The victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting (image courtesy of Time Magazine)

MISS UNIVERSE 2012:  U S A – Olivia Culpo.   The day after the Presentation Show, a mentally unstable and antisocial 20-year-old named Adam Lanza murdered his gun-collecting mother and then went on a rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newport, Connecticut, slaughtering 20 innocent 1st grade children and six members of the school faculty before killing himself.  I’m certain the Miss Universe Organization and NBC went into a pow-wow after this to discuss how they could address this issue.  I imagined the meeting went something like this:

“Should we overhaul the pageant’s theme to address this tragedy?  How do we make it somber?”

“No, we shouldn’t do that.  Let’s keep the holiday theme intact.  We can address it by offering a moment of silence to pray for those victims.  Besides, America would need something uplifting after a tragedy like this, and we can provide that uplift.”

“Okay, we keep it festive so we can uplift America’s spirits, and we can squeeze in that moment of silence after the final question-and-answer round…”

“And what better way to uplift America’s spirits than to have Miss USA win!  I’m sure our predominantly American celebrity panel would be in a mood to support her no matter what.  How are her chances so far?”

“We tabulated the results from the preliminary judges, and she fell a bit short–her evening gown performance prevented her from making the Top 10, but otherwise she did well in swimsuit and interview.”

“We shouldn’t worry about that since we have a say on who makes the cut anyway and we can always grant her a slot.”

“But there are eight contestants who are leading the pack so far… Australia, Mexico, Paraguay, Philippines, Puerto Rico, South Africa, Venezuela, with Croatia as a wild card as people are buzzing about her pretty face and long-sleeved evening gown.”

“Which of them could we remove?”

“Well, Paraguay and Puerto Rico have several detractors over the Internet.”

“Okay, so let’s keep them out of the final cut…  Who’s next?”

“Croatia is very pretty, and if she wore that same gown with the same hairstyle she can overshadow our bet.  She is like a new Audrey Hepburn.  But she does have a weakness as she doesn’t move that well onstage.”

“Well, have someone advise her to change her hairstyle so we can let her go as far as the swimsuit round and no further… Who else could we take out?”

“The remaining girls have strong followings that if we get rid of any of them, there would be an uproar.  The fans over the internet particularly believe South Africa as the one most likely to win.”

“Does she have any weakness like Croatia.”

“None that I can think of… She’s actually perfect.”

“That’s it!  Maybe she is too perfect, and not everyone trusts a person who is ‘perfect’.”

“She likes making inspirational statements in the interview we filmed, like she talked about ‘we are the product of the choices we make’ and ‘living life in abundance’–we can edit it to make her less human and real…  The judges would probably then not allow her to go to the Final Five.”

“That’s good, then.  What about Australia?”

“Remember that Kooey and Australian Gold are among our sponsors this year?”

“Oh yes, okay, let’s keep her in the Top Five.  How about Venezuela?”

“Well, she’s too strong to not make it all the way, but she could be over-the-top sometimes.  Some are saying she could be the next Dayana Mendoza.  I don’t know but I think her team are finetuning her act for the finals.”

“Okay, we’ll just cross the bridge when we get there and let our celebrity panel decide her fate.  We can make her 1st runner-up if she performed perfectly all the way.  What about Mexico and Philippines?”

“They do have fanatical followers and they will be in full-force on the 19th.  Philippines is someone to watch out for if she reaches the Final Five.  She aces her interviews.”

“Well, we can always say Philippines is not as pretty as Miss USA, so she can be, like, 2nd runner-up.  And we can let the judges decide Mexico’s fate if they think she deserves to be in the Final Five.”

“So what can we do with Miss USA’s gown?  Olivia’s deadset on wearing it for the finals.”

“Let her keep on wearing it–it’s different enough that it could wow the judges.  We can change the styling, so perhaps that would make it better.”

“So, I think we have everything all set, then?”

“Yes, indeed.  Americans should be pleased with the end result.  Meeting adjourned.”

As much as I am convinced a conspiracy has to be in place to permit Olivia to win it all, I don’t really have anything against Olivia herself.  Let’s face it–despite her relatively diminutive 5’5″ stature she is pretty, and her figure is a buffed athletic frame.  I also have to commend that she cleaned up her hairdo for the finals evening gown round–yes, some detractors compared the hairstyle to a meatbun (we Filipinos and probably the Chinese would call it siopao) plopped on top of her head, but it’s a quantum improvement over the messy hairdo she sported in the Presentation Show.  The absence of sashes in the final competition also provided an added bonus as the low-cut gown showcased her ample cleavage to the fullest.  I wouldn’t have objected her advancing to the final round except for one thing–she tripped on her evening gown!  With at least five ladies delivering flawless evening gown performances, her tripping should’ve been penalized.  But I suppose the celebrity panel were in a patriotic mood (and are conditioned to believe Miss South Africa is “too perfect” to be true) so they let her through.

For the final question, she was asked by Miss Universe 2010 Ximena Navarrete, “What is something you have done that you would never do again?”  Olivia’s response: “Hmmm… Okay. Well, first, I’d like to start off by saying that every experience no matter what it is, good or bad, you’ll learn from it. Um. That’s the name of… That’s just life. But something that I regret would probably be picking on my siblings growing up because you appreciate them so much more as you grow older. You get closer with your family but everybody fights with their siblings, right? So… But I don’t regret it!”  Actually, she gave a strong and refreshingly sincere answer–in my reckoning, it’s good for a 2nd runner-up finish, but it still does not compare to the brilliance of Janine’s answer or the strength of Renae’s answer.  With the clearest of conscience, in all aspects I do not believe that this lady was better than Janine that night.

Well, in a certain way, the “uplifting” set-up did generate results–TV ratings for the broadcast of this pageant went up 14% from last year’s all-time-low, but we have to note–it’s still approximately half the audience attracted ten years ago when Oxana Fedorova won.  One might assume that Americans “drank the Kool-Aid” offered by this broadcast–but as revealed by the fan rant* in my previous installment, (along with reactions by some American pageant fans and pundits), not every American is convinced by the victory.

*Caveat emptor:  take note that the said angry American fan rant was filmed by an American-based Filipino pageant fan, but I wholeheartedly believe her sentiments are true and sincere.

As much as I agree with the sentiments of my fellow Filipinos about the final outcome, Janine’s achievements is still something worth celebrating, and we should respect the results even as we vehemently disagree with it.  Let’s just move on and hopefully we will get our just rewards next year or in the years that follow.

The three successful Filipina queens: Venus Raj (4th runner-up 2010), Shamcey Supsup (3rd runner-up 2011), and Janine Tugonon (1st runner-up 2012) (image courtesy of Jory Rivera for OPMB Worldwide)

All images courtesy of Miss Universe LP, LLLP unless otherwise indicated.




  1. IMHO, she won because she has this globally appealing beauty that could sell millions of beauty products and earn millions for the Trump Modeling Agency that will manage her modeling career

  2. Olivia and Elizabeta Burg of Croatia were actually my bets to win the crown with Croatia having the upper hand but i was disappointed with Ms Croatia’s styling during the Coronation Night. I think it was deliberately done to prevent her from making the Evening Gown Competition where she would slay the rest of the Top Ten with her classy gown and elegant stance

  3. Honestly, I find Janine even prettier than Venus or Shamcey. But what these three have in common is the x-factor to stand out from a crowd of 89, 83, and 89. 🙂

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