Alexie and Matea: Half-black beauties in Miss Universe Philippines

Alexie and Matea: Half-black beauties in Miss Universe Philippines

Alexie Brooks and Matea Mahal Smith are half-Filipino and half-black, bright and beautiful women
/ 12:08 AM May 04, 2024

Alexie and Matea

Alexie Brooks (left) and Matea Smith. Image: Facebook

OXFORD, Ohio –The 2024 edition of Miss Universe Philippines is shaping up to be a game-changer. There are several Filipino American contestants but two of them are making heads turn. They are half-Filipino and half-black, bright and beautiful women. They are Alexie Brooks of Iloilo and Matea Mahal Smith from Florida.

Alexie Brooks is 22 years old and she is a fourth-year Marketing Management major at National University (NU) in Manila. She was also chosen by the University Athletic Association of the Philippines as most valuable player for 2022. She was born of a Filipina mother, an overseas worker in Lebanon, and a black American father, whom she has not met.

Her Lola Basing, her doting grandmother, raised her by selling vegetables at the public market in Leon, Iloilo. Alexie helped her grandmother sell vegetables from Friday to Sunday when she did not have classes at the Iloilo National High School.

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Photos of her kissing the forehead of her grandmother, showing respect and love during her coronation night, went viral on the internet. It endeared her to Filipinos who love close family ties.

Alexie Brooks and Lola Basing

Alexie Brooks with her Lola Basing. Image: Alexie Brooks/Facebook

She is not shy talking about her childhood. “There were times when we didn’t have money to buy rice. Or sometimes, I went to school without money for lunch,” Alexie said. But she never grew up bitter. She studied hard and graduated with honors at the Iloilo National High School. She also earned scholarships at the University of Southern California and the University of Texas after graduating from Iloilo National High School.

Aside from the UAAP award for track and field, she also represented the Philippines at the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Vietnam.


Competitive mindset

“I was just a small kid back then, dreaming of everything I am and have now, and God only knows where I would be if I didn’t trust in myself. So here I am as proof that hard effort, dedication, perseverance, determination, focus and a competitive mindset can get you where you want to go,” Alexie said ahead of the SEA Games.

But in her heart, she really wanted to be a beauty queen – which seemed impossible in a country where the beauty queens are mestizas or half-white. She was bullied when she was growing up, with people comparing her curly hair to “a bird’s nest.” It affected her self-esteem and made her lose her confidence. So, she just harbored this dream of winning a beauty contest, even before Miss South Africa, Zozibini Tunzi, became Miss Universe in 2019.


It was her first time to join a beauty pageant when she tossed her hat into the Miss Iloilo pageant. And she won in all categories – swimsuit, evening gown, cultural costume and the Miss Iloilo crown itself.

“Grateful beyond words for the support of my incredible team, mentors, sponsors and the unwavering love from friends, family and the people of Leon, Iloilo,” Alexie said on Instagram.

Alexie’s edge among the rest is that she is an androgynous beauty – she has both masculine and feminine characteristics. She also has high cheekbones, a small and beautiful face, and a long neck shaped like a vase. And she can talk a mile a minute – with sense and sensibility.

Turning childhood dreams into reality

“So what I want women to know is that they should be proud of what they have and who they are regardless of their appearance and differences in life,” she said. “For me, it’s always about giving other people the power of influence. Making them feel beautiful, confident and empowered.”

Alexie said of her win, “I turn childhood dreams into reality.”

The beauty queen has been open about her sexuality, labeling herself as androgynous. “There are those days or there are times that you feel more masculine, and there are times you feel more feminine,” said Alexie. She continued, “You know, we live in a society where people would label you, that if you’re gay, you just be gay. If you’re lesbian, then be a man.”

For Alexie, there’s no need to choose one from the other “if you can be anything you want and you’re comfortable.” Alexie added, “I have days that I’m very feminine. I’d wake up and I’m listening to Beyonce or Rihanna, and then I have days that I feel more masculine. But Alexie is Alexie regardless of, you know, what she feels like wearing on that day.”

Alexie feels that her sexuality and being open about it makes her unique. “I hope that this is like an eye-opener to people, especially to the people of the country, that there’s nothing wrong with being a part or being a member of the LGBT community, and I’m happy that I’m here,” she said.

Matea Smith: Neuroscience scholar

Matea Mahal Smith is a 21-year-old neuroscience scholar at the University of Florida. She won the Miss Filipina International title and represents her state in the Miss Universe Philippines. She is proud to be an inspiration and a role model to other Fil-Ams who want to follow in her footsteps.

Matea Smith

Image: Matea Mahal Smith/Facebook

She is the first Afro-Filipino to win the crown in the pageant’s 10-year history. Smith is the youngest child and the only daughter of Seitu Smith, a high-school math teacher of Jamaican descent who was born in Staten Island, New York, and a Filipino mother from Makati, according to a GMA News Online article by Janet Susan R. Nepales. Her father has a master’s degree in Education and her Filipina mom has a degree in nursing and is a digital strategist at the Mayo Clinic-Center for Digital Health.

Like Alexie, Matea is also a track-and-field athlete. She has also won medals in swimming competitions. She is happy about her victory in the Miss Filipina International pageant.

“It was such an honor to be a part of this experience and to have this opportunity, and to be able to win as the first Afro-Filipino,” she said in an interview with Nepales. “This is big for me and big for the Filipino community because the Philippines is so rich in its diversity, and I am a reflection of many people of Filipino descent. So, I think being onstage as an Afro-Filipino really gave an insight to what the Philippines has in its culture and what we embody as well.”

Mental health advocacy

Her advocacy is mental health because she wants to change the stigma surrounding the issue.  “I have reached out to many organizations in the Philippines trying to partner with them and to help the youth in the Philippines as well with their battles,” she told Nepales. “I have already partnered with Maya’s Hope in the Philippines. They help the youth in the Philippines. Maya’s Hope is a non-profit organization that helps disabled and impoverished children in the Philippines. The relationship with those two would have a positive impact for the youth of the Philippines.”

She had to quit her track-and-field and swim sports because of a congenital hip disorder. Not one to be depressed about this turn in her life, she shifted to hip-hop jazz dancing. “I just dance with the University of Florida’s Filipino Students Association students and a dance company. I just love to be active through dancing,” she further said in an interview with Nepales.

For the Miss Universe Philippines competition, she is being coached by Kagandahan Flores and Ashley Wright of Worthy of the Crown Pageant Coaching. Her costumes and gowns will be made by different designer groups.

Finally, the barriers of color have been breached in this year’s Miss Universe Philippines, which will be held on May 22 at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.

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TAGS: Fil-Am, Miss Universe
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