An Azeri-Russian billionaire businessman who wanted to promote his urban development at the outskirts of the Russian capital of Moscow, and his musician/entertainer son who has aspirations for international superstardom (plus an eye for the ladies), reportedly paid US$20 million to Donald Trump and Co. for the rights to host the pageant in their turf.  Despite the flak received because of the recently passed anti-gay laws in the country, the pageant (and the fans and personnel) managed to proceed without any major incident.

Unlike some editions that featured a voiceover from Donald Trump, this year the pageant opened with the hosts speaking from backstage and a very brief dance number to Zedd’s “Gravity”, quickly leading to the contestant introductions–this time they found a suitable balance as they had them introduce live in Sherri Hill dresses while a split-screen would show video footage of them in national costume.  It’s a bit reminiscent of the early-to-mid-1990s-era editions of this pageant that I actually welcome.

This year’s hosts were MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts and former Spice Girl Mel B.  Thomas is an out married gay man and he’s a treat for the eyes, though he moves and conducts his hosting spiels without giving away his sexuality (except perhaps in that reference that he works out to Mel B.’s new song).  Their stints could’ve been regarded as flawless except they committed some glaring gaffes–Mel B. mispronounced the names of judges Philip Kirkorov (she called him “Kirokov”) and Tara Lipinski (she called her “Lara”), while in the crucial final moment Thomas didn’t clearly state that he will immediately announce the name of Miss Universe without mentioning the first runner-up’s name, leading to the confused reaction of the Top Two (more on that later).

Hosts Thomas Roberts and Mel B.

Providing color commentary for the third year in a row is How Do I Look host Jeannie Mai.  In general, she is very safe in her commentary, only praises for every evening gown that went on the runway.

Jeannie Mai at the Miss Universe 2013 red carpet (image sourced from fashionbombdaily.com)

The structure of the program is unchanged for the past three years, so I’ll just comment on the entertainment that was interspersed during the Top 16 swimsuit and Top 10 evening gown.  The Top 16 swimsuit round featured musical guest Panic! At The Disco, who performed their latest single “Miss Jackson” (not to be confused with the No. 1 US smash by rap duo Outkast back in 2001) and their biggest hit back in 2005, “I Write Sins Not Tragedies.”  They delivered a manic energy live, and fortunately “Miss Jackson” has a strong rhythm that works well as swimsuit catwalk music.

For the evening gown music, the billionaire’s son Emin performed his dance song “In Another Life”.  It so reminds me of Enrique Iglesias’s club-oriented latter hits like “I Like It”.  Sure, he’s okay looking, but I don’t see his career really taking off internationally.  But it’s a nice gesture that proceeds from the release of this song (with a music video featuring Miss Universe 2012 Olivia Culpo and some of this year’s contestants) would go to help Typhoon Yolanda victims.

Unlike last year, where the final look of the Top Five were accompanied by another musical number, it was generic music this time, but they skipped the awarding of the special awards (except for national costume) to make way for Aerosmith frontman (and telecast judge) Steven Tyler performing his classic hit “Dream On” (with assistance from Panic! At The Disco).  Steven’s performance is undeniably faultless (he can still deliver his hits like no one else, unlike, say, the late Robin Gibb when he was a guest performer at Miss World seven years ago), but it’s still superfluous to the program.  It was only in the after-party that we learned the winner of Miss Photogenic was Miss Poland (Paulina Krupińska) (the winners of National Costume and Congeniality are among the semifinalists so I’ll discuss them later).


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