Shamcey Supsup:The Incidental Beauty Queen

MANILA, Philippines - She sexily “tsunami-walked” into the national psyche, flashing that sublimely confident smile, backed up by the brains of a magna cum laude and a board topnotcher. Highlighting her appearance in the final five, the lady aced the final Miss Universe question about faith and lovewith a conviction that went beyond answering what the judges wanted to hear. That is trademark, and unapologetically, architect Shamcey Gurrea Supsup, present holder of the Binibing Pilipinas-Universe crown.

We anxiously waited, glued to the television with bated breath for the Miss U final verdict, only for our hopes to be dashed by a fourth-place finish for the General Santos City beauty. Still, by all accounts, it was a win that once again put the Philippines on the radar, and underscored to the world something that we Pinoys have known for so long now: Filipinas rule.

Understandably, everyone wants a piece of Shamcey Supsup these days. After she arrived from Los Angeles, people mobbed and chased Shamcey’s homecoming motorcade with the exuberance that would make Pacquiao blush. Right after the pageant, networks tripped over themselves for an interview with Shamcey (pronounced “sham-see,” not “sham-say”).

Thrust into the national limelight, Shamcey smiled, if uncomfortably, through the suddenly invasive questions on national television. Yes, she has a boyfriend and, added curtly, that she wouldn’t be “showbiz” about it and say otherwise.

For this feature, we catch Shamcey at the Araneta Coliseum complex for a privileged multi-hour appointment despite an insanely busy schedule for the beauty queen. PeopleAsia’s Kai Magsanoc points out that even as Shamcey patiently sits for hair and makeup work, she is seriously absorbed in a sheaf of papers, which includes a diagram of what appears to be a waterway. A group is inviting her to speak at their forum, Shamcey explains. “I’m doing a background check on what they’re doing. (Besides) during college, I was really interested in environmental design.”

Her love for architecture clearly hasn’t dimmed. “When people ask me what has changed, it’s just the scheduleand that I can’t go out that much anymore,” she insists.

If and when she does get time off, Shamcey maintains that she still goes to the mall without trying to go incognito. “They recognize me anyway, so it’s like there’s no point,” Shamcey explains with a smile.

But don’t count on her putting on queenly threads when she’s out shopping or at worship. “I don’t put on makeup, and I’d wear jeans, shirts and flat sandals. But now, I wear blouses already,” Shamcey adds.

So when you do see her, you can probably get an autograph or a photo op, but you’d have to catch her first. Shamcey confesses that she has always walked fastall 5’7” of her.

We should start at the beginningthe beginning of Shamcey’s tentative (perhaps even unwilling) steps into the world of glamour and beauty. “It was my mom who was persistent in making me join thisshe forced me!” she says with a hearty laugh.

Shamcey narrates that, to duly prepare for the board exams, she quit her job as a construction project architect. After her resounding success though, she was left in a lurch.

“We didn’t know what was next. Should I apply, rest or study again?” she narrated. She got accepted into a masters in Environmental Designs of Buildings at Cardiff University this year, “but the problem was I could not find a scholarship for travel or living,” Shamcey narrated.

Her mom Marcelina (“Marci”) had what turned out to be a brilliant idea. Why not try modelling, she posited to her daughter. “I said I didn’t want to. ‘She said when? I’m old already.’ I’m already 24. She wanted me to at least try. If she had looked like me, she would have joined everything!” she explains with a laugh. From her initial successful screen tests, it was a short skip to the realm of Binibining Pilipinas.

“When I was young I wanted to be a civil engineer just like my mom,” Shamcey shares, saying she found it “interesting and fun.” Indeed, one can draw a number of parallels between this only child and her mother. Consider that Marci is academically inclined as well, holding a masters in Transportation. “We have strong personalities and convictions, and we are both hardworking and ambitious,” Shamcey maintains.

“We are challenged whenever people think we cannot do something, and we are challenged to prove them wrong.” Dad Timoteo must indeed be proud to be amid such strong women.

Shamcey’s eyes look tired for the morning appointment, though she admirably soldiers on with professionalism and appropriate decorum. While others in her position would’ve switched to diva mode, Shamcey displays a, well, queenly manner of reserved patience as we put her through the paces of a proper feature.

“A typical day for me is like a ‘proper’ working day,” she enthuses. “I usually have my first commitment at around 8 or 9 a.m. They (her Binibining Pilipinas handlers) are trying to limit my schedule to two things a day. There are a lot of shoots, and these usually take time like the whole day. Aside from that, we have endorsements, and engage in community service for Binibining Pilipinas.”

These activities make up standard Binibining Pilipinas fare, of course. But Shamcey reveals with a smile that, “What’s different for me is that, aside from endorsements and shoots, there are also architectural projects that are coming in. It’s a first for Binibing Pilipinas daw that they get those kinds of invites.”

