Sat. Jan 29th, 2022
Pia is taking her sweet time in taking on offers for now, besides endorsements and her popular podcast ‘Between Us Queens.’ | PIAWURTZBACH INSTAGRAM PHOTOS

By Nika Roque, The Manila Times

When she was crowned Miss Universe in 2015, Pia Wurtzbach was on the top of the world.

However, in a Ted Talk posted on her YouTube channel titled, “15 Minutes with Pia: You are Not Alone”, she opened up about her past and mental health struggles, which include anorexia and self-harming.

Wurtzbach started her talk by talking about her rough childhood. When her father left their family when she was nine years old, Wurtzbach recalled that she started working and became the family breadwinner at 11 as a model and actress. Wurtzbach added that she was still a struggling actress by the time she reached her 20s, citing that the salary was low especially when one is young and starting out. But with these challenges, the queen noted that she learned the value of money and good work ethics, which made her mature and responsible.

The 32-year-old also talked about her first relationship, which was an abusive and manipulative one. The boyfriend made her quit her job and stop seeing her friends. After making the brave decision to break up with him, Wurtzbach then jumped into her passion for pageants.

“I decided to join Binibining Pilipinas or Miss Philippines but even that was far from easy. I wasn’t welcome in the space because I’m only half-Filipino and I have a foreign-sounding last name. And of course, I was teased to death at being a failed actress who was now trying her bet at a beauty pageant,” she shared.

It can be remembered that Wurtzbach lost during her first and second times in the competition. During this time, she had no money, was sleeping in friends’ houses, and even slept in her car when she had no home.

“But I never stopped fighting for my dream,” she said.

Third time’s the charm for Wurtzbach when she took the risk of competing again and won the top prize of Miss Universe Philippines. “That chapter of my life taught me the value of perseverance, determination, being tenacious, unshakeable, and tough.”

When she competed on Miss Universe, Wurtzbach said that she felt the “weight of the country on [her] shoulders,” given that it had been 42 years since the Philippines won.

Following her crowning, Wurtzbach remains as the top choice to be an ambassador for important organizations that focus on HIV/AIDS, women empowerment, and climate change, she endorses multiple brands, stars in movies, and hosts shows and podcasts.

“It sounds like the dream life, doesn’t it? Girl joins a beauty pageant, wins it, almost didn’t, and moves on with her life doing amazing things. But seriously now, I tell you this, the struggle was so real,” Wurtzbach said.

Although it was one her the “most rewarding experiences,” Wurtzbach shared that it was not a smooth sailing journey. “Behind that night, the crown, the gowns, the smiles, and all the success, it masked all the struggles that were happening in [my head] and in [my heart].”

She continued, “From the outside, it looked like the perfect fairytale ending to a lifelong struggle of family breaking apart, financial struggles, and dreams being pushed away. Yes, maybe from afar it did look perfect, but the reality was far from it.”

Wurtzbach revealed that Miss Universe winners were given a psychiatrist “because you need that. When your life is suddenly changed overnight, you need help.”

She became Miss Universe after 42 years of the Philippines failing to win the crown. | PIAWURTZBACH INSTAGRAM PHOTOS

It was during those times when Wurtzbach was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Major Depression. “All of the pain and the suffering I endured all my life caught up to me and manifested itself in an ugly, self-destructive way.”

She added, “I never faced or acknowledged when I was sad because when you’re struggling to make ends meet, you don’t think about yourself anymore. There’s no time to think about how you feel.

“And when the whole country is looking at you, there’s no time to worry about your personal interests. There’s no time to think about your mental health.”

Wurtzbach noted that she has high-functioning anxiety because she never missed a day of work.

“But as soon as the doors of my room closed, I was a different person. The thoughts, the doubt, the worry in my head were larger than the cheers.”

She explained, “I had unhealthy coping habits — plural. And I’ll say it straight up. I became anorexic and I was self-harming. I was pulling my hair, a condition called trichotillomania. And in the four corners of my room, I also abused alcohol.

“I was deteriorating. I would just sit there, dwelling in my pain, crying. I felt so alone. It was nothing like the life people thought I had. I realized that all of the things I didn’t address when I was younger came back to me in a big and harmful way. You can’t explain it no matter how successful you become.”

Wurtzbach added that all her life, she felt that she had to please people and be the Miss Universe everyone expected her to be to avoid disappointment of the country and the people around her.

“Imagine being celebrated as a strong, determined, independent woman, but deep inside you’re going through that? I felt like a fraud.”

Thankfully, the Miss Universe Organization treated Wurtzbach like family and saw what she was going through.

The organization discreetly set up the help and support that she needed, and introduced her to medical professionals. Wurtzbach ended up going to multiple therapy sessions in New York and Los Angeles.

“I was lucky. Under the care of the president of the organization who was a woman, I was able to keep my privacy during this very difficult time. And I think that’s important — that you’re not forced into healing and that you’re going through it at your own pace and at your own time,” she added.

Despite all that she went through, Wurtzbach remained determined to fulfill her mission as Miss Universe and face her demons.

“In this next chapter of my life, I feel like breaking free from all of the things everybody thought I should be,” she said.

Choosing to go public with her mental health struggles for the first time, Wurtzbach said that it is because she wants to be known as a real person and not as a perfect beauty queen. She also said that not everyone is as privileged as her and that she wanted to use her platform to normalize mental conversations and erase the stigma.

“There’s no shame in admitting that you aren’t perfect and there’s no shame in admitting that you need help,” she noted.

In ending, the queen said, “Whoever you are and whatever you’ve been through, you are not alone. Talking about your struggles is okay. I’m proud and happy that I can finally talk to you about mine.

“In this next chapter of your life, choose you this time. That regardless of the struggles, regardless of your imperfections and missteps, it’s what [inside] that matters. I want to remind you to stay true to yourself and to your purpose. And I hope you do it with all your heart.”

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