By her own words, Aria Perez-Theisen is not your typical girl, and we couldn’t
agree more. The reigning Ms. World Guam is not just a beauty, but she packs a lot of
brawn as well, being a member of Guam’s successful national rugby team. And as
you talk to her, it will also become immediately evident that this girl is brainy as
well. She’s certainly one for the books.
IMAGES BY DOC MARLON PECJO
WORDS BY ALEX A. GATPANDAN
STYLING BY JANNO NOVENARIO
ASSISTED BY RIONE PALACIOS
MAKEUP BY JIM ROSS (INGLOT COSMETICS)
HAIR BY FRANCIS GUINTU (CYNOS INSIDE HAIR CARE)
SPECIAL THANKS TO JACQYU, SHAMS PUZON, PAULINE EBORA, AND DANIA SOAN
Anyone who has known Barrigada’s Aria Perez-Theisen as a kid, then lost contact
with her for a long time, will be forgiven if they do a double take if informed that the
Miss World Guam 2015 is the same kid they used to know. It can be difficult to
associate the chubby little girl busy playing in the mud with her little brothers to the
stunning and statuesque 20-year-old beauty that represented the island in the
international competition held in China last December. Even Aria herself pretty
much admitted that being a beauty queen never entered her mind while growing up.
It was only about two years ago when she first discovered Miss World Guam that
she finally took interest and started building up the courage to eventually join the
pageant “hoping to learn more about being a lady and getting involved in the
community” as she puts it.
She may have shed her baby fats and innate shyness as she grew up, but one thing
remained consistent in her personality—her love for sports, the physical kind.
Describing herself as a rough and tough athlete, Aria is into several disciplines
including rugby and long-distance track running. She’s become so good at rugby in
fact that she made it to the Guam national rugby team that recently made history by
finishing second overall in the Asia Rugby 7s tournament held in India. It was the
first time that the island placed in an international women’s rugby tournament. And
this was after Aria won the Miss Guam World 2015 crown. Talk about a beauty
queen winning in a sporting event. Must be one for Guinness.
Aria is currently a Biology major, hoping to one day become a physician (how
wonderful it must be to be needing medical attention by then). In her spare time, if
she ever finds one, she enjoys hiking, snorkeling, or CrossFit. But it’s not all sweating
up for her, as she also likes to chill out by sketching, spending time with her family,
and watching the sun set.
By merely reading about her, anyone will know how extraordinary this girl is, which
is more than enough reason why UNO really had to get her on the cover. So one
sunny day in January, UNO flew her to Manila for one of two pictorials (the other
one held on island a few weeks later), and the Philippine team simply had a blast
working with her. The following Q&A confirmed what we have suspected all along:
Aria is not only beauty and brawn, but brains as well. She’s certainly the complete
How was your Manila trip for UNO’s cover pictorial?
It was beyond what I expected—from where I got to stay to all the people I got to
meet. Actually, doing the shoot was a pleasure, the team was fun to work with, and
they were inspiring with how creative they got. Then in my spare time, I got to
satisfy my addiction to shopping and eating, and even got to check out the popping
nightlife that Makati is famed for with some newly acquainted beauty queens. For
the most part, what made this trip so enjoyable was the people I spent time with
who made me feel welcome and cared for.
That was not the first time you went to the Philippines, right? What do you like
most about the country? What’s the least?
It was my second! But with these few times I’ve gone there I have always been
pleasantly surprised by how friendly the people are and how accommodating
everything seems to be. Coming from Guam where the community is small, and it is
only natural to help or throw a smile at your neighbor; I loved seeing this same
courtesy in the Philippines on such a grand scale. Regardless of how busy and big
the area I was in seemed, I always managed to meet interesting and passionate
people who don’t mind going out of their way for you. And I feel like these are the
kinds of people the Philippines breeds. Whether in the PI or here on my island, I will
notice that they are raised to know respect and hard work. And that’s what makes a
country: her people.
What I liked the least was seeing these same people live in poor conditions and
work to somewhat make ends meet. It pained me to see how much time everyone
put into their respective roles to earn an amount that didn’t seem like much to me. It
made me feel like I take so much for granted, while others are making do with
whatever they have.
How will you describe the pictorial session? Is there any difference from the
pictorials you have done on Guam?
I have not had much experience with photo shoots, so I am always surprised by how
each one goes. I am also always humbled going into these things, working with
different kinds of talented people and learning so much from them. To me, I
consider the people I worked with [as] artists and I was the canvas being worked
on. It was exciting being part of the creative process and being featured in the end
product. I never had so much fun working so hard on a shoot, even going into long
hours of trying to hold awkward positions while being lathered in oil. As Doc
[Marlon Pecjo, the photographer] and his team worked with me I got to know them
for the fun-loving and interesting people they are. By the end of the night we had
some pretty amazing shots, and I was drenched in oil.
