Filipina Beauty Contestant Stuns Audience By Coming Out On Stage

"I will never hesitate to tell people about my sexuality."

A contestant surprised judges at a Filipino beauty pageant when she revealed she was queer during the interview portion of the contest.

Maria Izobel Taguiam, 17, was representing Tabogon, a city in Cebu, at the Binibining Cebu pageant on October 28 when she was asked if she had a boyfriend.

“Yes, but not a boyfriend but a girlfriend,” Taguiam told Miss Earth 2008 Karla Henry. “Because I believe love does not see gender and if you love that someone, go for it.”

On Twitter, users praised the teen’s bravery and openness.

Same-sex marriage is not recognized in the Philippines, but LGBT visibility and advocacy have expanded over the last decade: Earlier this year, a Filipino man, John Raspado, was crowned Mr. Gay World 2017.

Taguiam met her girlfriend, MJ Lequin, through mutual friends five months ago.

“I’m just proud to have her,” she told Cebu Daily News in a post-pageant interview. “I just want to tell people it is indeed okay to love someone regardless of gender… She’s someone worth loving, she has a beautiful soul.”

Although she didn’t make it past the Top 12, Taguiam wrote on Facebook page that the pageant gave her an experience she’ll never forget. “I will never hesitate to tell people about my sexuality. I wanted to be honest and I don’t want to say things I don’t really mean.”

Lequin shared a post of her own, celebrating Taguiam as the contest’s true winner.

Taguiam says she’ll continue modeling and pursuing pageants in the future, but right now she’s focused on finishing her education at Southwestern University in Cebu City.

Trish Bendix is a Los Angeles-based writer.