I got three of the Top Five correct. With Vietnam out of the Top 15 and Venezuela being less than stellar in evening gown, it paved the way for two very worthy contenders to make it in the hallowed Final Five. And this combo turns out to be the most gorgeous and stunning Final Five combo in ages–it’s almost as good as the legendary Final Five in Miss World 2013, and as it turns out there are more parallelisms that could be had about that pageant and this one. Another thing that is praiseworthy about this Final Five is the caliber of their answers–all of them delivered strong answers, which could’ve easily made them victorious in the previous edition last January.
AUSTRALIA – Monika Radulovic. She had a human interest angle as she was a refugee from the war in Bosnia when she was a baby and her family had to emigrate to Australia. But, like, say, Mister International 2015, she grew up a bonafide, dyed-in-the-wool Aussie girl, with a laid-back, likable, bubbly vibe about her. She also has strong stage chops and an enviable lean figure that also made her finals worthy, and for most part she delivered the goods. Sure, we can quibble the she tripped in the Top Ten evening gown, but her charisma could not be denied and hence she advanced to the Top Five.
Her Top Five question was about her views on impending legalization of marijuana in her country. She gave a great answer about how recent findings show there are benefits to using marijuana especially for cancer patients, but government should still set limits regarding their use.
FRANCE – Flora Coquerel. Many thought her shocking exclusion from the Top 25 in last year’s Miss World despite topping the preliminary interview led to the rebalancing of points in this year’s pageant. But she at least found vindication and more in her stint with this pageant. The fact that she was a first-hand witness in the Paris terror attacks (she was attending the France-Germany friendly match with some other beauty queens and personnel from the Miss France organization when two suicide bombers were blocked from entering the stadium but still detonated their bombs outside of it) bolstered the human interest angle on her. Still, her beauty was undeniable and so was her elegance that she managed to cast a spell even in a very simple red evening gown. Even other contestants took notice of this, and many of them later professed they actually wanted her to win, and some of them were upset when she missed the final cut that they didn’t bother to vote.
Her Top Five question was related to the Paris terror attacks. She was asked since she witnessed the attach first hand what is her suggestion on how to deal with this problem. She answered that we should look into the underlying motives why these people act the way they acted and try to address their concerns, but she also added a parting note that the people of France should continue to live their lives as happily as they used to–I think she’s alluding to that now-famous Facebook message posted by the husband of one of the victims, Antoine Leiris that has since been renowned as “You will not have my hatred“. Her answer may seem naive considering the depravity of these radicalized perpetrators, but still the courage to carry on with life rings deep and profound. Even as she didn’t advance further to the Top Three, she made a big milestone as she’s the first representative from her country to make the Top Five since it won this pageant 62 years ago with the immortal Christiane Martel.
I feel so proud that I predicted the Top Three correctly. All three were up on their “A” game that it was a closely fought battle for the crown up until the bitter end.
2ND RUNNER-UP: U S A – Olivia Jordan. She was one common thread between Miss World 2013 and this pageant as she competed in both. Obviously she finished higher in this pageant as in that pageant she was only in the Top 20 in the former. She has stage presence, a buffed hourglass figure, and an outgoing, likable personality as her greatest attributes. In her Miss USA stint and in the Presentation Show, she has a penchant for pink or red ballgowns, so it was a refreshing surprise she went for something different in the finals, with a while lace gown with a cape. I had mentioned as a result she stole the thunder from Thailand’s much raved-about gown of a similar style, and it’s a savvy move that allowed her to advance forward.
For the FInal Five question she was asked about her views on gun control. She gave an even-handed answer about how she understand the need that everyone needs to protect themselves, but then one must still need to look at the needs of society as a whole, and she is for more regulations, and was about to elaborate further on that until her 30-second time limit has elapsed. Sure some might say Mz. Australia and France delivered stronger answers, but her answer is strong enough along with overall impact and the fact that the judges were American for her to make the Final Three.
The final question was about why should she be the next Miss Universe. Admittedly, she rambled a bit and her speech was a bit unfocused, but she touches on points like she wants to inspire women to pursue their dreams, to bring equality between men and women, and empower women to step up. She gave great points and despite the lack of organization, it’s a strong answer.
Former Miss USA winners Susie Castillo (2003) and Shandi Finnessey (2004) have a pageant-oriented YouTube channel called Pageantology and in their review of this pageant, they criticized the soundbites given to Olivia (talking about having small hands) as they know Olivia is a more accomplished woman that what they were presenting, and for the final answer, they felt Olivia could’ve also be more specific and mentioned the work she has been doing for Children of the Night (if you remember her stint in Miss World 2013, this was her Beauty with a Purpose project), a cause that tries to battle human trafficking.
1ST RUNNER-UP: COLOMBIA – Ariadna Gutiérrez. Her resemblance to actress Sofia Vergara was very clear and obvious from the get-go, and Sofia is an A-list celebrity. It also happens that they both share the same hometown of Baranquilla (could they be related?) though it should be noted Ariadna was born in Sincelejo, Sucre before being raised in Baranquilla (about 244 km away) and represented her birthplace in her national pageant. Ariadna was clearly competing with all guns blazing and almost no stone unturned, that it was indeed very conceivable among pageant fans and pundits that she would deliver that coveted back-to-back that only Venezuela achieved in 2008-09.
