If there’s anything that all sports fans can agree on, it’s this: motivation and momentum decide winners. Heather Gay lacks neither. No stranger to competition, the former Miss World Guam contender traded gowns for gear in this month’s shoot. We were impressed when she put on muddy shoulder pads like a champion, but it turns out, her game face is always on.
Images by Manny Rona
Words by Katrina Palanca | Styling by Joan Awa
You know those people who will say and do anything to make people happy? Heather Gay is not one of them. Motivated and career-driven, the girl knows what she wants and is not afraid to speak her mind.
While most 20-year-olds are still withdrawing from their accounts at Bank of Mom, Heather is treading into unchartered territory by moving out. When I sat down with her, she was three weeks into the big move. “I wanted to gain independence, but I wasn’t ready to take on the big step of going off island,” she said. “This is the first step for me.”
The 2013 Miss World contender is quickly learning that living independently is no joke. On top of her full-time course load, she works two jobs to support herself. “You save so much more money staying at home, but I felt like I needed to go out and learn these lessons, learn how to pay my own bills, and learn how to make it on my own,” she said.
With four classes during the weekdays, double shifts every other day, and extra hours on the weekend, an average day runs at least 12 hours. To keep herself up and running, she designed her new bedroom using a purple and teal color palette, which are the colors of motivation.
“In a way, people do underestimate me because of my looks, and it can be very stereotypical toward all women, not just myself,” she explained. “I use the way people underestimate me as an outlet to prove them wrong. That’s the best satisfaction.”
More than a Pretty Face
As unfortunate as it sounds, good looks can be a curse when you want people to take you seriously. As someone who wants people to see past her appearance, joining a pageant seems like the last thing she would do. But it seems that she and the 2013 Miss World organizers were on the same page.
With the theme “Beauty with a Purpose,” she got a chance to join a pageant that was about more than glitz and glamour. While other pageant contestants sweat it out in the gym, she sweated it out washing cars in the blazing tropical sun. For several months leading up to the pageant, she worked to raise about $2000 for the Down Syndrome Association of Guam—a charity she chose after being inspired by relatives who live with the genetic disorder.
Though she did not walk away with the crown, she is grateful for the opportunity to get involved in the community. “The experience was absolutely one to remember,” she said. “I wanted to gain exposure and really put myself out there.”
Born to assist
In fact, joining the pageant turned out to be a career move all on its own. The small taste of community involvement developed into a hunger for public service. “I want to take on a career as a probation officer for the juvenile department because I want to help young kids find their passion and stay out of trouble,” she said. “You don’t have to wear tights to be a superhero.”
Not Just Another Cover Girl
Fifteen minutes into the conversation, we had talked about everything from paddleboarding to her most embarrassing haircut (it’s crooked bangs she cut herself in 2nd grade, btw). That’s when she made a little confession.
“I don’t want people to see me as just another cover girl,” she said. It didn’t take us long to realize that there was real merit behind her words.
What did you learn from participating in Miss World Guam 2013?
I learned about being a young lady and that dancing in heels are killer painful. I also learned all about hard work and dedication.
What are you passionate about?
I’m very passionate about my school and work. I spent most of my time studying and being on the clock. I’m all about keeping my mindset strong.
This is the health and fitness issue. What do you do to stay fit?
I always start off with a good breakfast… like waffles and orange juice. I also run every day.
No, not really (laughs). I go to the beach and swim at Ypao. During the week, working is my exercise—I’m on my feet for almost 12 hours a day sometimes!
You work two jobs in the food industry. Do you get tipped extra for being cute?
I’d rather get tipped for serving them well, catering to their table, and checking up on them. I’d like to think that.
What do you do for fun?
Like everyone in Guam I enjoy going to the beach. I enjoy anything that has to do with being in the water. I was once into bodyboarding, and I’m slowly working my way up to getting better. I also love reading. I read pretty much anything—magazines like Cosmo, to 50 Shades of Gray, to cookbooks.
Oh, so you can cook?
Hmm… well, I can make a mean fried rice. Other than that, I have yet to perfect tinaktak and stufao. My grandmas, both from my mom and dad’s side, taught me how to cook.
What’s your favorite part of your body?
My smile because I’ve been told it’s contagious.
What kinds of things really make you laugh?
I’m usually the one laughing at the joke that no one is laughing at. It’s really hard to describe because I have a very particular sense of humor, but I find sarcasm really funny. If it helps, I love Kevin Hart and Will Ferrell.
Who has been the biggest influence in your life?
Definitely, it has to be my mom. I admire that she’s very hardworking. She takes care of three kids and works two jobs. I want to be like her every day.
What is the best gift you’ve ever received?
My life. I’d say without my mom and dad, I wouldn’t be the person I am. Both of them are very hardworking and taught me how to do the same.
What do you think is your greatest strength?
I’d like to think it’s my mindset because I’m very motivated and nothing can stop me from succeeding. The only thing that we can control is our thoughts. I keep my mindset strong and apply those thoughts into everything I do.
What is your favorite article of clothing you own?
I love wearing dresses. It’s a very simple outfit and you don’t have to think about what bottom or top you would have to wear.
What are you really good at?
I’m good at paying attention to details and seeing what it’s like to be on the other side of things. I don’t have one particular talent, but I am still on the journey to find what I am best at. Life is full of surprises. One just might be my hidden passion!
And so the shoot began, with Heather in barely-there makeup and soft subtle waves. She left me with a few last words. “No matter what people say, there is no limit to what I can do.” While we turned up Rihanna to set the mood for a fun shoot, she returned from the dressing room in her first outfit: a referee-inspired number with elegant black pumps. Proving once again, you don’t have to bare all to be sexy.