MANILA — Hannah Arnold, the newly crowned Binibining Pilipinas International, believes that Vickie Rushton would have won the title if she were still able to compete in the pageant.
Arnold mentioned Rushton on Tuesday, during the new set of queens’ first live interview with TV host Boy Abunda.
She was asked to name fellow candidates whom she considered her biggest competitors. Arnold identified Honey Cartasano and Karen Mendoza, who finished in the top 13.
“Before the pandemic, it was really Ate Vim, Vickie Rushton. She was Miss International,” Arnold added.
Rushton has had a storied pageant career. She was crowned Mutya ng Pilipinas International in 2011, placed first runner-up in the 2018 Binibining Pilipinas pageant, and then settled for a top 15 finish in its 2019 edition.
Rushton was an official candidate in the 57th edition of Binibining Pilipinas, which was originally scheduled in May 2020. The coronavirus pandemic, however, delayed the coronation night by over a year.
By the time it finally pushed through, Rushton was no longer eligible to compete due to age restrictions.
Rushton turned 29 in May.
Miss International’s eligibility rules include a candidate being no more than “28 years old by the pageant night.”
As recently as June, a month before the Binibining Pilipinas finale, Rushton said she was not yet ready “to let go of this dream.”
“But I know, I have to know that God has better plans,” she said at the time.
‘THIS IS DESTINY’
That Rushton was no longer in the running as Binibining Pilipinas International, opened a wider opportunity for her fellow candidates to claim the title.
For Arnold, winning the crown started feeling like “destiny” specifically during the Q&A portion of the finals night.
“Actually, when they were introducing the judges, I was fangirling a bit. But then I was thinking, if it’s Pinky Webb, it’s going to be something about fake news, free speech, or journalism,” she said, referring to the veteran broadcast journalist.
“During my evening gown I made a comment, ‘I’ve always had pink in my biggest milestones in life.’ So when I picked her name, and saw it said, ‘Pinky,’ I was like, ‘This is destiny, that she is part of my biggest milestone.’”
Arnold happened to wear pink, too — a bedazzled creation by Leo Almodal — for the evening gown competition.
It remains to be seen whether she will don pink anew in November 2021, at the finale of the Miss International pageant.
Arnold is hoping to bring home the seventh Miss International crown for the Philippines.
The country holds the number of most winners in the Japan-organized pageant. The six Filipino queens since 1964 are: Gemma Cruz, Aurora Pijuan, Melanie Marquez, Lara Quigaman, Bea Santiago, and Kylie Verzosa.
Asked whether she feels “pressured” by that fact, Arnold answered, “Actually, I’m excited.”
“Kylie, after the coronation night, she reached out to me. She said, ‘Hannah, if you need anything, just message me.’ I’m so excited to work with Kylie, even Lara. I’m excited. I think we can do it, because it’s really teamwork,” she said.
Prompted to re-introduce herself at the end of the interview, Arnold declared, “I am Hannah Arnold, our seventh Filipina to bring home the Miss International crown.”