Now, let’s discuss the Top Three.  They are a stunning, intelligent, diverse, and drop-dead-gorgeous trio.  Without further ado, let’s start with:

2ND RUNNER-UP:  GHANA – Michelle Obama, er, I mean, Carranzar Naa Okailey Shooter.  Her overachieving background was her ticket to making a tie for first place with France and Jamaica after the judges’ interview with 183 points.  She scored highly in Beach Fashion and Beauty with a Purpose, placing 3rd in the former and 7th in the latter, and earned the requisite 10-point credits in Sports, Top Model, and Multimedia.  Despite all those points, going into the Top 10 she took up  the rear and barely scraped by into this group with 278 points (she could’ve been overtaken by India if she passed the first round of Talent auditions, or if Ukraine submitted a Beauty with a Purpose project).

But as the task of whittling down the Top 10 to the Final Five (plus Wildcard) was made by the judges (including the insiders who previously interviewed her), I presume initial impressions (plus that radiant smile) helped her make the final cut, and her speech was decent and generally to the point:  “I believe a Miss World should be someone who is a woman with substance , who is compassionate, and who truly embodies beauty with a purpose.  If I’m given this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, I will wake up each day knowing I have an image to keep to influence the lives of young people, especially young women, to make an impact in the lives of the less privileged.”  She definitely is the best Ghanaian representative I have ever seen in any major pageant thus far, and I think she can definitely become a more prominent figure in society in years to come–I have visions of her becoming like a Ghanaian Michelle Obama.

1ST RUNNER-UP:  FRANCE – Marine Lorphelin.  Most people seemed fixated on a Brazil vs. Philippines showdown for the crown, but this lady was always in the scene and making big waves.  Besides her constantly radiant presence throughout her Bali stay, her overachieving background helped her take a tie for first place with 183 points after the judges’ interview.  She also garnered big points in the challenge events, placing 2nd in Beach Fashion, 3rd in Top Model, and 6th in Beauty with a Purpose.  Adding in the requisite participation points in Sports and Multimedia, she was the 5th biggest challenge scorer overall with 125 points.  Going into the Top 10 she was 4th overall with a 308 point total.

I have to say that I was underwhelmed by her speech:  “For me it will be an honor to become Miss World because it’s a very prestigious title and especially because I appreciate the fact that Miss World travels a lot and meets people in the world and tries to help them.  So I think I’m someone natural and generous.”  I personally preferred, say, Spain’s speech, though I appreciate the effort that she chose to speak in English.  But I think what helped her sustain her high standing was her video, where she looked utterly radiant (she also looked gorgeous and radiant on stage, by the way), and in her soundbites, she relayed how her late grandmother wished for her to compete in a beauty pageant, and she got emotional relaying how it affected her when she passed away when she turned 18.

Besides her top ranking in the judges’ interview on the first leaderboard, there was a bit of foreboding that she will rank very high as it was noted that Miss World 1953 Denise Perrier was in the audience.  There was only one other lady where the presence of an important person in the audience was acknowledged and that acted as a foreboding (one of many throughout the broadcast) of her ultimately successful fate…

MISS WORLD 2013:  PHILIPPINES – Megan Young.  She was only two points behind the three leaders after the judges’ interview with 181 points.  Those three leaders may have the edge in terms of academic achievements and book knowledge but Megan has been greatly educated by life experience practically growing up in show business and taking primary responsibility in the care of her younger siblings as her separated parents had to work far away from them.  Challenges like those would usually create a hardened, detached individual, but somehow she still manages to navigate life with optimism, open-heartedness, kindness, grace. and good humor.

I have a strong belief that she’s actually the Challenge Queen in this year’s pageant, amassing the most points out of all of them with 147.  She garnered scores in all challenge events, particularly with her Top Model win, 4th place finish in Multimedia and 5th place finish in Beach Fashion.  She got 15 points’ credit for her Beauty with a Purpose project, and the requisite 10 points for taking part in Sports and auditioning for Talent.  All told, going into the Top 10 she was the topnotcher with 328 points.

For the final night, she looked the most regal and exquisite with her hair up in a bun sporting a sequined Francis Libiran flesh-colored number.  I have to admit when I saw the sketches I was a bit underwhelmed and was with some pageant fans and pundits in thinking she should’ve reprised the shimmering blue-and-gold Eric de los Santos number she wore when she won her national pageant.  But it was much better in execution and reportedly even more in person, as it was also delivering a shining, shimmering effect with the sequins.  I think there was no doubt that all throughout the evening she was indeed at the top of the judges’ lists in terms of onstage presence.  It was like an amalgam of Audrey Hepburn and Miss World winners Aishwarya Rai and Agbani Darego.

Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (image courtesy of Paramount Pictures)
Miss World 1994 Aishwarya Rai
Miss World 2001 Agbani Darego

Her video (aired after a miscue) tugged the people’s hearts (especially the judges) as she went a bit emotional when she talked about the sacrifices she had made for her family, and how she proves that Filipinos are hard working people.  She then clinched the deal with her speech:   “A Miss World, for me, treasures the core values of humanity and that guides her into understanding people –why they act the way that they do and how they are living their lives. I will use these core values in my understanding, not only in helping others but to show other people how they can understand others, to help others. So that as one, together, we shall help society.”  It may not be as brilliant as Janine Tugonon’s famous onstage pageant answers, and there was a feeling she was trying to piece her words together as she spoke and tried to condense her thoughts, but in the end it was successful and she managed to provide a fresh approach and a cohesive idea, plus displaying a selfless, willing-to-work approach that the Miss World powers-that-be prefer from their contestants.

Megan’s own journey to the crown somewhat paralleled the path of the pageant itself:  if this year’s pageant had those pesky conservative radical Islamists, Megan had some selfish Filipino detractors who reportedly bombarded Miss World Ltd with e-mails in an attempt to discredit and disqualify her.  But like the way the pageant was conducted smoothly in the end, those potential saboteurs proved to be a fizzle and were greatly overshadowed by the overwhelming legion of supporters, several of whom were present cheering for her whenever her country’s name was announced during the finals.

Besides the loud cheers by her supporters whenever she appears, the entire pageant finals seemed to be laden with foreshadowing pointing to her ultimate triumph.  The broadcast was laden with significant soundbites from her, she was given a very special solo spotlight (with everything around her darkened) in the “Dances of the World” sequence as she performed her singkil, and before the announcement of winners her mother was interviewed by host Kamal Ibrahim.  I fretted momentarily when Ghana was called as 2nd runner-up, but with all these signs, I needn’t have worried as everything worked in her favor.  Unlike the sense of manipulation one felt in watching last year’s pageant, here it’s more of a fulfillment of one chosen person’s destiny, and the results were fair and utterly satisfying.

Spotlight on her: performing the singkil during Dances of the World

In a country with its institutions beset with an over 40-year-old cancer that is proving to be almost impossible to eradicate, along with news of disasters and conflicts over the past month, Megan’s triumph was a welcome development that indeed restored our nation’s self-esteem.  She may not be able to provide the cure for our ills, but it’s a welcome salve to relieve some of the most painful symptoms, even however fleeting.

Knowing how prior to her pageant victories, Megan’s showbiz career was a bit minor league compared to, say, endorsement queen Anne Curtis, I think this victory could be an opportunity for Megan to finally amp up her career to the next level, and probably even make waves in Hollywood.  Some have talked about her taking a role in a James Bond film like some Miss World winners and finalists did–I initially thought she was a bit too girly for such a part until I remembered she’s an online gamer and it clicked that it would make perfect sense to cast her as a sexy cyberhacker–think a more glamorous and less angsty and edgy version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (remember the current James Bond, Daniel Craig, played the leading man in the Hollywood adaptation of that novel).  I also thought how she can perform a production number in next year’s Miss World, just like how Wenxia Yu sang the Magic Flute this year–right now I’m thinking Nicole Kidman’s “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” number from Moulin Rouge but it might come off a bit tacky so if someone have better ideas out there, feel free to share.

In previous articles I have written about Megan, I mentioned how she seems to possess many of the qualities of the previous Miss World winners, featuring most of the greatest ones, and a little dash of the controversial ones.  After her victory, many pageant fans and pundits are now speaking about her in the same level of someone who was deemed otherwise untouchable before:  Miss World 1994 and queen of Bollywood, Aishwarya Rai.  Considering Megan had made a pledge to become “the best Miss World ever,” thus far she seems to be on that path towards delivering on that promise.   Can’t wait to see how her reign would unfold!    It’s such a joy and relief amidst all the negativity, both the pageant and the winner triumphed over them.

On a final note, congratulations for finally fulfilling our collective dreams, Megan.  May you continue to be deluged with blessings!



Image courtesy of Leonardo Rodrigues for Global Beauties


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