The Gist


For a race that's generally brown-skinned, Filipinos could be pretty discriminatory against people based on the color of their skin. This is emphasized in the number of insulting comments beauty queen Nova Stevens received from our countrymen just because of her complexion.

/ 10 May 2021

Competitions like Miss Universe are opportunities to showcase the diverse faces of women around the world, with different skin colors, cultures, and races coming together in a celebration of global beauty. However, a recent incident showed the ugly side of these international competitions, particularly the ignorance and discrimination people of color face from individuals who see their beauty as lesser. This is the case with Nova Stevens, the Miss Universe candidate representing Canada in the upcoming pageant, who recently went on Instagram to call out all the racist comments she’s been receiving due to the color of her skin.

Photo via IG: @thenovastevens


Notably, all the comments she included in her post are from Filipino users, with comments like “akala ko engkanto” (I thought she was a ghost), “parang hindi siya tao” (it’s like she’s not human), and so many more racist remarks against the color of her skin. Although Miss Canada emphasized that she’s not generalizing all Filipinos as racists—these comments just so happen to be ones she keeps receiving—it’s pretty alarming to see how our countrymen see women with darker skin colors.

“This post is not a generalization, which is why I said “some”. Also I was not sure of the language these comments are from until reading some of the comments. In case it’s not clear. I don’t think all Filipinos are racist. That would be ridiculous to say. This picture with texts was constantly being sent to me recently which is why I shared it. I’m well aware that there are multiple countries that think this way. I’m sharing this as a teaching moment so that we can make Pageants fun and enjoyable for all.”

There’s always been a serious issue of “colorism” in the Philippines, as in the blatant bias towards lighter skinned individuals than darker skinned ones. This is apparent in the fact that we have so many whitening products and advertisements painting morena skin tones as something to overcome, the fact that most of our biggest local celebrities are stars with mixed heritage (usually Caucasian) and just the general appreciation for fairness in a society that’s generally naturally brown. This could be attributed to the centuries of colonial rule over the Philippines, with fairer races being seen as the “superior” people for so long a time. Even after colonialism, our grandparents still bore this mindset, trickling down to the generations that followed up until today.

It’s this context that paints the whole incident with Stevens in a whole different light, because it also tells so much of the beauty standards we put our own women against. On top of it being a racist ideology, it’s also incredibly harmful for individuals within our own community.


The sad reality is that Filipinos generally see whiteness as the standard for beauty, when most of us are naturally darker skinned due to our tropical weather and cultural lifestyles. In effect, people blessed with moreno skin tones are often made to feel like they have to change their features to meet society’s definition of beauty, spend less time under the sun, and perpetuate the same notion by putting races with darker skin tones below us. Perhaps as a backwards way to feel better about the discrimination we ourselves face.

It’s incredibly disheartening to see all the comments against Miss Universe Canada just because of the color of her skin, and it’s even more heartbreaking to know that so many Filipinos are at the root of this problem, and subscribe to the same backwards belief.

Truly, we need to do more to reform this culture of seemingly casual racism and colorism across our country, especially in supposedly humorous occasions. As we saw from the comments made towards Nova Stevens, most of these remarks are made as poor attempts of a joke, as if insulting physical features is a laughable matter.

There’s so much to unpack and unlearn in our culture when it comes to racism in general, and it’s about time we took it more seriously. Although this one incident won’t make bigots stop with their ignorance and hate, it’s definitely a reminder to us all that the problem is there, and it needs to be addressed. Not only because it’s downright wrong, but because of its harmful effects on our young people, our general mindset towards beauty, and our relationship with other races.