Maggie Wilson (still) tells it like it is
Karla Rule (The Freeman) - June 17, 2018 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines — Rain has been a bummer lately, coming in quickly as an official prelude to the end of summer. While most of us are busy bemoaning the overcast skies and wistfully scrolling through our summer Instagram feed, some have had the fortune to stay in the sunny side far longer.

Summer is definitely not over for Maggie Wilson as she, alongside Marc Nelson, host “Beached,” one of the shows lined up for the brand new and recently launched Metro Channel. The travel show, a treat for beach bums like Maggie, features the country’s best beaches, the coolest activities and the ultimate accommodations as it airs over the Metro super brand cable television channel arm, Metro Channel.

For their first episode, Marc and Maggie took viewers to the now closed-off Boracay island. The sun-kissed babe laughs when asked why she said yes to “Beached.”

“Are you kidding me? I love the beach. It was a no-brainer,” the 29 year-old says.

Maggie says that the pilot episode wasn’t supposed to be Boracay but it was timely to say the least.

“I honestly think it [temporary closure] would be good for Boracay. If we just learned earlier on how to take care of it, this never would have happened. I feel terrible for the people of Boracay who are in the hotel industry and who had to put their lives on hold for the closure. The endgame is to not just preserve but prolong the beauty of Boracay,” Maggie begins in an interview during the Summer Soul beach party at the Azure Beach Club of Crimson Resort and Spa Mactan where she saw the pilot episode of “Beached” for the first time.

Maggie hopes that the government and the residents of Boracay do something to see evident change in its six-month temporary closure.

Apart from going into all the fun stuff, “Beached” has a conservation arm where they talk about the efforts done to preserve the beauty of our seas. Both Marc and Maggie want to remind viewers why we needed to close Boracay and identify the problems going on in the island.

Cebu will not of course be out of the picture as “Beached” is set to feature Malapascua, Bantayan, and Kinatarcan island in the north, as well as tourist magnets like Kawasan Falls and Pescador Island.

Done with acting

Despite doing TV again, Maggie says she’s not eager to return to acting any time soon.

“I’d like to think that I’m done with that. I’m a mother now and also a wife. Being an artista takes a lot of time away from your family. Your hours are horrible! You work almost 24-hour days,” she points out.

“But what’s lovely about Metro and our show is that we get to give them our schedule and they work around it. It’s very flexible. Maybe I can do like an acting cameo or a stint, but I want to focus on hosting.”

Apart from being busy as a mom to Connor, a wife to real estate mogul Victor B. Consunji, a TV host, a fitspiration, an interior designer, and just overall cool person, Maggie has also been kept occupied with training aspiring beauty queens. Among those trainees is fellow Kagandahang Flores beauty and now an international title-holder, Cynthia Thomalla, who won Miss Eco International 2018 last April.

“Yes! She’s a good friend of mine. I’m so happy for her. I was so, so thrilled but honestly I knew she was going to win,” Maggie says with a wink. “I hope she decides to join Binibining Pilipinas someday but we’ll see because Binibini is a different monster. You need a super different training from Miss World.”

Cynthia has always been vocal about her friendship with Maggie, saying that apart from training her pageant-wise, the former Binibining Pilipinas-World title-holder is also a sister for life. Maggie took her in and was with her when Cynthia was alone in Manila.

Before Cynthia’s competition in Egypt, she was hounded by haters for simply being associated with Maggie who drew flak alongside Miss International 2013 Bea Santiago for their opinion on who should have won the Binibining Pilipinas 2018 Best Swimsuit award, which went to now Miss Universe Philippines 2018 Catriona Gray.

Vicious fans

“I don’t care,” Maggie shrugs when asked about the controversy. “First and foremost those people don’t know who I am. They don’t even know who Cynthia is. Again, social media is just the tip of the iceberg. I’ve dealt with haters all my life. I’ve been an artista for many years before I became a beauty queen. Pageant fans are the most vicious fans out there. They’re passionate, but they’re also very vicious. If you let that get to you or destroy who you are then you’re never going to make it in the industry.”

