It seems the telecast judges’ tastes tend towards those with an Iberian heritage.  This is based on the countries that ended up in the Top Five–they are either countries located in the Iberian peninsula (Spain), or formerly colonized by an Iberian country (Ecuador, Venezuela, and Philippines were colonized by Spain, Brazil by Portugal).  It’s also interesting to note that I see an eerie coincidence that the five finalist countries were also the countries that constituted the “elemental courts” of Miss Earth 2009 and 2011:  Brazil, Philippines, and Venezuela were in both, Spain in 2009 and Ecuador in 2011.  Not to mention how Brazil, Philippines and Venezuela have figured in the Top Five of this pageant for two years in a row–some pageant fans and pundits may come out with a far-out speculation about how Miss Universe is now following Miss Earth’s lead instead of vice-versa…

Miss Earth 2009 and 2011 courts:  notice the countries that compose them?
Miss Earth 2009 and 2011 courts: notice the countries that compose them?

Anyway, in general there was only one shocker for me in terms of those who made the Top Five.  And based on their answers on the final question, I would’ve ranked them very differently.  I also have to note that in general, the caliber of answers turned out to be weak–four of them did not directly answer the questions asked of them, and one who did delivered her answer in a less-than-confident manner that may have been a factor that made her ultimately take runner-up honors instead of clinching the crown (but then again, it probably was simply the telecast judges really just simply adored the winner).

4TH RUNNER-UP:  BRAZIL – Jakelyne Oliveira.  She’s a refreshing vision from the “villainesses” we witnessed in recent years who fared well in this pageant.  Coincidentally enough, she reminds me of the effortlessly sexy vibe evoked by Miss Earth 2009 winner Larissa Ramos, and I thought she could be a refreshing choice for a winner for this pageant after the final Q&A was done.  She was asked by 1980s supermodel Carol Alt about her “opinion of places that do not allow women to vote, travel abroad, or drive cars?”  Jakelyine’s response:  “In my opinion, we as women achieved our independence through time. Unfortunately, nowadays we still have some problems with our independence as women. But we need to keep our open minds because nowadays we are homemakers, we are out there in the work force. In my country, we have a female president. We are capable of everything.”  At first listen I thought she answered it brilliantly and thought it would be a tight race for the crown between her, Philippines, and Spain.  So my jaw dropped when she was announced as 4th runner-up.  But then again, examining her answer, though she acknowledged about “we still have some problems with our independence as women” she didn’t really answer the question, and perhaps the judges took that against her.  Moreover, if reports of the scoring was to be believed, she ranked 4th in swimsuit and 7th in evening gown (averaging 4th overall going into the Top Five), so she wasn’t that highly regarded by the telecast judges.  I personally thought despite whatever weakness her answer had, she deserved a Top Three placement at the very least in my reckoning.

3RD RUNNER-UP:  PHILIPPINES – Ariella Arida.  She actually exceeded my expectations in finals night, and I’m glad a Filipino contingent was in full force in the audience despite that notorious Russian policy to cheer her on.  She was styled perfectly right and made a major impact with her impeccably long straight hair (yes, perfect for a shampoo commercial).  She did deliver the goods in the swimsuit round especially the way she whipped her gorgeous straight hair about and the way she swayed onstage to distract the judges from the fact that her hips are on the narrow side.  For the evening gown round, I’m glad she kept her swimsuit hair instead of that horrible styling in the presentation show, and she was likewise elegantly fierce here.  Reportedly she ranked first in swimsuit (most likely buoyed by the crowd’s cheers) and 9th in evening gown* to a 5th place overall ranking into the Top Five.  Now, I thought she might be overrrated in swimsuit, but then underrated in evening gown (though I might think the key reason is that the gown is starting to look a bit worn out at the bottom) but whatever the case, she was indeed Final-Five-worthy.

* When this ranking was revealed, Filipino pageant fans across social media then went into a furor clamoring a change in our national director as for over a decade we rely on Colombian designer Alberto Barraza to supply our competition evening gowns when we have a whole host of renowned local designers to tap.  But in my opinion, this time there is very little fault regarding the gown used as it’s a good gown, though I do hope we can indeed tap local talent in subsequent years.

For the final question, she was asked by Olympic gold medalist figure skater Tara Lipinski about what could be done regarding lack of jobs for young people starting their careers around the world.  Ariella’s response:  “For the people who have lack of jobs, I do believe that we people should invest in education and that is my primary advocacy, because we all know that if everyone of us is educated and well aware of what we are doing, we could land into jobs and we could land a good career in the future. So education is the primary source and a ticket for a better future.” At first listen, it also sounded brilliant plus the fact she didn’t need an interpreter unlike the other four finalists.  My brother dozed through most of the telecast but watched this portion and thought she might even win it all.  I also thought that, too.  But in hindsight, her answer likewise didn’t address the issue as remember that it is likely that these young people are skilled and educated, but the issue is there weren’t enough jobs that fit their skills and education.  I was also initially shocked when she was announced “only” as 3rd runner-up as I thought she was also Top Three worthy based on her answer, but well, in hindsight, she was not that favored by the telecast judges so going as far as she did was already something we could indeed be proud of.

