“Beauty queens have a lifespan of three years.” That was one of the first few things Pia Wurtzbach heard when she was crowned as Miss Universe in 2015. That coronation moment was instantly iconic. And Pia’s sultry smize into the camera still feels like a lingering gaze. The viral memes that followed are on the Internet's hall of fame. It’s been eight years since then. And yet, Pia’s best-before date is nowhere in sight.
“You guys are going to be sick of me. There's no way I'm going to let this all just fade.” She says it so matter-of-factly on set, while she’s all glammed up and wearing a floor-length gown in her now-signature royal blue. It’s almost as if it was her winning answer to Steve Harvey’s final question. Whoever said that lifespan quote didn’t know what they were unleashing into the world—the universe, rather.
Just this year alone, Pia published her first novel entitled Queen of the Universe, launched it at the Manila International Book Fair, and rubbed elbows with the fashion elite in Milan and Paris. Oh, and she also got married and moved to Dubai.
Pia Wurtzbach for Cosmopolitan Philippines October 2023
That packed calendar doesn’t seem like it belongs to someone getting phased out of the industry. Instead, it’s the loaded itinerary of a beauty queen who, after letting others take the lead in her career, has finally taken the reins.
“Right before I was passing on my crown, I remember the president of Miss Universe, Paula Shugart, came to me and said, ‘You've got to prepare and really ask yourself: What does Pia want to do?’” she recalls. “That took a long time for me to figure out.”
Pia’s smizing eyes were fixed on the crown for a while so she didn’t see anything beyond it just yet. “It was a four-year journey because I kept losing a few times. I kept joining and joining,” she says, with the casual coolness of a sure bet, but with the mature humility of a true winner. “So for years, all I thought about was getting the crown. I never really prepared for the time where I have to give it up because [I was] too focused on getting it.”
On Pia: Dress by Rob Ortega
Then, she won; and her schedule was fully booked for the foreseeable future. “What people don't know is when you're a Miss Universe, you're actually like an employee. They tell you what you do for the day, and the next day, and for the week, for the month. You don't really get to have much of a say on what you wanna do because you work for them. That's how it works.”
Pia knew what she signed up for, though. “I really enjoyed my time. I loved that whole year. I never had a day where I was absent or I didn't go. I was in it 100%.” She didn’t take vacation leaves—which is why it was such a big change when it was time to turn over her duties.
She suddenly had to be her own boss and be more intentional with the things she’d do. It came with a lot of questions: “Do I wanna be an actress? Am I gonna be a host? Am I gonna be a model? Am I gonna go into business? Some women go into politics. Some women go and live a more low-key life and start a family.”
Eventually, she realized it was all up to her. “That's nobody else's decision to make but your own. That was the big difference.”
Pia’s life story already reads like a book, so it only made sense that she turned pageants into pages. Queen of the Universe tells the story of Cleo, a breadwinner and aspiring beauty queen trying to prove her worth despite life’s supposed setbacks. “I would love [it] if a [network] picked it up,” Pia says. “I'm already thinking about what Cleo's story is going to be like if I had the chance to continue it because a lot has changed since we finished it.”
On Pia: Dress by Malcah PH
As for who’s gonna play Cleo? Andrea Brillantes came to mind. “I feel like she would be the perfect age, the perfect mix of funny but also can be very glam. And just really an outgoing personality. And she's a good actress,” Pia says.
Pia’s foray into book publishing isn’t the only first she’s ticked off her career bucket list this year. Invites to fashion weeks in Paris and Milan are ever so elusive—but she finally found them in her hands, RSVP’d “yes.” She’s been to fashion week shows before, but only in New York during (and right after) her reign. That’s why she harbored doubts she’d be able to attend again.
And while we all know she’s confidently beautiful with a heart, it was an inspiring comfort to see that someone so regal still had to overcome her own relatable worries. She reveals, “Honestly, I thought that I wouldn't be able to do it because I wasn't a Miss Universe anymore. But it turned out, the opportunities are better now. I just had to give it a try.”
This isn’t the first time Pia graced the cover of Cosmopolitan Philippines. Back in April 2016, she shared that she didn’t want to be a stereotypical beauty queen. “I want to be remembered as the unconventional beauty queen—natural, humble, approachable.” She said that seven years ago, so we’ve been due for a check-in. Has she lived up to it? Truth be told, her understated but larger-than-life presence was already the answer.
