ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Albuquerque’s very own Kait Coontz will be representing New Mexico in the Miss Filipina International Competition. She is the first contestant from the state to be chosen to participate in the pageant and was chosen out of 500 other candidates from around the world.
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The Eldorado High School senior said she’s never done anything like this before, but wanted to experience something new before graduating. “I saw this pageant on TikTok and I was just like, ‘Oh my God, I love these costumes, I wonder what this is.’ To find out it was a Filipino-oriented pageant. I was like, ‘I want to join this,'” Coontz said.
The pageant aims to promote tourism in the Philippines, in addition to the typical pageant staples like a swimsuit competition and an evening gown portion. Back in December, Coontz visited what she calls her “hometown in the Philippines,” her maternal family’s homeland Occidental Mindoro, and became their tourism ambassador.
Coontz said since this is her first pageant, the only difficult preparation she’s had to do is walking in six-inch heels. Almost everything else has come more easily to her, like meeting other girls competing.
“I already met so many wonderful girls, I would consider them my pageant sisters,” Coontz said. “There’s not a lot of Filipinos in New Mexico, so to be around a lot of girls who have a similar culture as I do, it just feels like I’m back home because we all talk the same language, we all eat the same food, we all basically think the same way. It’s just really comforting to be around those types of people, to be around really kindhearted people.”
As part of her advocacy platform for the pageant, Coontz has focused on mental health awareness and suicide prevention. She said especially after the uptick in Asian hate crimes during the coronavirus lockdown, Coontz wants to honor her heritage. “It’s very important to show my pride this way because there has been a lot of Asian hate. My advocacy is actually for mental health awareness and suicide prevention. Not only in my high school, but multiple high schools around New Mexico have experienced many suicidal students,” Coontz said, holding back tears.
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“There has been two suicides usually every year at my school, and so I wanted to use my voice and use the pageant as a platform so I could just let people know that they’re not alone and there are resources,” Coontz said. “You could go to therapy, counseling, you could talk to your friends, your family. Even if you don’t have the money or availability for therapy, you always have people around you including your friends. Friends are definitely the biggest part.”
Coontz said she deals with anxiety and went through a depression episode for about three years, which is why her advocacy is so important to her. She is recovering now but wants to continue that healing in a meaningful way. “What I have been doing is just trying to get out of my comfort zone, just trying to make new friends, meet new people so I know what’s out in the world so I can experience as I’m an adult, so I know how to take care of myself,” Coontz said.
She said she’s excited to be representing New Mexico for the first time, as well as her hometown of Occidental Mindoro. The pageant will host a Parade of National Costumes, where each candidate can choose to honor their community by dressing in clothing inspired by the culture, mythology, or traditional wear.
Coontz will be wearing a traditional costume with beadwork done by the Mangyan, who are the natives of Occidental Mindoro. Everything she will wear in the pageant was made in the Philippines. “I just want to represent my hometown since it’s so underrepresented. My dress is a bunch of good luck charms with a sign that means unity and togetherness. I’m just so excited to represent the natives of Occidental Mindoro because they worked so hard to create my dress. I’m so grateful to them that they did everything for me,” Coontz said.
The competition has an opportunity for people to vote for the People’s Choice Award by liking her post on the Miss Filipina International Instagram page. The person whose post has the most likes will be given a guaranteed spot in the top 10. Voters must first follow the MFI profile and then like the contestant’s photo for it to count. Voting ends on July 25.