Michelle Dee ensured the Philippines won't go home empty-handed after her respectable semifinal exit in the 72nd Miss Universe in El Salvador on November 19 (Manila time).
Dee delivered as expected. Her impressive showing from the preliminary round until the coronation night earned the country a return to the Top 10. This was after Miss Universe Philippines 2022 Celeste Cortesi went unplaced, ending the Pearl of the Orient's 12-year streak of placement in the grandest, most prestigious beauty pageant globally.
Despite missing the question and answer (Q&A) portion after failing to qualify, MMD, her full name initials, Dee brought home three accolades that proved her excellence and dedication to raising the Philippine flag in international pageantry.
On top of the awards she won was becoming one of the three Golden Awardees of the Voice for Change category, alongside Miss Angola Ana Coimbra and Miss Puerto Rico Karla Guilfú.
Dee advocated for autism acceptance, inclusivity, and empowerment. It was a close-to-heart advocacy, according to the 28-year-old actress-model, as her two brothers are on the autism spectrum. Besides, the reigning Miss Universe Philippines was named goodwill ambassador of the Autism Society Philippines in 2019.
In her video entry, Dee spoke about the inclusion of individuals with autism in a diverse and sustainable workplace where they can thrive and reach their full potential, emphasizing the United Nations' sustainable development goal (SDG) of creating opportunities for everyone.
She also became the fourth recipient of the Spirit of Carnival award presented to her by Carnival Cruise Line President Christin Duffy.
“Inspired by her two siblings with autism, Michelle has made autism acceptance, inclusivity, and education her mission. At Carnival, we want everyone on our ships to feel welcome, and we were the first and only cruise line to be certified as sensory inclusive,” Duffy said. “I know 13,000 Filipino crew members are going to be very excited by her selection.”
Dee followed the footsteps of Miss Universe Ukraine Viktoriia Apanasenko, Miss Universe Bahamas Chantel O’Brian, and Miss Universe Dominican Republic Kimberly Jimenez.
Moreover, the daughter of Miss International 1979 Melanie Marquez and first cousin of Reina Hispanoamericana 2017 Winwyn Marquez bagged Miss U's Fan Vote Award.
Yet, what truly set Dee gleaming was her exemplary grace after defeat, accepting the results without hate towards others.
“We did what we could but destiny has greater things for us! Everything ALWAYS happens for a reason!” she wrote on Instagram.
Even if Filipinos want her to hold the mic and feast on the Q&A segment, she reminded us that love and kindness must come first above anything else.
“Love and kindness over everything!” Dee said to her passionate, loyal fans via her IG broadcast channel.