Pia Wurtzbach admits being anorexic, harming self during reign as Miss Universe in 2015

Karl Cedrick Basco, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 11 2021 12:58 PM | Updated as of Dec 13 2021 12:46 AM

Photo from Pia Wurtzbach's YouTube channel
Photo from Pia Wurtzbach's YouTube channel

MANILA— For the first time, Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach spoke in detail about battling inner demons during her reign that led her to self-harming and anorexia. 

In her first-ever TED talk, Wurtzbach stripped herself of all attributes expected of beauty queens as she narrated how she hid her mental health problems while fulfilling her duties as Miss Universe. 

According to one of the most celebrated Filipina queens, her life after winning the coveted crown was far from the fairy-tale ending that people thought it was.

“Maybe from afar it did look perfect, but the reality was far from it. What happens is when you win Miss Universe, you're usually given a psychiatrist because you need that. When your life is suddenly changed overnight, you need help,” she revealed on TEDxSingapore uploaded on her YouTube channel Friday.

Wurtzbach, who received thousands of death threats, said that she was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder and major depression after multiple sessions with medical experts. 

She went on to explain that her fame and the suffering she endured from her painful past caught up with her “and manifested itself in an ugly, self-destructive way.”

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Wurtzbach admitted that she never acknowledged that she was sad, especially during the time of her journey to the Miss Universe crown.

“When you struggle to make ends meet, you don't think about yourself anymore. When your family is dependent on you, there's no time to think about you. When the whole country is looking at you, there is no time to worry about your personal interest. There's no time to think about your mental health,” the beauty queen-actress quipped. 

So, despite struggling mentally, Wurtzbach pretended to be fine as she fulfilled her duties as Miss Universe – working nonstop and travelling to different countries. 

“Nobody saw it. I was always on time. I never missed a day of work and I just kept going. But as soon as the doors of my room closed, I was a different person,” she said.

It was during her alone time in her room, after a rigid work schedule, where doubts and worries covered the loud cheers. She was harming herself by pulling her hair and drinking too much alcohol. She also suffered from anorexia, an eating disorder where a person starves oneself.

“I had unhealthy coping habits. Plural. And I'll say it straight up. I became anorexic. 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,” Wurtzbach revealed. 

“I was deteriorating. I would just sit there dwelling in my pain, crying. I felt so alone. It was nothing like the people thought I had. I realized that all of the things that I didn't address when I was younger came back to me in a big and harmful way,” she added.

Wurtzbach said she decided to hide her personal battles to avoid disappointing the Philippines, where she was seen as a symbol of a strong and resilient woman.

“All my life my purpose was to please others, to fit in, to be the Miss Universe everybody wanted me to be. And so I kept it all to myself even though I was slowly deteriorating inside…Imagine being celebrated as a strong, resilient, determined woman, but deep inside you're going through that,” she bared. 

Fortunately, the Miss Universe organization discreetly helped her by bringing her to professionals in New York and Los Angeles.

The MUO gave her privacy during the difficult time and did not force her into healing. She was also thankful that they did not replace her as queen during the process. 

“I was determined to stay strong, to continue my mission, my purpose, and to turn things around. I wanted to face my demons and finally take care of my heart. Something I didn't do or never cared to do,” Wurtzbach said. 

As she opened up about her sufferings, Wurtzbach felt like she was finally breaking free from all the things everyone thought she should be.

“I want to paint a picture not of a perfect beauty queen, but of a real person with real-life experiences. There is no shame in admitting that you are not perfect. And there is no shame in admitting that you need help.”

Wurtzbach was the third Filipina to win the Miss Universe title, the first after a 42-year gap. Her crowning moment, however, was filled with controversies as host Steve Harvey named the wrong winner but later on corrected his mistake.