Friday, 4 April 2014

Interview with Maki Gingoyon

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Maki Gingoyon, aka Maki Eve Mercedes, a Filipino trans woman beauty queen, most well known for winning Queen of Cebu 2010, and being one of the Queens for Super Sireyna 2013. Hello Maki!
Maki: Hey Monika! Thanks for having me on your blog. And it is nice to meet someone like you, a fellow transgender woman making a difference in promoting a good image among trans women.
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Maki: I am 24, turning 25 this year, and I am a transgender woman from the Philippines. I studied BS Psychology, unfortunately, I was not able to finish it due to some family issues, which challenged me to be independent and work my a** out by applying for a call center job. This is a very common job opportunity in the Philippines, especially for 2nd-year college students who want to work. That actually helped me to support myself and my transitioning.
And currently, I work as a digital online marketing director for a transgender dating site together with my boyfriend.

Monika: When did you start competing in beauty pageants?
Maki: I never knew I would compete. In fact, being a beauty queen was never my dream. But I guess when you mingle yourself with other transgender women who are also into beauty pageants, it excites you and you want to experience it. Well, at that time I stopped working, which led me to find an alternative way of living.
In the first quarter of 2010 beauty pageants became the answer. Knowing from my friends who were beauty pageant veterans, it could support a decent amount of money, well obviously incomparable to call centers but the fact that you had something to buy for food and hormones then that was good.
And by the way, I am not talking about big pageants here, I am talking about pageants in small villages (Barangays). But then sadly these kinds of beauty pageants became unpopular because of some odd catholic rules. So I needed to continue working in the call center. In the same year, I had the opportunity to join bigger pageants like Miss Gay Mandaue (one of the most famous transgender pageants in Cebu, Philippines) where I took the first runner-up position.
And I got a chance to travel to Bohol and competed for Miss Gay Sandugo (A big transgender pageant in the city of Bohol) where luckily I got the crown. And lastly the Queen 2010, a pageant for alternative, where I won the Queen Universe crown.

In her National Costume during
Miss Gay Mandaue 2010.

Monika: When you compete in beauty pageants how do you select your gowns, make-up, and hairstyles?
Maki: My last beauty pageant was Super Sireyna 2013. It is quite nostalgic to answer this question, but it is good to reminisce about old times. Well, I had an assistant, make-up artist, and manager.
These people are responsible for booking you for a contest, prepare all your stuff and do your make-up. Business-wise you need to give something in return either 50/50 from the cash price or 60/40 whichever deal works best. So at that time I just needed to meet my Manager and a very close friend of mine, then off we went to the contest.
After winning Queen 2010, the whole managing thing changed. I wish I still had her but I cannot afford to maintain a manager (LOL). But it wasn’t that difficult; Queen is a pageant that is well supported by local and international Filipino designers. So it was easy to ask for some help with gowns and the like. They were very much accommodating and helpful, especially during the Super Sireyna competition. And I owed them a lot!

Available via

Monika: What is the atmosphere among pageant ladies? Does the competition influence their behavior?
Maki: The competition is a fact. I believe you cannot deny that there is that competitive atmosphere. But what is good with a transgender pageant, regardless of how competitive it is, the fun is still there. And I believe every transgender beauty queen can relate to this. Especially Filipino transgender women.
Not to mention the fun after the show. There may be only one winner, sometimes three but the laughs and dramas you shared with the rest of the candidates after the show is priceless. And surely the competition influences our behavior. It personally molded me to become a better woman.
Being a beauty queen makes you feel responsible to inspire and influence others. And this type of behavior is like the blood that will slowly run into your veins and that will define you for who you are.

Gown competition during Queen 2010.

