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Beauty TRANScends Gender Barriers

Thoughts of doubts and hurtful words, a candidate so challenged to others’ opinions and lack of trust ain’t stopping her from dazzling beneath the crowd.

A 21-year-old stunner exemplifying that beauty is for every single gender, all hail the crowned Lakambini of Timpalak Tagakan, Ms. Lee Dollente. Recently, she secured the title for Best Muse of Intramurals 2023 and won Reyna Rosa Mystica for SaGayla 2024.

Miss Lakambini of Timpalak Tagakan struts her attire while holding her certificate of recognition. (PHOTO | Facebook/Lee Dollente)

From the College of Arts and Letters, she specializes in Multimedia Arts: Film Production. In the wake of discovering her passion for filming, an unexpected journey unfolded. Although unsure of the path that awaited her during senior high school, she was well aware that she likes capturing scenery in any medium. Ms. Lee considered taking up Film because of her friend, and it was a good accident, but she was disappointed that her friend did not end up at the same university as her. With her internship at Offshore Music PH, she has accomplished many feats in the fields of photography, videography, gigs, and merchandise under the company. Apart from her stint at the aforementioned music label, she also balances her life in the organization, serving as a fourth-year representative of the Film Society.

Ms. Lee had conquered challenges in choosing what she really wanted to be. Though her parents approved of her sexual identity, she was unable to alter her physical attributes due to dissenting views. She cannot make her locks long, and she cannot even express her reality. A crisis that she finds difficult to solve for months. Though everything started to conform when she saw Catriona Gray displaying her features and intellect on stage. The crowned Miss Universe of 2018 became a vital inspiration for her.

“Doon na nag-start na ma-feel ko na trans talaga ako. Kasi sabi ko, gusto ko magpahaba ng buhok. Gusto ko nakikita yung sarili ko na nabubuhay as babae.”

A portrait shot of Miss Lee and her Lakambini costume, with a backdrop of a fierce face and a pattern consisting the colors of the Philippine flag, and the UMak logo.
(PHOTO | Facebook/Lee Dollente)

Now out and never dull, she seeks strength not only from within herself but also from her family, her friends, and the audience that believes in her, stating that they are the most important people to her. Whenever she is drowning in thoughts of doubt, they always get her back up. 

Her inaugural experience in the realm of pageantry traced back all the way to Intramurals 2022. Her college chairperson, Dexter Apinado, was seeking a muse, and he had set eyes on her, even asking the president of her organization to compete. She desired to join, yet she got frisky as she worried about how her gender was different from other candidates.

“Nahihiya ako kasi… gusto ko talaga, [kaso] ‘di ko pa sure kasi syempre lahat ng kasali don is cisgender woman.”

Nevertheless, Ms. Lee’s friends disregarded her nervousness and started picking dresses, most notably her friend Aly Kate, who undoubtedly has been her pillar of support ever since, seeing how many times she’s been credited for her slaying looks.

“…Tapos, yung makeup artist ko noon, si Aly. Sabi ko magmu-muse ako tapos, bakit di na lang daw siya yung mag-makeup [sakin]? Talagang, siya nag-offer ng sarili niya.”

Regardless of all the support she received, there were certain audiences who disagreed on her runway, including the person of her interests. 

“Lahat talaga tuwang tuwa, PERO meron ako sa circle [of friends] sa classroom. Hindi siya mag-eeffort pumunta kasi, hindi naman daw mananalo or wag nang umasa na may magsusuport saakin. Before competition yun”

Disheartening voices, Ms. Lee brushed it off and put forward what she believed, winning with wide smiles and pride. Talk about believing, when asked about her insights regarding campus inclusivity, she mostly credited the organizations fulfilling the idea of broadness in this field.

Her beliefs don’t stop there. Ms. Lee mentioned that when a queen speaks, everybody listens. For her, the pageant is not just entertainment and body figures, but a platform to give light to the advocacies and a way to celebrate people in any form and shape. She certainly disagrees with the fact that gender is the basis of beauty and brains, for beauty is subjective and is not only seen on the outside.

She also mentioned that the SOGIE Bill is for everyone’s benefit once they have understood the overall goal of the policy. Additionally, she shared that her advocacy lies in the promotion of the environment, care for the elderly, and mental health awareness, considering that she has experienced mental health issues before and noticed that it lacks proper attention.

Through pageantry, she wanted to be a figure of inspiration, represent her kind, and make use of the power she has within, from which all of it came true. A farewell walk was held during the General Assembly of her own college, along with the College of Education. She was approached by many, but she will never forget the transwoman who wanted to take a picture with her. She was full of joy when she hugged her, realizing that her goal was slowly reaching her hands.

Ending things light, she was asked, “Do you have what it takes to make the world of pageantry to be more open in standards?,” she gracefully answered,

“Ayun nga, lagi ko nga sinasabi na very important yung representation, yung ma-inspire mo yung ibang tao. Kasi, pag nakita ng ibang tao na kaya mo, kaya ng mga tulad niyo, makakapag-set ka ng standard… ‘pag nakita nila yun, ma-iinspire sila na kung kaya niya, kaya ko rin.”

Our beauty should uplift us, not sabotage other components of our personalities. With her being the first Lakambini and the first Best Muse, a transwoman of UMak, she showcased what true beauty should mark us.

For the people who dream of breaking free, the crowned Lakambini relays that the perfect time will come to spread those wings, while for those who would rather keep things closed, as long as love and acceptance are within one’s self, then everything will remain fine.

Lee Dollente flaunts her elegant dress as the Reyna Rosa Mystica of SaGayla 2024 in Pateros last June 1. (PHOTO | Facebook/Lee Dollente)

Written by Eliza Fern Rebeta