Which is well and good for Miss Supsup. She always had a niggling feeling that her becoming a beauty queen would “slow down” her career as an architect, but one is actually complementing the other. “I am excited that my being a beauty queen is actually helping my being an architect. This is what I really like about what is happening now,” Shamcey says. Effectively, her fame is becoming a springboard to do the things she wants.

“I am just taking all the opportunities now because I know they will be stepping stones to something better. My winning is not an end in itself. I believe it’s a springboard for something that is much better, much greater. And I don’t want to waste it,” she underscores.

Curiously, items on her to-do list do not include showbiz and politicsseriously easy pickings for someone of her stature. So many have gone that way, of coursethe lure of glitter, gold and government proving too tempting to let slip past. “I really have no intention to enter show business,” she declares. “And not to sound arrogant, but I don’t really need the publicity.”

Shamcey insists that despite a confidence in the limelight, she is a private person. “I usually talk about myself only to friends. I am comfortable talking about myself, (but) when it comes to a bigger audience, I feel that I should protect my family, my friends. There are things that should just be kept private and confidential. You don’t have to lie but you don’t have to tell everything either,” she reveals.

As for politics? “I’ve always believed that you can do something without being in politics; you can always contribute. Each one of us can do something and it doesn’t always have to be in government,” she maintains. “It’s too magulo para sa akin (chaotic for me). It’s better to help anonymously. You don’t have to be recognized. It’s like that for me. Basta alam mo sa sarili mo na nakatulong ka, okay na ‘yon (As long as you know within you that you’ve helped, then that’s enough).”

Shamcey says she knows it’s a daunting proposition because she’s heard people say that, to be effective, one has to change the system. She doesn’t want to risk being co-opted by that system. “I don’t want to put myself in that position. It’s hard,” she insists. “I am just being practical. I heard that a lot of good people couldn’t handle politics and I don’t want to be one of them.”

Although she is grateful for all the attention and good vibes sent her way, Shamcey doesn’t want to be accepted for anything less than what and how she really is. “If the people will not appreciate me being private in those terms, I would respect that,” she concedes. “If that means that I am not going to be famous anymore or be in the limelight, then I’d be willing to accept that. Everything in that world is fleeting. I am not going to do something I will regret.”

Perhaps Shamcey is able to view where she is now with a sense of detachment precisely because it was never her dream all along to be a beauty queen. She views her fame as an invaluable tool for the greater good. “Ayokong masayang kung nasaan ako ngayon (I don’t want to waste my ideal position now). I hope to use it for a greater cause. My ambition for monetary gain is low, but I am greedy when it comes to gaining things that are non-monetary. If projects come in and (they’re) just for money, I would say no. But if I will be helping somebody else, I would gladly do it.”

The beauty queen realizes how naive she might come across to hold these views she has. “They would say I am young; I am idealistic. I say, why not? We need more idealistic people in this world. This world needs more visionaries. Even if they sound crazy, in the future they will be proven right. I’m that way and (even if) people sometimes find it weird, I am still who I am.”

Shamcey, at the risk of being misunderstood by the public, continues to don her true colors and keep to her road. She will not change for anyone; she will not lie to be accepted. Her dreams are not predicated on people’s adulation. What Shamcey’s truly afraid of is to lose her grounding. “I told my friends that if ever I change, please tell me.

Because that’s the worst thing that could ever happenfor this world to change me in a way that I would not want. You have to have these people who will keep you grounded and make you remember who you were before,” she says.

Clearly, the foundation for Architect Supsup is sound. Her confidence emanates from education and hard work, and has emboldened her to dream beyond what’s usual, expected. Her circle of friends has established their firm, 1237 Gridlinesimpressively, the numbers represent their placing in the board exams (first, second, third, and seventh). It’s not a fallback, either. It’s Plan A.

She says that it’s time to change the beauty queen stereotype and stigma. “If we would not start changing people’s mindsets, when will we start? So that’s why I am starting now. They say that a lot of people are already seeing that beauty pageants are not just that.”

Shamcey admits, “Before, I was also hesistant. I was telling my mom, why should I join when I am already an architect? What’s the point? And she said that maybe there’s a purpose for me to join. Maybe it’s time for people to know that it’s not all about physical beauty. That’s just a stereotype. When you get to know the girls who are joining the pageants, you would know that a lot of them are doing a lot of things. Even at Miss Universe, some of them are lawyers, masters degree holders.”

She continues, “I want to discover something, a new technology, write a book. I want to leave something behind. That’s my dream.” This architect is on a sustained upward trajectory. There are places to go. But make no mistake about it: Shamcey is unwilling to be carried to where she does not want to go. Each day brings unexpected surprises and blessings, this she knows. But though the journey may change, the destination remains the sameit is as she wants it. Shamcey is all these, and a beauty queen, too.

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