Apriel Smith: ‘The girl who tri­umphed over bul­lies’


Cebu Daily News - - FRONT PAGE - by Cris Evert Lato-Ruf­folo

SHE WAS a shy and timid girl walk­ing the street of Es­cario in 2007 to ful­fill house­hold er­rands.

Ten years af­ter, Apriel Smith took her in­au­gu­ral walk as the first Binib­in­ing Cebu ti­tle­hold-

er, a crown she earned af­ter best­ing 53 ladies from all over Cebu province.

On pageant night last Satur­day, Smith stood out in a sea of women who wore the same white fig­ure-hug­ging long gown made of se­quined fab­ric that was de­signed by mas­ter cou­turier Cary San­ti­ago.

She was a vi­sion of re­gal beauty: pol­ished, com­posed and ap­peared sure of her vic­tory.

It was not ev­i­dent that the 22year-old model was once bul­lied and crit­i­cized for her dusky com­plex­ion and kinky hair. DIS­COV­ERY Danny Booc, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Ozar Model Philip­pines, was Smith’s fairy god­mother who saw her po­ten­tial in 2007 while she was buy­ing bar­be­cue from a side­walk ven­dor.

“My pre­vi­ous (dress) shop was lo­cated on Es­cario. Her fam­ily lived on Es­cario, about one block away. We were prac­ti­cally neigh­bors,” re­called Booc, who has been in the busi­ness as a top model agent for 17 years although he has been in the fash­ion in­dus­try for three decades now.

Booc ap­proached Smith and asked her if she wants to be­come a model.

Smith, then 12 years old and al­ready stand­ing at 5 feet 7 inch- es, ex­pressed in­ter­est in be­com­ing one.

“I saw that she was not con­fi­dent and un­sure of her­self. But I told her to come to the shop and bring a pair of heels,” he said.

Smith brought with her a pair of worn-out high heels and Danny pa­tiently nur­tured the as­pir­ing model and trans­formed her to the stun­ning beauty queen that she is now. ACES & QUEENS In the next 10 years, the BS Tourism un­der­grad­u­ate won a cou­ple of beauty pageants namely Miss Du­man­jug 2011, Miss Cebu City Olympics 2012, Sin­u­log Fes­ti­val Queen 2012 and Miss Ba­dian 2015.

But she was also a run­ner up in sev­eral other pageants which was dom­i­nated by mes­ti­zas, ac­cord­ing to Booc.

Smith fin­ished as a third run­ner-up in Miss Man­daue 2013 and first run­ner-up in Reyna ng Ali­wan 2017.

In 2016, she braved the na­tional pageant wa­ters through Binib­in­ing Pilip­inas and landed in the Top 15.

She was in the same batch as Maria Gi­gante, who failed to se­cure a spot in the Top 15.

The two beauty queens “met again” in the first stag­ing of Binib­in­ing Cebu rep­re­sent­ing Ba­dian and Ban­tayan, re­spec­tively.

While Smith won the top crown, Gi­gante fin­ished in third place and went home with the Binib­in­ing Cebu Char­ity crown.

Though she did not ad­vance to the fi­nal round for Binib­in­ing Pilip­inas, Smith caught the picky at­ten­tion of the Aces and Queens beauty camp top­billed by Jonas Gaf­fud.

Aces and Queens is the same beauty camp which trained Miss Uni­verse 2015 Pia Wurtzbach and for­mer Miss Uni­verse pageant run­ners-up Ja­nine Tu­gonon, Sham­cey Sup­sup and Venus Raj. SURE WIN Two days be­fore the corona­tion night, Booc said Smith was un­usu­ally quiet. He at­trib­uted it to the mount­ing pres­sure that was pil­ing up on her.

Booc vis­ited churches and mo­bi­lized prayer war­riors to in­ter­cede for Smith’s suc­cess­ful per­for­mance.

On corona­tion night, he ap­proached Smith and told her that “Je­sus has an ex­tra spe­cial gift for you on your birth­day.”

As it turned out, the gift was the Binib­in­ing Cebu 2017 crown, which was placed on her head a few min­utes af­ter mid­night when she was an­nounced as the win­ner.

It also hap­pened to be her 22nd birth­day.

“This is a big win for us be­cause we worked hard for this. Apriel went on a diet, pre­pared and trained her­self to be in her best form. We went through sev­eral brain­storm­ing ses­sions with the help of the team from Manila. We dis­cussed styling, makeup, im­age,” ex­plained Booc.

Booc ad­mires Smith for her hu­mil­ity and loy­alty.

“Cary San­ti­ago told me about how grounded and down-toearth Apriel is. There were so many camps who wanted to take her away from me but she re­mained loyal. She has been with me for 10 years and in those 10 years, I have seen her grow and trans­form,” Booc ex­pressed.

Con­sult­ing with the Aces and Queens team, Booc said Smith will com­plete her reign as Binib­in­ing Cebu un­til a new queen is crowned in 2018. She is ex­pected to make a Binib­in­ing Pilip­inas come­back in 2019 or 2020.

“We are look­ing at the trends and the cal­iber of the can­di­dates. Apriel her­self said that she needs to grow more to com­pete for Binib­in­ing Pilip­inas,” said Booc.

For now, Booc is a proud men­tor to the once-inse­cure 12year-old girl who opened the doors of his shop with her head bowed down.

To­day, that girl proudly raises her head up, con­fi­dent to face the world armed with the courage and en­thu­si­asm of a woman who emerged tri­umphant from a long bat­tle against bul­ly­ing and self-doubt.


APRIEL Smith with han­dler, Danny Booc BLOW­ING kisses for the birth­day girl, Binib­in­ing Cebu 2017 Apriel Smith (cen­ter)

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