Was there something about the pictorial that you will not forget in a long
Yes, how much oil they used to give that wet look. It went from a little here and
there to [all over] my hair and dripping down my face.
If you can bring one thing/anything from Manila back to Guam, what will it be?
I would love to bring back the malls and all the stores inside them.
How will you describe your family?
My family is far from the storybook portrayal of a family, but I’m blessed that God
chose them for me. Especially my parents. My mom is the driving force that has
shown and continues to show me how to work for the things I love. And I will never
know anyone as selfless as her for what she does for her family. My dad made me
the goofball I am today, and always encouraged me to chase my dreams, which is
why I will never stop dreaming. They raised me and my two older brothers as best
they could, and we may all fight a lot with each other, but we have the kind of crazy
family dynamics that you learn to love. And love them I do.
You once revealed about an eating disorder you had in your younger years
that caused you to lose a lot of weight. How did you overcome the condition?
What caused the disorder in the first place?
A majority of eating disorders are caused by emotional stress, in my case [it was] my
nagging need to be perfect. I inflicted so much pressure on myself to be good that I
eventually determined that I would never be good enough. How I translated that
from my subconscious into physical life was in my appearance. I was never happy
with the way I looked, and I supposed I would like myself more if I ate less, worked
out more, and looked like a twig. Thank God my mother knew better. I conquered
my condition with a lot of pushing from my family and myself. On my family’s part.
especially my mom, they refused to let me delude myself that how I looked was
acceptable. As for me, my biggest savior, I constantly reevaluated myself, my life, my
ideals, and began to establish realistic expectations for them. I got to know myself
better, love myself 10x more, and now skinny me is history. Today, I believe
strength is beauty, size is silly, and food is my best friend.
You also mentioned that your mom was your biggest motivator growing up,
and you being raised to be all the best you can. Did it give you undue stress
trying to live up to expectations? Will you do the same to your future child?
As I’ve mentioned, being raised to be all my best stressed me to the point of
depression. However, I do not blame my mom for pushing me too much for my
eating disorder—even though it wasn’t exactly a big help. She cared enough to know
that I have potential for anything, and she made sure I figured that out too. For that I
will always be grateful, and I will always think back to my mom when I see how far
I’ve come. She nurtured in me a passion for excellence, and I will definitely try to
instill this in my children. How I might do it differently with my children would be to
also teach them that it is in expecting perfection that we fail, because we all make
mistakes. It is how we rebound from these mistakes that helps us grow.
How will you describe Aria growing up? What do you say is the biggest
difference between you as a kid and you as a grownup?
Kid Aria was a chubby chubster who stayed inside too much and maybe ate a little
too many taquitos. The biggest difference between Kid Aria and Me-Now Aria was
that I cared too much about what other people thought. I shied away from a lot of
things as a kid because I was afraid that if I did something wrong I would be judged.
I basically let imaginary critiques control my life (lame). Now that I am grown up
(kinda) I understand that people make these fleeting judgments based on things that
they saw at a glance, which make them inaccurate and therefore irrelevant in my
life. The only people who are allowed to judge me now and mean it are my parents,
God, and myself.
Did you dream of becoming a beauty queen one day?
No. I hate to say it, but I grew up thinking I would embarrass myself if I joined a
pageant. I was sure I’d stay away from them because I never considered myself
charming or as beautiful as the girls I saw.
What made you decide to join a beauty pageant?
I was attracted to the idea of giving back to the community that the Miss World
upholds. I also wanted to feed my hunger for representing and promoting my island
because I take a lot of pride in where I was raised and how it has played a large role
in who I am. Lastly, learning how to be more ladylike seemed like a good idea.
Were you confident that you would win the Miss World Guam crown? What
gave you such a feeling?
I was confident that I could work hard enough to have a good chance in winning. I
will never believe that anything should be handed to me, and I never want to
underestimate those I compete with. Pageant day came around and I felt good about
how much fundraising, dieting, working out, and time I devoted to the effort, but
even when it was down to me and one other girl I wasn’t 100% sure I would win.
Aside from hearing the actual announcement that you have won, when did you
feel that victory was yours?
It was when I stood looking out to the crowd just before they were about to
announce the winner and I heard my dad yell, “Bring it home baby!” I’m a
competitive runner, and every race I ran was about bringing it home—giving that
last effort until I crossed the finish line. And of course at that point I was at the last
leg of the race in the pageant, and my will to win wanted to bring it home after
pushing to get so far.
What do you think pushed you head and shoulders above the competition?
