MANILA -- Beauty queen and actress Michelle Dee is taking control of her narrative after photos from her teenage years resurfaced on social media, leading the public to question her sexuality.
The newly crowned Miss Universe Philippines appears on the cover of Mega Magazine, where she revealed to the public for the first time that she is bisexual.
"I definitely identify myself as bisexual. I've identified with that for as long as I can remember. I’m attracted to all forms of beauty, all shapes and sizes," she said.
Dee said she was advised to come out during her time as a Miss Universe Philippines 2023 candidate but she declined, saying she would rather shift the focus to her advocacy for autism awareness.
"My identity is not what I want to be remembered for. I felt like coming out during the competition would shock everyone, and cloud everyone's judgment," she said, stressing that she has "so much more to offer to the world and the universe than how I identify myself."
And while she initially wanted to do things "within my own timeline," Dee felt the need to set the record straight as a public figure to empower others.
She acknowledged that her teenage photos, which circulated after she won the Miss Universe Philippines 2023 crown, were meant to bring her down.
"I want to come out with this story because I know that those photos were spread with malicious intent -- to kind of distract me, make me feel I'm not worthy of the crown," she explained.
Dee continued: "I acknowledge that it was so malicious that I felt -- and this applies to everyone -- when somebody takes away your story, then you should take control of that narrative. Turn it around and make it an empowering story."
"So that's what I’m doing. I feel that it's so important when somebody tries to knock you down and use your past against you. We all have to realize that we’ve come such a long way to just let our past define us. Again, how old was I? That was 2014, and it’s 2023."
According to Dee, growing up with "empowered and strong" individuals like her mother, Miss International 1979 Melanie Marquez, made an impact on her.
She said she was never confronted by her parents and close friends about her sexuality, and that she was "getting positive feedback just by being myself."
"My mom would say, 'O, anak, when I was young, I had five girlfriends.' She'd teased me sometimes because I had a very boyish demeanor. I liked doing sports; my sister did ballet. So I grew up in an environment where we'd appreciate pogi, maganda," she recalled.
Dee went on to share that even before revealing to the public that she is bisexual, she has always been an advocate for the LGBTQIA+ community.
"For as long as I can remember," she said. "Even before coming out, I've been attending pride marches. I have too many friends and best friends in the community. I've been a loud and proud ally. It's just that I never gave a confirmation."