The 61st edition of the Miss World Pageant featured a lot of pomp and yes, pageantry. But whether that pomp and pageantry is focused on the 113 international contestants competing is a different story altogether.
Keen watchers of this pageant since 2008 would observe a structure that actually stood basically unchanged this year–a grandiose dance number interspersed with the contestants in their evening gowns being introduced alphabetically, followed by the introduction of the hosts, then recap of the activities (highlighting the fast-tracks) with announcement of the fast-track winners, followed by the announcement of the rest of the semifinalists, then a “Dances of the World” segment (a pre-taped segment featuring the contestants dancing in national costumes), then a musical number, then whittling down the semifinalists to a Top 7, a final Q&A, another musical number, then finally the announcement of the winner and her two runners-up. There were fresh twists that were introduced though, like the scoreboard where the audience could view the Top 30 contestants, that the fast-track winners do not automatically advance to the Top 15, and that the Top 20 quarterfinalists as determined by the leaderboard walked one-by-one to find out if they made the Top 15. Though some pageant fans and pundits felt that knowing who’s on the leaderboard would kill the suspense, it actually made for surprisingly riveting and exciting viewing, and as the fast-tracks unfold, there is fun to be had watching who rises and falls in the ranks after the points from the fast-tracks are accounted for–just think how the proceedings of the scoring goes in the Eurovision Song Contest. And besides, as the proceedings wore on the selection of the Top 7 turned out to not totally match the results of the leaderboard, which shows that there is still an element of unpredictability with the final results. I definitely would want this feature to be in future editions of the pageant (especially since I’m a self-confessed score-obsessed person).
Before we get to the juicier part of analyzing how the contestants scored, let’s get the elements of the production out of the way.
HOSTS: This year, the event was hosted by 9-year veteran Angela Chow, with American soap opera star (“General Hospital”) Jason Cook. It’s amazing how Angela remains consistently competent, vibrant, and reliable as a host through all these years. Her features likewise remain unchanged–and I’m going back to the time she started out as an MTV Asia VJ almost 20 years ago. Does she possess the same magic formula that Dick Clark possessed? Jason Cook is basically delicious eye candy–but he decided to rough it up for a “manlier” image by growing a thick stubble. He’s generally solid though unremarkable as a host–he did have a memorable quip after watching Miss Venezuela in the “Dances of the World” segment that he’d want to have her as a hunting partner. Though several pageant fans and pundits may find his presence unwelcome, producer Stephen Douglas was on hand to introduce the fast-track segments and relay the progressive results of the scoreboard after each segment, like a sportscaster relaying the movers and shakers on the board.
ENTERTAINMENT: For the opening number, performing were the 2009 champions of Britain’s Got Talent, the dance troupe Diversity. With their sleekly intricate and inventive choreography, the troupe showcased the quality that made them beat the much buzzed about singer Susan Boyle. The Michael Jackson cut (one of his posthumous releases) at the finale of their number was a major highlight.
In the middle of the program, the boyband Blue sang a cover of Elton John’s “Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word”. I’m all for live singing, though admittedly I have been so spoiled with hearing pitch-perfect performances (that may have been mimed or auto-tuned) that I found their imperfect but solid rendition a bit underwhelming.
Finally, after the Top Seven speeches, for a little “classy” entertainment we are treated to Ramin Karimloo’s interpretation of “Music of the Night” from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical “Phantom of the Opera”. Yes, we were all spoiled by Michael Crawford’s Olivier- and Tony-winning rendition, but this fellow acquitted himself well even if it sounded a little sharp and overwrought.
DANCES OF THE WORLD: Instituted since 2007, this is often a colorful highlight of the Miss World finals broadcast, and it continues to deliver this year, with Puerto Rico, Ukraine, South Africa, Nepal, Scotland, Mexico, China, Latvia, Venezuela, and Sierra Leone being spotlighted. I love Puerto Rico’s salsa in a nude-colored bodysuit, Ukraine’s graceful balletic folk dance (to a modern Ukrainian pop tune), Scotland’s traditional jig, Venezuela’s Amazonian warrior moves, and the finale, Sierra Leone’s tribal dance. With Sierra Leone’s scantily clad costume combined with her frenetic dancing, you half-fear and half-wish that a wardrobe malfunction would occur.
MISCELLANEA: There are some extra segments that were featured in the program, two of them to commemorate 60 years of the pageant. First was a highlight reel that takes us through the history of the pageant over the past six decades. Though I quibble at the inclusion of footage of 1954’s Antigone Costanda when they label the 1960s, it was a nice condensed (though sanitized–they of course didn’t mention anything about how three of them failed to complete their reigns) review of Miss World history. Second was a sentimental revisit at the Lyceum featuring two 1950s Miss World winners, Denise Perrier (1953) and Antigone Costanda (1954). This sequence is cute and lovable, and the two ladies came off as adorably lovable grandmas taking a trip down memory lane. I heard the first Miss World, Kiki Håkansson, passed away earlier this year, and I wonder what happened to her fellow Swedish successor, May Louise Flodin?
The third miscellaneous segment was probably to pay tribute to Bruce Forsyth’s recent knighthood as he was onstage with his wife, Miss World 1975 Wilnelia Merced (now Lady Forsyth) and after talking about how they met and got married, they were asked by Angela Chow a question on who they thought would win it all. Of course, though they try to be diplomatic by stating they were simply impressed with her dancing, it’s obvious they have to choose Puerto Rico (Wilnelia’s countrywoman, of course).
The final miscellaneous segment was a message from Nelson Mandela, relayed by his grandson Mandla Chief Mandela live onstage that is basically about Nelson bestowing his blessings for Miss World’s Beauty with a Purpose projects. Yes, the intentions are noble, but I found the gesture a little pompous and superfluous–does Chief Mandela have to be physically present to deliver such a message? And was it necessary to interrupt the announcement of the final results for this?
All images courtesy of Miss World, Ltd., unless otherwise indicated.
COMING UP: SCORING SYSTEM and PRELIMINARY JUDGMENT