PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A teenager from Hood River is the first to represent Oregon in an international beauty pageant.
Leigh Labaclado competed in Miss Filipina Teen International in California in July. But she didn’t grow up dreaming about competing in the event. Leigh didn’t even consider entering the pageant until a few months before it took place.
Despite being relatively new to the scene, the 15-year-old placed third out of 20 other teens.
Miss Filipina Teen International is the only U.S.-Filipino pageant to be nationally televised for the past six years. It attracts candidates from around the globe, including France, Spain, Germany, Japan, Canada and Zambia.
Leigh used the pageant as a platform to talk about an issue she said she’s familiar with: hunger. Leigh said her family has struggled with poverty.
“One of my main focuses is to eradicate hunger because I’ve been through poverty and it’s been a very challenging part of my life and through this pageant, share my awareness and that’s what I’m trying to do right now,” Leigh said.
Her personal experiences helped motivate her to take the plunge into the world of pageantry.
“I was like ‘this is it, I can’t go back and I’m ready to shine,'” Leigh said.
Representing not just the state of Oregon but her small town of Hood River is a special accomplishment for Leigh, who hopes to one day become a neurosurgeon.
“There’s not a lot of representation from Hood River and as one of the women who get to represent Hood River and Filipino women — it’s mind-blowing and means a lot to me.”
The teen said she’s also proud to embrace her island nation homeland.
“When I moved here, I felt very isolated,” Leigh said. “Through this pageant, I learned so much more about my culture and what it feels like to be Filipina and the true essence of a Filipina woman.”
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