MANILA – The lights dimmed and the screen on stage came to life. A voice began to narrate Jessy Mendiola's journey from a relative newcomer to her rightful place at the summit of FHM Philippines' "Sexiest Women in the World" list.
It was the moment the predominantly male crowd inside the packed Valkyrie night club in Taguig had been waiting hours for. Laser lights, booming music and a couple of smoke cannons signaled her arrival.
Clad in a revealing fire red outfit, which undoubtedly reminded everyone of her famous "Maria Mercedes" role, the actress rose from her throne and made her way closer to her adoring fans, many of whom had their smartphones up and recording.
All hail the new queen of sexy.
Mendiola defeated the likes of Jennylyn Mercado, Nadine Lustre, Rhian Ramos and Solenn Heussaff for the right to be proclaimed as the "sexiest" Filipina. Her reward: a chance to silence her critics, especially those body-shaming haters she came across months ago.
Shedding her shy persona, she danced, she waved, and she blew kisses. As awkward as it may seem --Mendiola appeared to have forgotten a few moves of the choreography and generally looked uncomfortable by her own admission-- her place on the stage, she said, proves that anyone can be considered sexy.
Mendiola, a fitting queen for a magazine aiming to reinvent the definition of sexy for Filipinos, is right to a certain extent. However, everyone knew that only one can occupy the title she currently holds; a title that meant she has as much loving fans as she has detractors; a title that also gives her a needed confidence boost that allows her to feel more at home alongside the likes of Marian Rivera and Angel Locsin.
"Kung si Pia Wurtzbach eh confidently beautiful with a heart, tayo ay confidently sexy with a heart," she asserted, referring to the iconic answer of the country's first Miss Universe in four decades.