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There's a strange, cosmic entanglement between myself and Imelda Marcos, former First Lady of the Philippines. In the 1980s, the Marcos dictatorship threatened my mother’s family, resulting in her exile from Manila to Los Angeles. That’s where she met my father.

When I learned that teenage Imelda entered a beauty pageant—and of its absurd outcome—I sensed a parallel between her quest for the pageant crown and the political throne: obsessed, consumed, oblivious. Can a small-scale ego boost have a ripple effect on a nation's destiny? While individuals fail public life and positions of power, perhaps the reverse is also true.

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