It was an 8-year journey for a Fil-Am beauty queen and now the Miss USA crown is closer than ever for Suzanne Perez.
The 25-year-old, who is pursuing her masters at Eastern New Mexico University, took home the Miss New Mexico USA crown and became the first Filipina to win the title.
"Miss USA, Miss Universe has always been my #1 dream, my #1 goal. I remember watching Miss USA in 2016 and just looking at those girls like they were the most amazing empowering women, and I never thought I would become one of those girls, but I know God planted that dream in my heart for a reason to keep going," Perez shared.
"I spent a lot of time training. I spent a lot of time developing my advocacy and through those eight years, even though I’ve lost more times than I’ve won, came in to fruition when I won Miss New Mexico USA as the first Filipina to win the title as well."
The Southern California native with roots in Bislig City, Surigao Del Sur has spent a third of her life competing in pageants mostly in the Southern California area. But for Perez, competing in a new home state presented its own set of challenges.
"A lot of girls that competed at Miss New Mexico USA were returning girls. They were girls who won first runner up, second runner years in a row so they were coming for the crown. They knew the system really well. They knew everybody in New Mexico. However, I knew what they had to offer was very different from what I had to offer. Their beauty is different from my beauty, so I just really focused on myself, stayed true to who I was."
Over the years, the pageant world has also opened the doors for her advocacies. We first met her in January of 2020, shortly after she was crowned Miss World Philippines USA, when Perez spearheaded relief efforts for victims of the Taal volcanic eruption.
"The charity work I did throughout pageantry became my life, even without a crown I knew that all the charity work I had been doing and continue doing had been a part of my life no matter what. I went to school to become a speech linguist pathologist because I wanted to turn my passion for advocating for the minorities and my career," she said.
Now, she'll get to carry those advocacies, along with her Pinay pride in the preparations towards Miss USA. For the next month, she’ll be joining the other Miss USA contestants for a series of events from make up and sponsor visits along with pageant training. The Miss USA pageant does not have a date yet but is expected to take place later this year.