We ex­plore the other lives of Laura Lehmann

We un­cover the var­i­ous di­men­sions of the beauty queen


In an­other ver­sion of this story, Laura Lehmann wouldn’t be a beauty queen. Af­ter all, she had been on the road to be­com­ing a doc­tor, if not for the op­por­tu­nity to join her first na­tional beauty con­test pre­sent­ing it­self when she was on va­ca­tion here from her stud­ies. “I stud­ied neu­ro­science and psy­chol­ogy. I wanted to be­come a pe­di­a­tri­cian,” she re­veals.

Back then in Los An­ge­les, she had been en­joy­ing the sim­ple, co-ed life: no tourist-y stuff, no pink Paul Smith wall self­ies—just daily meals of tacos and veg­gie wraps and a uni­form of white jeans and T-shirts. “I [lived] alone with no car, which you’d need to [get around] in L.A. I was just there to study and I lived on cam­pus.”

When her school re­quired her to take a se­mes­ter abroad, Lehmann faced the choice of ei­ther fly­ing back home to the Philip­pines or go­ing to Eng­land. Since she was home­sick, she chose the for­mer. Once here, dur­ing a din­ner, a fam­ily friend ad­vised her to join a beauty pageant. “I thought it was [a] crazy [idea],” Lehmann ad­mit­ted. She tried it any­way, in­trigued by some­thing com­pletely re­moved from the life that she knew; at the very least, she’d have a funny anec­dote to tell back in the States. “I was just hav­ing fun, which I think was one thing I did in­ten­tion­ally well. The other con­tes­tants were so stressed be­cause [to them] it was a big deal.”

But when she ended as first run­ner-up, what was sup­posed to be a month’s break was ex­tended into a year, what with the ac­com­pa­ny­ing obli­ga­tions of a ti­tle-holder. By that time, Lehmann was 20 years old—a ju­nior by beauty queen stan­dards. She then un­der­stood that if she wanted the top crown, she had to grow up. “You have to be ma­ture and have a lit­tle more ex­pe­ri­ence if you are go­ing to rep­re­sent mil­lions and mil­lions of peo­ple.” In­stead of try­ing again the fol­low­ing year to nab the ti­tle, like most as­pir­ing beauty queens do, she took a break.

Lehmann went back to school, this time at Ate­neo de Manila Univer­sity, where she got tapped to be­come a court­side re­porter—some­thing that hewed more closely to her old life. “When I was much younger, I used to play soft­ball. I was in the Philip­pine team so I was very sporty, very boy­ish,” she says. “My fa­vorite mem­ory from that time was com­pet­ing in the na­tion­als, when our team would go to prov­inces like Ca­banat­uan and Nueva Ecija. It was al­ways nice to travel, es­pe­cially when you’re still young, and all the other girls [are] with you.”

Lehmann was also a sort of a nerd by her own ad­mis­sion. “I was very stu­dious. When you’re a scholar, there’s pres­sure to main­tain a cer­tain grade level or else they would stop [spon­sor­ing] your school­ing.” She ex­celled in what she could, English be­ing her main strength, though math was a weak point. She also be­came class pres­i­dent. “I was be­hind the scenes, plan­ning the events, never the one host­ing.” She was also a bal­le­rina, hence her Miss World per­for­mance of Tu­loy Pa Rin.

It’s clear that early on, Lehmann’s path had been pretty much set. “My life was re­ally planned for academia.” Un­til, of course, that din­ner sug­ges­tion.

There was a time when she could have turned back, though. Lehmann’s court­side gig had led her to host two other shows. In 2016, she be­came the main girl at Up­front with UAAP and she also went around the coun­try for Listed. From some­one who knew what it felt both to be pop­u­lar and to work in the side­lines, Lehmann was slowly be­com­ing ac­cus­tomed to life in the small screen spot­light, and she could have eas­ily stuck there.

At the back of her mind, though, was the con­stant ques­tion of pur­pose, and be­ing a beauty queen un­ex­pect­edly pro­vided her an an­swer. “I have al­ways wanted to help peo­ple. It’s why I wanted to be­come a doc­tor [in the first place]. I love how beauty queens make peo­ple happy by just be­ing there. Put a politi­cian and a beauty queen in one room, and peo­ple are go­ing to lis­ten to the beauty queen [more].” She her­self had the same re­ac­tion

“The crown doesn’t do any­thing but give me a voice. I am still the same per­son, ex­cept more peo­ple lis­ten to me now.”

dur­ing her first pageant ex­pe­ri­ence, where she got a glimpse of Pia Wurtzbach on her way to her his­toric win. “The girls that I met [dur­ing the pageant] were so much more than I had thought. They were re­ally hard­work­ing, and they were in the pageant for good rea­sons.

“When you join Miss World, you have ad­vo­ca­cies that you bring; mine was PREP: Pro­mot­ing Ru­ral Ed­u­ca­tion in the Philip­pines,” she con­tin­ues. “It was started by one of my high school teach­ers. Ba­si­cally, we visit ru­ral el­e­men­tary schools and we teach them les­sons that they usu­ally don’t get be­cause their cur­ricu­lum is so lim­ited. What makes it sus­tain­able is that we [also] build li­braries for the schools so even af­ter we’ve left, [the chil­dren will still have aca­demic re­sources].”

This is fur­ther ex­panded by the Miss World or­ga­ni­za­tion’s ad­vo­cacy to help out the Jose Reyes Me­mo­rial Hos­pi­tal—the rea­son why Lehmann, now 24, at­tempted to have a go at the ti­tle once more. “I like the pageant be­cause the win­ner would get to in­ter­act with kids and visit char­i­ties.”

Lehmann ac­knowl­edges, though, that the ti­tle doesn’t de­fine her; rather, it re­in­forces what she had set out to do in life. “The crown doesn’t do any­thing but give me a voice. I am still the same per­son, ex­cept more peo­ple lis­ten to me now.” In any ver­sion of her life, one thing would be con­stant: she’d work on be­com­ing a per­son of im­pact, some­one who likes to reach out to peo­ple and make a dif­fer­ence. “[Be­ing a beauty queen] is so dif­fer­ent from what I used to do and what I had thought I’d end up do­ing, but there was still some­thing in me that wanted more than what I was do­ing and where I was go­ing. So part of me thinks [be­ing a beauty queen] is [my] destiny.”

Cover photo by Joseph Pas­cual

Pink wool coat, H&M Stu­dio, SM Mega­mall

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