“Hopefully, I'll give my best. I'll have fun and I can bring home any award. It doesn't matter.”
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In a remarkable display of talent, and advocacy for good causes, two young Filipina contestants based in Qatar, Francesca Concepcion and Nia Janella Incabo, captivated the audience and judges at the 'Princess of the Universe' beauty competition held in the United Kingdom. Nia emerged victorious, claiming the prestigious title, while Francesca was awarded the coveted First Runner-Up prize.
Francesca: from hobby to passion
Born in Qatar, first runner-up Francesca is a budding 16-year-old model. Her modelling journey began as a hobby but she gradually developed a passion for the profession. While Francesca didn't take modelling seriously at the beginning, over the years her love for the craft led her to participate in fashion shows and photoshoots in Qatar.
When Francesca and her family first heard about the ‘Princess of the Universe’ competition, they were not initially sure about it. “It was very new to me,” she recalls.
After revisiting the idea, she decided that it would be a good opportunity to pursue it. Before travelling to the UK for the competition, she told SCENES, “Hopefully, I'll give my best. I'll have fun and I can bring home any award. It doesn't matter.”
Francesca's passion for animal welfare
With an opportunity to choose her own advocacy, Francesca's dedication to animal welfare shone through. "Animal welfare is so close to my heart. It has always been on my mind and has been a part of my life," she emphasises.
Francesca picked animal welfare because she has always supported different animal rescue centres in Qatar. “I've been to a lot of shelters in Qatar,” says Francesca. “My whole entire family will be part of spaying and neutering stray animals, so it lessens the homeless animals here in Qatar,” she adds.
Catriona’s impact on Nia
Born and raised in the UK but with Filipino heritage, Nia, 18, moved to Qatar at the age of 11. Initially uninterested in modelling, Nia's perspective changed as she grew older.
Her passion for pageantry and professional modelling stems from her admiration for Miss Universe 2018, Catriona Gray. “Catriona Gray has been a role model for me,” Nia expresses. “Her dedication and advocacy for children resonate deeply with my passion for empowering children with disabilities," she adds.
Nia raising awareness for special needs
Inspired by her connection to her younger brother Dominic, who has Down syndrome, Nia’s advocacy focused on empowering children with disabilities. Witnessing Dominic's resilience and infectious positivity, Nia became passionate about breaking societal stereotypes surrounding children with disabilities. She wants to highlight what she says is, “their incredible potential.”
She believes that every child deserves equal opportunities and recognition regardless of their abilities. “So many people underestimate these children, which breaks my heart. They can do so much more than what society deems them to be. I just want to help them and bring light to the situation,” she says.
Through her platform in the 'Princess of the Universe' beauty competition, Nia aimed to spread awareness about the challenges faced by children with disabilities and special needs.
“I want to give a voice to those who are often unheard and overlooked,” she states. “My brother Dominic has shown me that there is so much talent, strength, and beauty in these children, and it's time for the world to see it, too,” she adds.
The journey to the UK
Francesca and Nia expressed their excitement when they arrived in the United Kingdom for the contest. “As soon as we got here in London, I've already felt the good energy,” Francesca told SCENES on Day-1.
Following two days of performances by the beauty pageant contestants, the much-anticipated announcement day arrived. As the tension reached their peak, Nia was crowned winner of the 'Princess of the Universe' 2023.
“I just cannot believe that I've just won 'Princess of the Universe' 2023,” she said, overwhelmed with joy. “I'm so excited for where this path will take me,” she added.
Both contestants were grateful for the non-stop support from their families, friends, and the Filipino community in Qatar and the UK.
A promising future
With the crown now adorning her head, Nia envisions a future where she can establish a charity dedicated to children with special needs and disabilities. “It's a long-term view of mine, and I feel with this title and this crown, I'll be able to do it,” she states.
Francesca and Nia's performances in the contest demonstrate their talent, determination, and commitment to making a difference. Their chosen advocacies, animal welfare, and children with disabilities reflect their compassionate nature. Back in Qatar, they inspire others to follow their dreams and contribute to meaningful causes, proving that age is not a barrier to making an impact.