My BFF, the Teen Queen

I think of the little girls and boys watching TV in the future…. I want to be the person I would admire as a kid

Sixteen-year old Miss Teen Philippines 2019 and Bench Endorser Nikki de Moura moved to Manila with her family from Cagayan de Oro last July. 

She was still in pajamas when I video-called her, and both of our faces lit up as we saw each other. After a few greetings, she moved rooms for greater privacy and less noise, and right away explained that relocating during a pandemic makes house hunting risky. Therefore, getting stuck in their crowded condominium for the meantime appears to be the best option. 

“It was different from what we had planned. It did not end up how we wanted it (to go), really. It is hard but hopefully we’ll be moving out soon,” de Moura said.

“Pink” statement sweater, Bench

              When I asked what she misses most about Cagayan de Oro, she exclaimed, “The farm! And spending time with family. We’d always go out on the farm and hang out together.” 

It was in Cagayan de Oro where she was scouted by a modeling agency and asked if she would like to join Miss Teen Philippines. She said yes and eventually won.  

              Because of the pandemic, the teen queen misses working and spending time with friends. She looks forward to doing more modeling work now that she’s in Manila and hopes to improve her social skills when meeting new people.

              Born and raised in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, she moved to the Philippines only three years ago. She recalls the things she misses most about Brazil, like the food, her friends and family and being able to speak in Portuguese everywhere she goes.

              While she’s waiting for gigs, the few things that keep Nikki productive are working on her social media presence, learning to cook pescatarian meals, and practising proper hair care routines for her naturally curly hair (we have to thank her Brazilian genes for that).

Two-piece swimsuit, Bench Body

Among all, working out and keeping fit is her favorite past-time (I envy her as well!) It’s refreshing to see individuals who actually enjoy exercising as a hobby and not just perceive it as something we all have to do to be healthy. Without gyms to depend on, she encourages everyone to utilize alternative solutions, “There’s actually a lot of different exercises you can use with your body weight that are very effective for you!” then adding her usual “and you should work out, Casey!”  Obviously, I too don’t get a pass on this. 

              Despite the long-distance relationship our other friend, Yagmur (who is in Turkey) and I have with Nikki, she never fails to remind us to keep healthy not just for the physical but also holistic benefits. Whenever we need help or encouragement, she is always ready to support and cheer us on. 

She hypes us up whenever we look our best, and gives us an extra boost on days when we feel otherwise. Her goofiness and humor are key to our friendship, something no distance can hinder.

Sunburst pleated organdy ballgown with pearl details, Nina Gatan

              At the end of our interview (at this point was practically just chikahan), we came to our lifetime goals. For the aspiring international model, her dream was “to inspire a little girl. That’s all. I think of the little girls and boys watching TV in the future and I hope I get the chance to serve as a role model for them, because it’s what I used to see on the television. I want to be the person I would admire as a kid, I guess.”  

With everything she’s already achieved in early adolescence, there is no doubt she has already inspired thousands of people, not just kids, and will definitely continue to influence more. 

I am genuinely grateful to be her friend and I am constantly proud of her as we grow together and learn more about life.  

Nude turtleneck, Lucy Gomez for Kashieca
Structurd armored bodice in cheese cloth canvas material pleated skirt, Jerome Salaya Ang

Photography Jerick Sanchez

Styling Luis Carlo San Juan

Makeup Theresa Padin

Hairstyle Mong Amado

Video EJ Bonagua

Casey Merritt

is a senior high school student in Angeles City, Pampanga. She considers herself as the clumsiest person you'll meet. A walking meme. Cannot commit to a single hobby. Writing this profile gave her existential crisis. Fond of anything wholesome. Will jump a lot (and to conclusions) when nervous. Her bag is usually filled with take-out sauce packets. The competitive student in class games!

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