertainment stories, including the world of beauty pageants.
“My first entertainment article was Ms. Cebu 2016,” Michelle added.
At first, it did not cross her mind to actually coach and be a mentor to the candidate themselves until another opportunity landed on her doorstep.
This time, the former news writer was asked to support Cebuana beauty queen Nicole Borromeo as she vied for Ms. Millennial Philippines 2019 of noontime show Eat Bulaga.
“At first, I was hesitant to accept the offer since it was challenging to give Cebu a back-to-back win after Shaila Rebortera’s victory in 2018,” she said.
“Admittedly, I prayed for a sign. I would continue the industry if Nicole would win. Fortunately, Nicole made it and gave Cebu back-to-back wins,” she added.
Michelle cited her experience as a journalist as one of her strengths in honing the candidates’ abilities to speak in front of the microphone.
“As a journalist, it is important for us to do research. That’s why I always tell my Q and A students to study and be informed of current events to take a stand. Also through research, my Q and A students learned the art of accuracy and at the same time being accountable as speakers”
Her mentorship routine usually starts with reading current events and doing research on hot and pressing topics.
“I also begin the routine with a “kumustahan” session to let my mentees know that aside from being a mentor, I am also their friend and supporter in their journey,” she added.
After Nicole, Michelle had since handled and provided public speaking mentorship to more than 200 candidates.
These included those who work directly with her and those who tap her for workshops like Miss Universe Philippines 2020 Rabiya Mateo and the recently crowned Miss Cebu 2023 Kefiah Al-Zair.
Presently, she serves as the public speaking coach for 15 candidates.
When asked what motivated and inspired her to pursue a career as a public speaking coach, Michelle pointed to two people – her mother and the late Orly Cajegas, who also happened to be a lifestyle writer for Cebu Daily News.
Michelle said her mother was the first to teach her about the value of having excellent public speaking abilities. As a grown-up, her late friend, Orly, also taught her what it takes to become a mentor for beauty queens and kings.
“To add, mentoring pageant kings and queens is not my full-time job. It’s just my passion,” she added.