2ND RUNNER-UP:  ECUADOR – Constanza Baez.  If you would ask me if she is the best Ecuadorian representative ever sent to this pageant thus far, I would categorically say no.  I even thought she was part of the P.A.T.I.S. crew.  But apparently the people that matter were impressed by her enough that eventually this lady ended up delivering her nation’s best placement in this pageant.  I do have to concede when I looked at her torso in the finals telecast, that it was buffed that she could possibly advance into the Top 10.  But I am not that impressed with her gown at all so it was shocking when I read that she reportedly ranked 2nd behind Venezuela in this round (she was reportedly tied for 7th with Ukraine and India in swimsuit, by the way), and thus earned her ticket into the Final Five.

For the final question, she was asked by Russian singer Philip Kirkorov about “What would happen to the world if we could no longer use the internet?”  Constanza’s response:  “I believe that computers themselves as one of the technologies nowadays. It has its advantages and disadvantages and one of the disadvantages is that we are no longer as close together with our families. I would like to use this moment to tell the teenagers and everybody that we should use the methodology of computers and the Internet in a positive way. It is never too late to start. Let us start right now.”  To be blunt I thought her answer was the weakest amongst the Top Five, and I would put her as 4th runner-up, but she was better favored by the judges so she ended up outranking Philippines and Brazil.  I have to concede that perhaps it’s just a matter of taste that she fared this well.

Now before I discuss the Top Two, it’s interesting to note that a repeat of 1985 ensued when Spain was under the impression that she won the pageant instead of just finishing first runner-up.  But unlike 1985 when announcements were clearly structured, I have to blame host Thomas Roberts for not making it clear enough that he would be announcing the name of Miss Universe first that led to this initial confusion.

Confusion in 1985: Spain momentarily thought she won over actual winner Puerto Rico

1ST RUNNER-UP:  SPAIN – Patricia Yurena Gonzalez.  She was practically the favorite of most pageant fans and pundits to win it all, and it turns out she was also well favored by the telecast judges, though perhaps not enough to take it all though.  But it is undeniable that she looked gorgeous and cast an indelible spell in both swimsuit and evening gown rounds.  For the final question, she was asked by supermodel Anna Vyalitsyna regarding “the most significant thing we can do to help elect more women to political offices around the world?”  Patricia’s response:  “I believe in order to select a good woman, she must possess good qualities in order to perform a good job – discipline, knows how to adapt herself, how to respond with her work, her performance and fulfilling her job.”  If the rest of the five finalists did not directly address the questions asked of them, at least she did address it.  If this were 1969 or 1981, she should’ve won it all, in my opinion, since it was the same scenario.  But though we pageant fans and pundits felt she has oodles of charisma to spare, I suppose the telecast judges felt she didn’t really sparkle as much as the one who they chose to win the crown…

MISS UNIVERSE 2013:  VENEZUELA – Maria Gabriela Isler.  I never question that she was Top Five-worthy, as she did consistently sparkle all throughout.  I even enjoyed her “Truth and Dare” video, and did believe it was indeed one of the best, as I find her extremely likable and sympathetic in it.  I also do not question that she delivered a top-notch performance in both swimsuit and evening gown rounds in the final, in the latter changing to a silver long-sleeved number that she was obviously more comfortable walking in, thus delivering a sterling performance.  But I have major issues with her final Q&A.  She was asked by Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler regarding her biggest fear and her plans to overcome it.  Molly’s answer:  “I believe that one may have a lot of fears but nonetheless this is not something negative. I believe we should overcome all our fears and this in turn would make us much stronger. As soon as we overcome our fears and we’re sure of ourselves, we can face any challenge.”  I believe the question requires her to specify a fear and the steps to overcome it but she just simply repeated the question, in my opinion.   I would’ve ranked her 3rd runner-up overall based on that response.  But, well, the telecast judges felt she has star quality (despite her less-than-conventional prettiness) so they chose her as the winner despite such a weak answer.

I know pageant fans and pundits don’t really have a high regard for the final results and their reaction was comparable to when Stefania Fernandez won four years ago.  Still, in my reckoning these results are more justifiable than Stefania’s win, even if I disagree with them.  In terms of beauty, she reminds me of Panama’s Justine Pasek (who took over the crown 11 years ago after Oxana Fedorova was dethroned), whose beauty I’m not that into, but well, I know there were some who may have a high regard to those kind of looks.  Anyway, it seems her victory was welcomed by her peers, proving that she does seem to be indeed a sympathetic person (unlike the reputation representatives of this country had over the past few decades).  So, again, congratulations to this Miss Universe, and may her reign be fruitful.



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