“As long as the people know me, and understand where I’m coming from because I’m a very forward person and I can sleep at night, then I’m good. Life goes on. My life doesn’t stop for those haters,” says Maggie, who advised the naturally worried Cynthia to ignore the fuss.

She adds that when people react, it means your opinion matters. So long as those closest to you love you, that you’re secure in your relationships and you have a strong support system – there’s nothing to get worried about.

“An opinion is an opinion. As long as you’re not talking down, calling people names, then we’re good,” she quips. “If you don’t like me, I’m not going to try to convince you to like me.”

As for her and Bea’s sentiments on the swimsuit award, Maggie explains that as a beauty queen, she knew what it took to get that recognition and thought that someone else could have gotten it instead of Catriona. But there was no way Maggie felt that Catriona shouldn’t have won the ultimate crown.

“Even in my year, I didn’t win Best in Swimsuit. And rightfully so because the girl who did win, she earned it, she really deserved it. I know how it’s supposed to be judged, I know what factors a girl should have in order to win the award.”

She continues, “Of course I wasn’t body-shaming but when you enter a pageant you have to look a certain way. Everyone is beautiful but the Best in Swimsuit, I truly believe, is for the best body.”

Even Cynthia, adds Maggie, had to get the hard truth from her that she needed to work out more. Maggie couldn’t care less how much you weigh if you wanted to be anything but a beauty queen, but as a pageant aspirant, there are standards to uphold, she says.

“People come in all shapes and sizes but unfortunately in beauty pageants, there is a mold. We all don’t have the same body type but we can have the best version of our bodies.”

Because of all the hate they received form Catriona’s enraged fans, Maggie had to stand her ground, asking Catriona to “control her fans.” The latter responded with a reminder to always be one for positivity, but explained that she can’t control what her fans choose to do.

“Yes, we cannot control our fans. However, they are your fans. I wouldn’t want my fans behaving like that towards anyone,” Maggie insists. “And I believe that fans are a reflection of who you are as a person. I think at the very least she could have told them to stop calling people names or involving people who aren’t involved. You can tell them as their idol to please learn to respect other people’s opinions because at the end of the day, your fans are a reflection of who you are.”

Growing thick skin

Maggie says helping beauty-queens-in training is so much more than just teaching technicalities and strategies. Being a trainer means being there for these girls who are often seen solely for their beautiful faces.

“The reason why I go back and train girls is because I wish I had a beauty queen during my time help me so that at least I would have understood the industry better. We do get girls who are quite sensitive but it’s part of the training. I always tell them, you need to grow thicker skin and learn how to receive comments and critique. It’s very important to listen to the people around you, those close to you and only listen to them. If you start listening to every single comment thrown at you, you’re gonna crumble.”

This isn’t the first time Maggie has given the public a glimpse of pageantry. Others might think that pageants are all fame and glamour, but she proved that wrong when she revealed what went down during her Miss World competition in 2007.

Maggie expressed disappointment with Binibining Pilipinas Charities Inc. chairwoman Stella Marquez-Araneta when she and the organization did nothing about the harassment that occurred in Sanya, China.

She recalls how they were roused from their hotel rooms at night and were told to prepare for a dinner party. Despite the event not being part of their itinerary, the candidates followed the sudden instructions. At the supposed dinner party, they were met with drunken men from a major Chinese company that sponsored the pageant. She says 80 percent of the candidates were groped.

Maggie, then an 18-year-old, defended herself by talking back to her harasser. She returned to the Philippines unplaced in Miss World.

In light of the #MeToo movement going on in the United States and which cascaded to other countries, where victims of sexual abuse are coming into the light to hold their abusers accountable, Maggie quips that not only does the Philippine pageant circuit need a similar movement, but the country as a whole.

“I think we Filipinos in general are so afraid of confrontation. We’re so scared to talk about something bad that’s happened. And I do say something when I need to. I’m known for that. I don’t sugarcoat. Whatever it is that I’m thinking about, that is what I’ll say,” she says.

In retrospect, Maggie—who has long since patched it up with Madam Stella – clarifies that not all pageants shove candidates to predators. It just so happened that the incident happened during her year.

