As a child, beauty queen Janicel Lubina used to mop the floor for others. She was a housemaid. But today, she has cat-walked her way into the hall of fame and has become a common household name in Philippines, all thanks beauty pageants.
Still in her teens, Lubina today has a long and a successful career ahead of her. Her acting and modeling assignments have brought her both name and glory.
But long before all this, she was just another shy, lanky teenage girl from a remote province. "My mother was a maid," 19-year-old Lubina told AFP before she auditioned for this year's Binibining Pilipinas (Miss Philippines) contest. For the almost 6-foot tall beauty with silky, dark hair, winning the Miss Universe pageant and bringing the crown to the country would be the ultimate success.
Having lived in the poverty-ridden Palawan province, where she worked as a maid, Lubina remembers how she spent her days mopping the floors. "One time, I mopped floors for an entire day and my boss made me do it all over again because she didn't like my work," she said.
Her luck flipped over when she was walking through the dirt-covered streets of her home-town and a make-up artist, impressed by her slim frame, made her a model offer.
It was three years ago and since then she has come a long way. As a child, she wadded through muddy paddy fields, but today she is a star recruit in one of Manila's beauty pageant boot camps, where she has mastered what is dubbed as the 'duck walk'.
In the Philippines, beauty contests have come to signify not just a way to escape poverty but also 'women empowerment' as many of these former beauties have gone on to play a major role in the society.
And it is in the boot camps such as Kagandahang Flores (Beauty of the Flower) where dozens of young girls, irrespective of their backgrounds train hard every day to make their dreams come true and ultimately pave their way out of poverty and into stardom.