Text by R. Galvez [@the4ofustraveling] / Graphics by Krizza Enriquez [@kxxenriquez]

Sophistication is one word that best describes Gabriëla dos Santos. Her looks and the way she walk and talk is oozing with elegance and refinement. She is in fact one of the frontrunners even before she arrived in New Orleans for the Miss Universe 2022 competition. Her preliminary performance was top-notch so much so that she is always ranked high in the final Hot Picks of various beauty pageant websites including Missosology.

However, Gabriëla’s campaign at Miss Universe was marred by several challenges. It actually started in a wrong foot when she was tested positive for COVID-19 on her third day at the competition. Her Miss Universe hopes were suddenly dashed especially that some contestants who were also tested positive had decided not to continue their participation. Gabriëla had to endure several days in quarantine not knowing what lies ahead. All her hard work preparing for the big day would simply vanish into thin air had she been tested positive again.

It is also not easy to compete in the international stage if you are representing a small nation. By any sensible metrics, Curaçao is a minnow compared to the other countries that made it to the semis of Miss Universe 2022. Gabriëla dos Santos had to contend the fact that her country is not only small in size but also minuscule in terms of economic or political leverage. If we will only take into account her sash weight, her overall placement would be a complete surprise. In fact, among the 5 finalists, her country is ranked the lowest at the Big5 Ranking.

Despite of the challenges that she faced, Gabriëla persevered. In her Instagram post, she shared these words of wisdom, “Life isn’t always perfect, despite the fact that I tested positive for Covid during the @missuniverse competition. It hasn’t stopped me from staying positive and smiling. These moments of difficulty should motivate us to become even stronger. It is challenging, but I chose to look at the silver lining and accept that life is full of unexpected twists and turns. No matter what comes our way, we must never give up on ourselves or our dreams! I feel empowered knowing that I’m stronger than any challenge and ready to conquer anything!”

She may be a sophisticated beauty and a well-spoken candidate but her sheer determination and her ability to see behind the darkest of clouds makes her a timeless beauty. Gabriëla dos Santos may not have won the crown but she won a lot of hearts. She was welcomed in her native country like a winner and a hero. Her Miss Universe journey serves us a lesson that even if things will not go our way, we should never ever give up.