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Freeman Cebu Entertainment

Chantal Schmidt: It’s go big or go home for pageant newbie

Vanessa A. Balbuena - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines —  When Chantal Elise Legaspi Schmidt met years back with the people behind her current management to discuss her joining their fold, she was armed with a Power Point presentation outlining how her pageant bid will look like: her preferred styling, photo shoot ideas, advocacy and whatnot.

As she tells it, plenty have egged her on to join pageants, but their plans and preferences just didn’t jive with hers. For someone who “likes to be myself with every fiber of my being”, having a sense of agency is all too important.

“I was with a few different people in this industry. I didn’t always feel quite comfortable with the idea of joining pageants especially with the people I was with,” she began during an intimate media huddle recently.

“People in the industry who will tell me, they will put me in this pageant, we’ll do this and that, and it didn’t feel like it was my own…like I lost my sense of decision-making because I felt there were so many people trying to pressure me to do certain pageants, to do certain hairstyles, certain makeup, certain jobs, you know? You know how cutthroat and competitive this industry is, so people really want a say in whatever you do.”

Whereas with Origin Model & Artist Management’s Sven Chua and Edward James Castro – the same team behind recent Cebuana national titlists Beatrice Luigi Gomez and Tracy Maureen Perez – Schmidt says it was always about working around what she wants.

“What I would feel best in, what would suit me the best – not what THEY want. That’s really the difference,” says the 20-year-old Schmidt.

For instance, she points out that her ensemble during this interview was one she herself chose and felt good in.

“I like to think of my style as edgy. I’m not so comfortable with very pageant patty or restricting clothes. I like bold textiles, bold colors, fun prints,” continues Schmidt, attributing her taste to being a former art student who loves getting the whole sensory experience out of an outfit.

Schmidt told herself that if she was to throw her hat into the ring, it would be with “my whole heart and soul.”

“This feels like I am more welcome, I am more accepted. Now I am ready because I have found people that are willing to support me throughout the whole journey.”

And so here she is, a Top 32 finalist of Miss Universe Philippines representing Cebu City, the same sash worn by the pageant’s reigning titlist.

The current Miss Universe Philippines and her fellow Origin talent was someone she got acquainted with a long time ago when they were both modelling for the same designer.

“What I love about Bea is she was always so quietly hardworking, to the point where I was scared of her. I thought if I spoke to her, she would bite my hand off because she was so quiet. Then we became friends and I quickly realized she was the sweetest, most hardworking person ever,” she points out.

Determined not to go down without a fight in her very first pageant, Schmidt has devoted the last two years sharpening her arsenal. Apart from endless trainings, she’s done her research by watching all major pageants. On repeat.

She shares, “That’s what I would use as background music to study and workout.”

Schmidt, towering at 5’10”, is the only child of her mom who hails from Bacolod City and her dad who is from Frankfurt, Germany. Born in Hong Kong, she moved to Sydney, Australia, then Bacolod City, Germany, back to Hong Kong, and then Cebu in 2015.

“I’ve travelled to a lot of different places but I do consider myself a Cebuana at heart,” she says.

A model since she was 16, Schmidt has a Bilingual International Baccalaureate Diploma in English and German from the Cebu International School. She will soon be in her third year of online Law studies at a German university. To finance her education, she holds down two jobs teaching German as a foreign language.

Specializing in International Business Law, Schmidt intends to have behind-the-scenes contract type of work.

“I one day hope to travel the world and be an active lawyer in sales and things like that in many different companies. I don’t want to be restricted to one place because that’s just not who I am. That being said, I do hope to keep my roots in the Philippines.”

Another career option? To be a fair trade enterprise owner, specifically  a fashion company, where she compensates workers “fairly and appropriately for their work.”

“I would love to be the Google of the Philippines where there are like bean bags and cafeterias, emotional support dogs…you know something like that. That’s my biggest dream.”

Schmidt goes on to describe herself as a woman of determination. “I like to take my future into my hands which could be accounted to my anxiety. I plan things years in advance. Me joining MUP didn’t happen overnight. I’ve been thinking of it for years and years. When I want to make something happen, I make it happen. If I have a dream, I do everything in my power to grasp it. I don’t allow myself to be stopped. Only re-directed, as Catriona Gray would say.”

Calling her interests and hobbies as grandmotherly, Schmidt enjoys reading, cooking, baking, and crocheting. But burrowing her nose in a book and being by herself are what provides her the utmost comfort.

She likes to escape into the realm of fantasy novels, into the world of dragons and fairies. She’s also read plenty of dystopian novels and have, not in a few occasions, daydreamed of being the Katniss Everdeen of her people – fighting for them and leading them to freedom. And so when asked to name a personality she looks up to, Schmidt throws us the name of a Filipina school teacher and guerrilla commander who fought the Japanese in Tacloban during World War II.

“A group of people I look up to in general are the Filipina guerrilla fighters during World War II. One in particular would be Nieves Fernandez,” she says. “Sometimes we forget that these women exist in real life, in our history.”

“These are the women I’ve always looked up to – those who don’t leave things up to the men, want to claim their own power and fight for their own people regardless of what it takes. And she was really so resourceful in that fight for freedom.”

So far, Schmidt has placed in the Top 3 of MUP 2022’s Runway and Fashion Video Challenge, where she surprisingly made Colon St.’s busy intersection her very own runway.

“Other people were like, why would she do that? Like it’s dirty…And I told them, that was exactly my thought. As a Cebu representative, you don’t want to just highlight the beaches, the malls, the usual…you want to highlight what’s historic. You are an ambassador of not just what’s pretty in your city, but also what’s not. Not many people will speak of Colon in a positive light. I wanted that juxtaposition between the historical and the glamorous, being me.”

Schmidt describes the experience as a surreal moment. “You would think people would be angry,  honking at you and telling you to leave. But they were rolling down their car windows and taking a video. Everybody went silent. All I could hear were the drones and cameras clicking.”

“And then I kind of had a Catriona Gray moment where I did a turn, and you could hear Colon take a collective breath. And when I got to the end of my runway, they would wave and ask me for pictures.”

As for her advocacy, Schmidt supports a variety of causes such as feminism,  and climate crisis awareness. But what’s closest to her heart is campaigning for suicide prevention.

“To those in the pageant industry, those familiar with the sad passing of Miss USA Cheslie Kryst, Miss USA of Gazini Ganados’ batch…I am someone who struggles with depression, anxiety, and so many of those mental disorders. That was something I was always ashamed of up until I talked to a therapist.”

“And now I told myself that God gave me the strength to overcome any obstacle. I want to use that strength to help those who are not blessed with the same privileges and blessings I have.”

Asked what triggers her anxiety, Schmidt explains that she used to fear social interactions. “I’m sure you’ve felt at some point where you don’t want to speak to people, you don’t want to go out. But after the pandemic, it’s become much more internalized. For me, I have this insane amount of pressure on my shoulders, an insane amount of pressure on myself. When I crack, it’s really from my own expectations. I hold myself to such an impossible standard to begin with. When I don’t reach that impossible standard, I panic.”

How then, does she plan to survive in the lion’s den of pageantry? “I know a lot of people are curious how I’m going to survive with the bashers and the expectations. To those people, I say, if you’ve had depression and anxiety, nothing can hurt you because no words will hurt as much as your own.”

“In that sense, I’ve developed the mental fortitude that it takes to be a Miss Universe Philippines.”

MISS UNIVERSE PHILIPPINES

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