I’m extremely tickled at the thought that the three ladies who ended up as the Top Three in this year’s pageant came from countries with the most vocal and passionate of pageant followers, especially across the web. That was why I came up with the term “Pageant Ga-Ga Countries” in the title of my review. Two of these were highly favored by the judges from the get-go, while one of them, though already also well regarded by the judges, surged because of her much vaunted stage presence, superb communication skills and the energy provided by her extremely vocal supporters in the audience at Earl’s Court.
3RD PLACE: PUERTO RICO – Amanda Vilanova. In the preliminary judging, she was a close second behind the leader, as she does possess good looks (though maybe not as stunningly gorgeous as some other representatives from this country in other pageants) and an engaging personality with superb communication skills. She then surged to the lead after qualifying for four fast-tracks (missing the cut in Top Model), shining particularly in Talent with her admittedly entertaining lip-sync performance with a bi-gender twist. With the presence of the Lady Forsyth (this is the name I shall refer to Miss World 1975 winner Wilnelia Merced from now on) and her husband expressing their support for her, people might be primed for her victory, though some pageant fans and pundits would object if that happened.
Then Julia Morley announced that she ended up in 3rd Place. So what gives? She did look great in her stiff silk red strapless gown with crystal shoulder trim, but the final night judges were more impressed with the other two who eventually ranked ahead of her. Her speech emphasizing “I believe I possess these qualities” simply cemented her 3rd place finish.
2ND PLACE: PHILIPPINES – Gwendoline Ruais. I have always believed that Miss World would have been the best venue where her unconventional brand of beauty would have the best prospects of making an impression, even when she competed at Bb. Pilipinas when they had the franchise in 2010. In fact, here is the video I made for Mabuhay Beauties when I reviewed her during her stint there:
Of course she only ended up a semifinalist that year. She then joined the following year when the franchise was transferred to TV personality/socialite Cory Quirino’s Miss World Philippines, and the rest was history. Little did I know that she would fare this phenomenally well. It helped that Cory Quirino’s ties with this organization was described and speculated by pageant fans and pundits as similar to China’s Yue Sai-Kan with Trump and the Miss Universe Organization, but I think clinching the deal was the enthusiastic energy of her supporters present at Earl’s Court during the finals, almost akin to those at Las Vegas when Venus Raj competed at Miss Universe last year. The roar of the crowd was palpable from the time when she first appeared.
To those pageant fans and pundits baffled at her extremely high placement and even the 9th place score during the preliminaries, let me note that though one category was “beauty, grace, and charm” and they would believe she lacks in the “beauty” part, well, I think the “grace and charm” portion allowed to still earn points in this department, though we can theorize she fared better in the “figure and deportment” and the “intelligence, poise, and personality” portions of the preliminary judging. She exudes an aristocratic presence, justifiably so considering her family on her father’s side were indeed bonafide aristocrats who once welcomed Queen Elizabeth when her grandfather was mayor of Paris, France. Plus, her much vaunted communication skills (she was prominent providing commentary soundbites especially during the video of the Cambridge University visit as aired during the finals even if she was not one of the selected speakers) and her expressing a great attitude and commitment to help others (loved the line where she said stressed she knows it’s a job) helped win the judges to her side that helped her edge out erstwhile favorite Puerto Rico.
I have this feeling that Gwen is actually aware of her detractors, that is why she employed the savvy strategy of wearing minimal makeup as much as possible, almost to the point of being bare-faced. Plus, the epithets hurled against her by her detractors and her half-French heritage made me recall a controversy involving Elodie Gossuin, the French semifinalist at Miss Universe 2001 (and later on winner of Miss Europe 2001). Journalists who did not know the nature of the website where the report of a “Miss France is actually a transvestite/transsexual” (it’s a news spoof website a la “The Onion”) reported it as if it was a fact and temporarily caused a stir to poor Elodie’s distress. Of course, as Elodie would state, she’s “100% natural”, and the same applies to Gwen.
Reflecting at what her detractors were saying and me associating it with Elodie also made me think of that Lady Gaga song, “Born This Way”. Yes, Gwendoline is “born this way” (in the natural, biological sense, even I can understand the irony that the song also celebrates “other” things, and also that Lady Gaga herself was accused of a similar charge) but she made the most out of it.
On a final note, I salute the fact that Gwen now is part of a lofty group of ladies who achieved the farthest so far at Miss World, equalling 1973’s Evangeline Pascual’s 1st runner-up finish, and beating Ruffa Gutierrez’s 2nd runner-up finish in 1993. I think as I predicted in my homestretch article, she will pave the way for our first winner, I believe. And I believe the key is to look for someone like this lady (even though the lady herself is no longer likely to be inclined to compete anymore as she now has a successful TV career–besides current national pageant rules disqualifies those that have seen action in a major international pageant).
MISS WORLD 2011: VENEZUELA – Ivian Sarcos. From the get-go, she is the most gorgeous and charismatic of the 113 contestants who competed in this year’s pageant. Pageant fans and pundits from all over (including myself) rave rapturously at her sight. Sure, during the finals she sported a humongously gaudy sequined pink gown, but it worked in making her stand out even further from the pack. Sure, thanks to those fast-track points Puerto Rico momentarily overtook her in the lead on the scoreboard going into the Top 15, but we all know at the moment the finals began this competition was hers to lose. And this lady never let go and dominated over everyone, even if she couldn’t speak English.
Some pageant fans and pundits observed that apparently there is a certain type of Venezuelan that would end up winning this pageant–long, abundant ebony tresses with prominent eyebrows seemed to be a common denominator (though blonde 1981 winner Pilin Leon is an exception to this rule).
But considering her complexion is dusky and her features having that vaguely “native” exotic touch, she actually reminded me of someone else, but similarly Latina: THE LADY FORSYTH. Plus I also get a vibe from another 1970s Venezuelan beauty queen, Miss Universe 1976 1st runner-up, Judith Castillo.
Her beauty and charisma is such that I believe whatever she said in her Final Seven speech would simply be beside the point. Well, she did make a good point with the first part of her speech where she stated (via interpreter): “I believe that the next Miss World should be a woman of sensibility and reason. I believe the woman should be committed to the organization to help people in need, a beauty with heart.” She then continued on but the interpreter didn’t translate it (I found out she went on to say “One more thing: I believe in destiny and I believe that God has a divine plan for every human being. And I am here because we worked together…” and went on to mention the background that despite her being an orphan at a young age, she worked to overcome her circumstances. Despite not earning points from BWAP, she exudes such a simpatica vibe that you know she is willing and committed to perform the job required of a Miss World. Even other directors were rooting for her victory.
I have this gnawing feeling by the time she crowns her successor in Ordos this coming July, she will learn a significant amount of English. And I have this gnawing feeling she will continue on the same trajectory as the Lady Forsyth, probably with her love of tea (as quipped by her roommate, Spain) she would probably even end up marrying a prominently wealthy Englishman…
All in all, there are several strides made in the right direction during the finals of this years Miss World pageant that I hope would be retained. Just make sure they exercise due diligence in the accounting of the scoring and the rankings (have the results properly audited would be a good step), plus a little more onstage competition would be the only things they needed to make those stalwart ga-ga pageant fans turn over and rally to their side.
All images courtesy of Miss World, Ltd. unless otherwise indicated.