Monika: Could you elaborate more on your Queen of Cebu victory in 2010?
Maki: Oh it was magical! (smiling) Queen of Cebu made me the woman that I am now. There were 21 candidates and I was the last but not the least candidate. The moment I came out on the stage for my opening number, I already felt victorious, with over 1000 people watching, who would not feel exceptional?
Not to mention Miss Universe 1973 Margie Moran was one of the judges, I got to give my best. And the moment I was crowned. All I was thinking about was my mom who was not in the audience because she was too scared to watch.
Monika: And in 2013 you became one of the Queens for Super Sireyna…
Maki: Super Sireyna is the longest-running transgender beauty contest on National TV. Not your ordinary beauty pageant since it is done at noon by a noontime show in the Philippines. It was just a portion of the show, but made a big impact on the Filipino community, towards transgender awareness. I became a finalist and it was an opportunity for me to tell the Philippines about transgender women, and what we can do for the community. Joining Super Sireyna was the moment to showcase who transgender women are. And I was very lucky to be part of it.
Monika: Are you planning to participate in the Miss International Queen Pageant, the biggest international beauty contest for transgender ladies, held every year in Thailand? 
Maki: I am open to the idea of joining it. But I must admit the preparation is tough. So it takes time to plan.
Monika: Have you ever thought about acting?
Maki: I did theater acting before. Since I was in High School it has been a passion to act and to speak. During my theater days, I did the Vagina Monologue act of Calpernia Addams, narrating her own story as a transgender woman who undergoes Sexual Reassignment Surgery.

Crowned as the Queen of the Sky
during Super Sireyna pageant.

Monika: You also take part in the project called My Ladyboy Date…
Maki: Yes, together with my boyfriend, we are involved in and This is a vision of mine to help the trans community. I believe as a couple it is our personal advocacy to promote decent places for transgender women.
Monika: Being beautiful always produces a lot of girl power and empowerment. Do you often use it?
Maki: I must admit it helps. I may be speaking for myself that, as transgender women, we have insecurities no matter how kind and sincere people acknowledge our beauty. Though I am more confident to feel that girl power with my ability to speak my mind as a front liner to empower people.
Monika: At that time of your transition, did you have any transgender role models that you could follow?
Maki: I have a role model but not specifically a transgender woman. I was not so exposed to the transgender world until I was starting to join pageants. I can think of a gay guy that I salute. He is a TV host in our country and his name is Boy Abunda. His ability to speak his mind inspires me a lot.
Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Maki: My mom, Good thing she accepted me for who I am. I was so afraid of losing her. But thankfully she was with me as I took the path that makes me happy.
Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in Filipino society?
Maki: More and more people are aware of transgender women as women. Though there are some who see us as men. But the acceptance and tolerance in the community are pretty good. We can be who we are without fear walking in the street, going to the mall, doing some grocery, even going to church. Though legal-wise, like protection, I am still hoping that the Philippine government will work on it.

In blue gown during a small pageant in the village (Barangay).

Monika: Are you active in politics? Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Maki: I am not so active in politics but I am a supporter of transgender women who are rallying for transgender rights, transgender health, and the like.
And for me yes, transgender women can make a difference in politics. I was once on a student council and surely gender should not be the basis to lead a community.
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Maki: Oh very important. I believe that is making me alive. The love for myself, for my mom for my boyfriend, for my work, and for friends. I am no expert here but acknowledging that love exists in different forms, helps me balance my life. And I guess because of love, I have the passion to serve the trans community by offering a decent transgender dating site.
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colors, or trends?
Maki: I am a big fan of fashion, my boyfriend often regards me as an avant-garde, which I take as a compliment, but he doesn't like it (LOL). Though I am not the typical fashionista that you see, with all the accessories, fancy bags, and high heels. I prefer to be simple. I am a big fan of flats but can carry heels if needed. I love jeans and shorts pair them with a simple fit T-shirt and minimal accessories.

Taken in theatre during the Vagina

Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Maki: No, not that I am not a fan in fact I am reading Janet Mock’s memoir. It is not just my cup of tea. Though I have a personal blog but this is all about my trips, opinions, and the like.
Monika: What is your next step in the present time and where do you see yourself within the next 5-7 years?
Maki: An international crown perhaps? (giggling) For now, I just focus on the dating site for me to make a difference for the trans community. And I would love to travel more and experience a different culture.
I wish to see myself as a successful woman with a man by my side. Sounds too perfect but nothing is impossible. And maybe a bigger dating site that does not only cater to transgender women but for everybody.
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender girls, thinking about the beauty queen career?
Maki: It is worth giving a try, girls. At first, it was just for the sake of experience. But I found my heart being a beauty queen. The heart to speak what I believe is right. The heart to inspire, the heart to encourage, and the heart to challenge people I met to become the best of who they are. The beauty queen career is open for every transgender girl. It is just a matter of choice if you are happy doing it.
Monika: Maki, thank you for the interview!

All the photos: courtesy of Maki Gingoyon.
© 2014 - Monika Kowalska

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