Culture, Featured

She Came, She Saw, She Conquered: Kris Janson on Success, the Stage, and Standards of Beauty

Picture your lifelong dream in your mind’s eye. Between the birth of that dream and your next taste of success, imagine a gap over a decade long holding it out of reach. That’s what the journey of her life has been like for Kris Janson, the freshly crowned Miss Universe Philippines Cebu.

Newer pageant enthusiasts might have been introduced to her during her bid, which culminated in February, but those who have followed the community over the years will recognize Janson as a veteran among beauty queens—of over 15 years, in fact—staging a glorious comeback.

Success: A dedication to dedicated people

When she looks back, she tells us that she didn’t start with the dream of being a beauty queen. She remembers her father who lit the proverbial spark, and the people around her who kept the fire going in support, including the late Jonas Borces, famed mentor and beauty queen maker.

“This time, I dedicate this to Momi Jonas who helped me discover so much about myself. I am in this to show to all the Filipinas out there that you can make your dreams happen,” Janson says, symbolically passing on the baton to women like her who have, in her words, had to put their dreams on hold over time.

Janson’s first step into the world of pageantry was the Miss Cebu competition in 2009, which she won at 19. Now, 15 years on, her motivations have changed, her dreams have taken shape, and the stage feels like home, literally. “This is what I love about being Filipino,” Janson gushes. “Because we give our all-out support. And as a candidate, it means so much.”

A stage for empowerment

It didn’t use to be possible. Since its inception, the Miss Universe pageant has only ever prized the youngest generation of adult women, restricting eligibility to women no older than 28. This year’s competition will be the first ever edition to welcome contestants of all ages, and 34-year-old Janson, with her first and successful attempt at a national crown since the Binibining Pilipinas Intercontinental pageant in 2014, is an empowered testament to this change.

“I hope it inspires a lot of Filipinas to not let other people’s limitations stop them from making their dreams come true.”

Janson herself gained her own inspiration from women, setting into motion her return to pageantry. She talks about her mother, tireless and dedicated, the same way many women stand by theirs and occasionally attempt to fill in shoes that will always feel too big. She also talks about a fateful reunion with a friend.

“She has two kids and works at a big company in Singapore. One day she says to herself, ‘I really want to be a photographer,’” she relates. “She made sure that she would be and she would take grasp of that vision for herself. Every [day] after work, she would go to class… She enrolled herself in a university that taught photography.”

“It was such an eye-opener for me,” Janson says, her face filled with awe. “For someone who’s 34, who lives with her mom, has no kids, who somehow felt that she was too old for anything. I was too old to push myself to chase my dream, but I found this strong and very empowered woman… who has to take care of family, who has a career, who really was able to chase her dreams. And it really sparked that joy in my heart as well.”

“These two women… really inspired me,” she professes. “It showed me what women empowerment really meant and what it really means to be a woman. ”

Conquering standards

Now, at 34, she’s done what she had thought she had no chance of achieving anymore—to vie for the Miss Universe crown. 

“You’re never too old to dream. You’re never too old to start a new dream.”

It’s a victory defiant of outdated standards for women; after all, women don’t drop all their ambitions after 28, and they certainly don’t stop being women once they start pushing 30. Janson, who works for the city government by day, says, “I feel like age has been one of the many reasons for women to put their dreams on hold, put their goals on hold, and to somehow divert their goals to something else, something that society would accept for them to do.”

Age is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to standards for women in beauty pageants, but Janson is optimistic. “I am very happy that I now belong to an era of inclusivity,” the beauty queen says. “Now, we highlight the strength of a woman. We see her capabilities more than just her physical attributes.”

To the new Miss Universe Philippines Cebu, pageantry is a platform, a career, and a stage to be conquered in an era for women “on hold.” “It becomes a platform for women to make their voices louder,” she says. “I have been inspired by the beautiful women who have been on the stage before me. They have proven time and again that a woman can be in any career they choose and conquer it.”

“You’re never too old to dream,” Janson emphasizes. “You’re never too old to start a new dream. As long as you put your heart into it, and you focus with the energy and the goodness that you have in your heart, you can achieve your dreams.”

Photography Kyrra Kho | HMUA Nestee Acla | Designer Roni Yu | Location Elinor

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