Princess of the Universe 2021

JEANELLE SPITERI, Malta, First Runner-up

The second edition of Princess of the Universe, an online modeling competition for kids five to 17 years old which started at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, finally pushed through. Unica Raija A. de Vera, a 12-year-old from Qatar, emerged as the winner for 2021. Rungravee Chimchanveck of Thailand won in 2020.

Unica’s dad Ricardo is an engineer at the Ministry of the Interior while mom Jeannie works at Qatar Investment. Her court is composed of Jeanelle Spiteri, 15, first runner-up, Best in Haute Couture and Best in Creative Shot; and Chanel Xerri, 8, second runner-up and Princess of the Catwalk awardee. Both hail from Malta.

“The purpose of the competition is to provide a platform for aspiring models around the world. Aside from being the Princess of the catwalk, each candidate is given an opportunity to become the voice of their own advocacy, such as environmental care, equal opportunities for children, and opposing child labor,” explains Mitch Desunia, the international fashion designer at the helm of the pageant.

I was part of the selection committee, along with Fil-Brit model/beauty queen Kacey Coleen, Polish fashion CEO Adrianna Mituniewicz, and Icelandic fashion designer Sigrún Björk Ólafsdóttir. We were tasked to assess the kids’ poise, appearance and modeling skills. The rest of the scores came from online votes.

Each candidate submitted slick and sweet videos of themselves sashaying, preening and flaunting their catwalk skills, wearing casual wear, formal gowns and national costumes. Special citations were given to Boukendoul Paris Alya of Malaysia (Ambassador of Goodwill Award), Akesha Suelan of Canada (Most Photogenic); Nicole Phemika Boonkaeo of Thailand (Face of the Year); Julicita Caroline Aca Powers of USA (Best in Catwalk); Marshaniswah of Indonesia (Best in Introduction Video); Yna Reyes of the Philippines (Most Promising Model); Angel Jane Ote of the United Kingdom (Most Glamorous Award); Athalia Badere of the Philippines (Most Inspiring); and Tikompron Utansut of Thailand (Best Dressed).

As a brand which operates in Manila and London, Mitch Desunia advocates for women and children. As such, the company sees Princess of the Universe as an opportunity to create a platform for girls who want to become fashion models someday. Every reigning Princess will embody this purpose.

As the winner, Unica will be flown to New York and will walk for the Mitch Desunia Collection during fashion week in September. She will also be featured on a billboard along Times Square in New York City. Rungravee, the 2020 winner whose New York stint was canceled due to Covid, will also join Unica.

“Being Princess of the Universe, the winner has to maintain a good moral character, continue to become an inspiration to other girls who wish to become a model someday, and practice and document her advocacy,” Desunia adds.

Once the pandemic is over, Desunia intends to hold the Princess of the Universe modeling competition as a live event: “We have so many exciting plans for the competition. One thing is for sure—Princess of the Universe will soon become the talk of fashionistas across the globe, the universe rather.”

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