Two beauty queens with links to the Gulf have won the latest season of The Amazing Race Asia.
After they returned from filming The Amazing Race Asia last summer, Maggie Wilson-Consunji and Parul Shah could barely contain their excitement.
“Don’t let our invisible crowns fool you. We are beauty-queen fighting machines,” they told their fans on social media. “We are scared but also super excited. We cannot wait for you to see us race and represent Team Philippines.”
The duo had a reason to be thrilled: they just returned from filming a month-long competition featuring 11 teams of two racing in 12 cities and over 12,000 kilometres across Southeast Asia.
Winning first place, Wilson-Consunji and Shah took home the US$100,000 (Dh367,000) top prize.
The show, however, was not airing on television until mid-October, so the duo kept mum about the results and elation.
On the week of the show’s premiere, they told reporters that viewers should expect to see a different side of the Filipino beauty pageant winners.
“Hopefully we get to change the perception of beauty queens during the course of the race,” Wilson-Consunji explained. “We were chill, not high maintenance — and not what people perceive a beauty queen to be.”
Indeed, the two showed grit, determination and an endearing sense of humour throughout 10 legs of competition that s producers described as their toughest season yet.
Wilson-Consunji and Shah’s victory took many by surprise, including the show’s presenters, Asian-American actor Allan Wu and Indonesian film star Tara Basro.
The duo were initially not the biggest threats in the game, having stayed in the middle of the pack throughout the race and not winning a single leg until the very last.
But they gained momentum in the final two stages of the competition, eventually beating the two other remaining teams in the race: fellow beauty queens Yvonne Lee and Chloe Chen from Malaysia and married couple Eric Tai and Rona Samson, who are also from the Philippines.
“We played the game really well and climbed the ladder ever so slowly,” said Wilson-Consunji. “We didn’t want to come in first in any of the legs because we didn’t want to have a target on our backs.”
Both contestants have links to the Gulf.
28-year-old Shah, who is a year older, was born in Dubai to a Filipino mother, who worked as a domestic helper, and an Indian father, who worked as a driver in the Emirates. Shah grew up in Dubai alongside three siblings.
She joined the Miss Teen Philippines UAE pageant in 2003 and 2004, but failed to win. In 2006, Shah moved to the Philippines to study for a nursing degree in university, which she was able to finish.
Wilson-Consunji, who is a year younger, was born to a Filipino mother and a Scottish father in the Philippines. A few years later, her family moved to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia where Wilson-Consunji spent most of her childhood.
She returned to the Philippines as an adolescent to enter show business and joined the Miss Philippines pageant in 2007 at age 18.
The duo met while working in the pageant circuit in the Philippines. Wilson-Consunji represented the Philippines at the Miss World pageant in 2007.
Years later, she mentored Shah as an aspiring beauty queen. Shah went on to win the Miss Philippines Tourism title in 2014 and the Miss Philippines Grand International title in 2015. The two have been the best of friends ever since.
Both applied for The Amazing Race Asia last June and heard good news a month later. They left on the first week of August to film the race that took them to countries in Southeast Asia, including Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines and Singapore.
Throughout the three-week competition, Wilson-Consunji and Shah said they both suffered from severe homesickness.
“I have a four-year-old son and it was very difficult to explain to him that I will be away for so long,” Wilson-Consunji told the Filipino news website Rappler. “We’re not allowed to communicate with home or with family — no internet. That for me at the end of the day was the toughest. There were nights that I cried myself to sleep, but then my family served as my motivation.”
Shah said she thought about her sick father, whose illness impelled her to join the show and win the cash prize.
“It was such a relief to win because the money can help my family, especially my dad who suffered a stroke,” Shah said. “He taught me to never give up in life and I did this to prove that no matter what life throws at you, never give up.”
Wilson-Consunji added: “Who would have thought that two beauty queens would win? I’m pretty sure we’ll be talking about this moment for decades.”