Despite not dreaming of becoming a beauty queen, Maggie is grateful for the experience which allowed her to learn so much about herself, the industry, and life in general.

“I was very young when it happened, and not at all pageants are like that. It was just a matter of circumstance that year. It was unfortunate for it to happen to me and all the girls. But for me, sorry, I don’t take shit from no one. If it means losing respect for myself, it’s not something I’m willing to give up,” she reasons.

Even while the competition was nowhere near finished, Maggie had made the decision that it wasn’t for her.

“I am not willing to put myself out there like that. I have a lot of respect for myself and what happened to me was not okay. Men like them need to know and I put them in their place,” Maggie presses.

“It’s not a price I’m willing to pay. And I’m okay with that. Being a beauty queen is not my biggest achievement. It’s an accomplishment but it’s not my biggest achievement.”

“Yes I was a beauty queen. I’m proud that I won the national but it’s been 11 years. I like to think I’m more than that, that I’ve accomplished more and showed people that I’m more than a pretty face or a sexy body…that I actually go out there and experience new things and do things in the name of the country.”

More than a beauty queen

Maggie did go out into the open: apart from being an actress, and the first Filipina beauty queen to become an MTV VJ, she is also the first Filipina to complete the Antarctic Ice Marathon and 100k Ultra Race in Antarctica when she finished the 42-kilometer course with her husband. She also won the fifth season of “The Amazing Race Asia” in 2016 with fellow beauty queen Parul Shah.

“It’s great that people remember me as a beauty queen but I don’t want that to be my title forever. You get new queens every year,” reiterates Maggie.

She acknowledges that others might expect her to be poised and put together at all times, but she debunks that image saying that she can cuss like a sailor and likes to dance like nobody’s watching. In fact, she and fellow Metro Channel hosts Tricia Centenera for “Driven” and Joey Mead King for “Women of Style” are self- confessed cowboys who are willing to get down and dirty.

Tim Yap, who hosts “Tim’s Table,” describes the females in the Metro Squad as intense and perfectionists.

“Their lives are like, ‘If it’s not good for me then I’m not gonna go for it. I’m only gonna go for what’s good, what’s the best, who I love.’ Iconic female hosts,” Tim gushes, adding in jest, “While the guys, so-so lang.”

Extremely expressive

Maggie muses how being real has always been her thing, possibly because of her upbringing. The Fil-Brit beauty hails from San Enrique, Negros Occidental. She was born to a Filipino mom and a Scottish father. For a time, Maggie lived in Saudi Arabia where she attended Al Hekma International School in Jeddah.

“I grew up in Saudi Arabia which is a very tough country to be a woman in. So I’ve always felt the need to be forward and upfront with everybody. Growing up I felt oppressed, suppressed. Coming to the Philippines gave me the opportunity to be who I want to be, say what I want to say and share what I know which Saudi at that time didn’t allow for me. That’s one of the reasons why I guess I am the way I am. I’ve been in other countries, and I’ve met so many different kinds of people.”

Asked if her straightforwardness became a bane during her pageant days and sometime showbiz stint, Maggie says that it has never been a problem. She knew that with celebrity came the harshest scrutiny. And she was prepared for that.

“Not at all,” Maggie waves off. “That is the industry you chose to be in. You have to understand that you are judged how you move, how you look, how you talk. Yes it’s hard. But it’s the industry you chose to be in so you have to roll with the punches. If you want to be successful, you have to work hard and you have to take all the criticism. Work on it, take it, don’t sit and cry about it. If you want to win you have to do whatever it takes within the boundaries of your respect for yourself.”

Maggie proudly says that she’s mastered the art of “deadma.” In her career, she’s met the loveliest people but had her fair share of nasty ones. Despite being attacked for her authenticity, Maggie knows that that trait is also one of her strongest suits.

“I am extremely expressive. You can ask any of my friends, I am the first to call them out when something’s going on. I respect other people’s opinions as well,” says Maggie.

“Honestly for me, the nicest people are the ones who tell you like it is even if it hurts because you learn from it. You need to learn to separate the business from the personal. There’s constructive criticism and then there’s malice.”

MAGGIE WILSON
Philstar
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