Still, it had to come from her. “Do I think I'm an unconventional beauty queen? Yeah. But I'm still trying to break free.” She explains, “I do fit the mold of a beauty queen, I'm not going to lie. But when I was Miss Universe, I was really candid and I was trying to break away from this image of perfection and an unattainable kind of beauty.”
It’s exhausting to keep up the charade. “Di ko rin naman natural maging prim and proper or to rehearse. That's really not me. I would rather for people to like me, hopefully, for just who I am.”
She seems to have found that genuine trust in the people she surrounds herself with. “It's a big family, it's a big group. So I'm not doing all of this alone, of course. Team P is growing and I'm very happy with the people around me.”
It takes a village to become the multi-hyphenate that Pia is today. “I don't want to be seen as just a beauty queen. That's the thing. I want to be a few things and a beauty queen, not that first before other titles.” Her latest title? Mrs.
Pia and Jeremy Jauncey exchanged vows earlier this year at an intimate beach wedding ceremony. But she says not much has actually changed. “We're still in the same routine, where he's mostly based in Dubai and I'm here in the Philippines. So I fly to him, he flies to me, but our base together as a couple is in Dubai.”
Even with all the flying, though, there’s no flight risk when they’re so sure of each other. They’ve got their love languages on lock. Pia reveals that they’re both into quality time and words of affirmation. It makes sense because their favorite thing to do together is simply just walking and talking. “I feel really secure in the relationship. No matter what happens, no matter how busy life gets, how hectic work gets, I always have that person to go back to.”
If you’re one of her 14 million Instagram followers, then you’re probably already used to her gushing about Jeremy through her IYKYK captions complete with the side-eye emoji. “You guys get kilig, I get kilig too. You guys have green jokes sometimes? I also have some too,” she says with a laugh. “Come on. As long as it's harmless, and it can't be spun in a way, I'm just like, ‘Sige. Post na natin.’”
Similar to Pia’s commitment to Miss Universe, Jeremy knew what he was signing up for, too. “What I love about Jeremy, he just lets me do my thing.”
She recounts, “I told him, ‘I hope you don’t expect me to stop when we have kids one day. This is what keeps me going and keeps me happy.’ And he knows that. He doesn’t want me to stop, either.” In fact, he’s even guiding her for her upcoming projects.
“He's my mentor when it comes to business and entrepreneurship now that I'm starting my brand as well,” Pia says of Jeremy, who’s the CEO of his own award-winning content studio. “I'm also in the modeling and entertainment industry, so medyo magkaiba siya—but somehow complementary.”
On Pia: Gown by Anthony Ramirez
Much has changed with her daily routine, but Pia is still a staunch advocate for HIV/AIDS awareness. “I would love to be invited to the amfAR Gala at some point next year because I still work very closely with UNAIDS.” The prestigious charity event is held annually to raise money for AIDS research. “That would be a double-check as an advocate and as a fashion girl. I just love those events.”
There are also a few streaming series lined up for her that we’ll hear about soon enough. So it’s only a matter of time before she manifests the Queen of the Universe screen adaptation into reality—just like when she tweeted about winning the crown for the Philippines, months before she actually won. “Kalma lang guys. Ako bahala,” she declared.
“The universe is listening,” Pia says about her strong belief in manifestation. She’s made herself heard, loud and clear—and backs it up with her actions, too. “The little decisions you make every day have to go towards that big goal.”
These days, it’s not hard for her to make those little decisions anymore. No more endless questions about what she wants to be. She has a mantra now: “If it's not a hell yes, then it's not a yes. Ganun lang.”
It’s been one hell yes after another for Pia. And it won’t be ending anytime soon. After all, there’s no lifespan, no cutoff, no deadline when you’re a timeless queen.
“It stops when I want it to stop.”
PHOTOGRAPHY: Cenon at Mav
ART DIRECTION: Pau Moyano
HAIRSTYLING: Jeck Aguilar
WORDS BY: Ida Aldana
VIDEOS: Greeko Junio
Shot on location at One Hectare Creative Grounds
Special thanks to Ryan Amandy, fur dad of Vincy.
*Disclaimer: No animals were hurt in the production of this shoot.