I am a competitive person by nature, always have been, always will be. But I
compete with myself to rise to higher levels of greatness that I know I can achieve. If
I see someone is working hard, I want to work hard too, and I always want to work
harder than them. I love surprising myself with how far I can go when I have that
desire to push myself like that.
What is the biggest change in your life that winning the Ms. World Guam
It’s the confidence that winning Miss World gave me. Running for Miss World Guam
required a lot from me, and there were moments of doubt that I had to overcome,
and that really only happened when I found the confidence in myself to do so. I won
more faith in me and in what I do for myself at the end of the pageant.
How do you keep yourself fit? Is there any special/unique routine that you do?
I watch my diet as best I can, remembering to eat more of what my body actually
needs and treating it with less of the things that it really doesn’t. I am also addicted
to working out and training. I try to go to my gym, Custom Fitness, almost every day
to get a good sweat in, and I feel better physically, emotionally, and spiritually when
I can keep that up. It’s a kind therapy for me. Also, I am an athlete so I’m always
motivated to be bigger, stronger, and faster. The only routine I have is staying
hungry for the gains of living healthy.
How did you become a member of the Guam national women’s rugby team?
What’s with the sport that you like the best?
I became a member by seeking them out and trying out. The team is really all about
making rugby bigger on Guam, and they are always on the lookout for new talent
and girls with heart to play for their island. I love rugby because it’s a rough sport,
and I don’t mind the physicality at all. It’s a very social sport, and I have gotten close
to those who share the same love for smashing and being smashed.
Now that you’re a beauty queen, will you be setting rugby aside?
Absolutely not. As soon as I got back from my trip for the international Miss World
pageant I jumped right back into training and went to India with the team for the
Asia Rugby Sevens tournament. We killed it and brought back 2nd place.
Where will you bring a first-time visitor to Guam? What native food will you
have the person try?
I would bring them to the beach, first things first. It’s an easy way to see our island’s
beauty like her blue seas, the soft sand, and the peace of being in the middle of them.
And the native food I would have them try is tinaktak. It is my favorite local dish,
and I would be surprised if it didn’t become theirs as well when they take a bite.
What should a man do to catch your attention?
My eyes’ focus has already been stolen by my boyfriend. What he did to catch them
was simple. He was outgoing, fun to be around, and had the husky build that I knew
could handle my rough shenanigans.
As Guam’s representative to the Ms. World international competition, we’re
quite sure that you have met men of other nationalities. What would you say is
the biggest difference between them and the men of Guam?
I actually did not meet a lot of men there, only experienced how much Chinese men
liked to hound beautiful girls. But on rugby trips I have met Australians, Lebanese,
Irish, Samoan, and more that I can’t remember. The biggest difference I do
remember is the accent. Nothing super special, only the way they speak, but it is
such an interesting difference.
What will melt your heart?
I am a hopeless romantic, and nothing melts my heart more than a man who puts
the woman he loves first to show that he adores her more. I am also a dog lover, and
they melt my heart just with their fuzzy faces.
What is the perfect date for you? And where on Guam is the perfect place to
spend that date?
The perfect date for me is a walk down one of my favorite beaches, holding hands,
and talking about whatever matters to us at the moment. And ending it watching the
sunset, holding each other, and appreciating how beautiful it is to be have someone
to share that glorious moment with.
What is an ideal relationship? Do you believe in forever?
My ideal relationship is one that brings happiness to both individuals, where they
know they are cared for and always cherished, and that allows both of them to grow
in different ways they never imagined. Relationships are a learning experience
where you learn to love and to be loved by another, but more importantly how to
love yourself. Sure, I believe in forever. It’s trusting in forever that I think people
What is next for the reigning Ms. World Guam?
What I have planned next is to give back as much as I can to the community that
raised me, and to represent it as best I can. Whether it be on island or away, for
beauty or for sport, I will show what an honor it is to be from my little island of
Your message to our loyal UNO readers?
Si yu’us ma’ase for taking a second to get to know me a little better. I hope I’ve
occupied your time well, and given you a thing or two to think about. I wish you all
the best in life after you finish reading this issue of UNO. I’m sure you’ve gained bula
life points just for picking it up. Peace, esta laters.
SHORT AND SWEET
Last thing you do in the evening? Go to the gym, I don’t think my day is done until
that’s taken care of (then I proceed to eat astounding amounts of food).
First thing you do in the morning? Wish I had 5 more minutes in bed… then
mentally prepare myself for a new day by planning how I will make it a good one.
Favorite sleeping outfit? An oversized tee.
Favorite hangout? Touch rugby at the beach with the homies.
Pet peeve? Obnoxious chewing.
Quirk in your personality? My personality is my quirk. I’m a bit of a weirdo, but it
works for me.
A little secret about you that you can share with us? My secret? I stole the cookie
from the cookie jar. It was glorious.