Of course besides the bombshell Sofia Vergara resemblance, Ariadna had the buffed bombshell body to boot, and she clearly knows how to move and cast a spell onstage. Her strapless champagne sheath gown was also a shimmering vision that undeniably she would earn extremely high marks. In fact, Perez Hilton noted that he placed Colombia at No. 1 in both swimsuit and evening gown–it was the question-and-answer rounds that the tides had turned.
For the Top Five question, she was asked about how to address the growing issue of drug abuse, and she gave a great answer about incentivizing education in the home to keep kids away from drugs. Susie Castillo noted she sounded very well spoken in Spanish that the translator didn’t seem to capture well–on top of pre-empting Ariadna before she was able to complete her train of thought. Perez Hilton noted that Ariadna threw subtle shade at the translator, and actually I’m on Ariadna’s side on this one as the translator should have allowed Ariadna to complete her train of thought before she jumps in.
For the Final Three speech about why she should become Miss Universe, this was for me her most vulnerable, as she only went into generics about possessing the qualities of a Latin woman and a good Miss Universe without specifying what about those qualities would make her an excellent fit. If we base it solely on the FInal Three speech, I would’ve given Olivia the first runner-up and relegate Ariadna as second runner-up. But then, well, there is the final look, and Seal serenaded her with his 1995 mega-smash “Kiss From A Rose”, and she undeniably looked spellbinding in her sexy sheath gown, so there is justification from her overall performance that she deserves to outrank Olivia Jordan. Now, to be announced as the legitimate winner? Before I proceed, we do need to salute this lady as she clearly gave her all and it was heartbreaking what happened to her–you never feel heartbroken or cry for Sofia Vergara (the usual emotions you tend to feel for Sofia were awe, intimidation, or amusement), but this fracas that happened to Ariadna opens up more tender, sympathetic emotions toward her döppelgänger.
MISS UNIVERSE 2015: PHILIPPINES – Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach. At the risk of being accused of objectifying this lady, Pia has the potent combination of the four B’s: “Brains & Beauty / Boobs & Booty” (a pretty catchy couplet, that I’m surprised no one seemed to have used it in this combo before). The first two were already a given, but I didn’t notice the latter part of the couplet until the Presentation Show when she appeared in swimsuit–Gold’s Gym trainor John Cuay truly whipped Pia to the best shape she has ever been, but what most prominently caught my eye was her jiggling bosoms during this round, and I loved it! She is the winner of the BB Sweeptakes award for this pageant. The last time we have an exciting BB sweepstakes winner was in the era of Miss Universe 2000 with Canada’s Kim Yee and the legendary Miss Universe 2002 combo of Germany’s Natascha Börger and Cyprus’s Demetra Eleftheriou. I know lately pop culture is fixated on booty, but I love it when boobs are brought back in the forefront like in this case. I have a feeling Emmitt Smith was spellbound by them that Pia was his number one choice from the swimsuit round onwards. Niecy Nash might have gone, “You go, girl!” when she saw The Jiggle and was also her number one choice from the very beginning. Perez and Miss Universe 2012 Olivia Culpo might have been a bit more critical as obviously Colombia, Venezuela, Australia, Dominican Republic, and Curacao had the buffed, long-legged ideal (although I would also include Brazil in that list, but the judges overlooked her), but still marked her up because of stage presence, and in Olivia Culpo’s case, it might have brought back memories of her cleavage heaving evening gown back in 2012.
If I were to base my “fearful” forecast solely on the performance on the Presentation Show, I would have only placed Pia in the Top Ten and not Top Three–but I knew the energy of the crowd on finals night, plus the anticipated change in gown to the Albert Andrada creation would propel her higher. Now, take note, at the time I posted the forecast, I didn’t know how the Albert Andrada gown would look like, but I was a bit underwhelmed with the red Oliver Tolentino creation during the Presentation Show–sure it turned out to be the best option available and there was a dramatic story before that red gown was secured*, but I was simply hoping that the Albert Andrada gown would deliver on the hype. I saw a preview photo a few hours before the pageant finals was underway, and I still reserved my judgment–it was a piece of the bottom portion of the gown, and under dim lighting it looked like it was made of velvet, so I was wondering if it will shimmer onstage. To my delight, it was actually made of shimmering blue silk gazar that shone brightly onstage and Pia delivered the elegant presence that the gown conveyed. She then showcased the back, and there were lovely geometric patterned beading, and on top of that, she showcased that she also possessed a good booty, so she covered both bases very well. In my reckoning, she was Number one starting from the Top Ten evening gown onwards, and I know Perez and Olivia Culpo started joining the bandwagon from this round onwards.
* Albert Andrada missed his original flight from the Philippines to the US due to the notorious Manila holiday traffic (aggravated by ongoing airport road construction) and the available gown options were deemed ill-fitting and dismal. So Jonas Gaffud & company made a call to Beverly Hills-based Filipino designer Oliver Tolentino, and although he was out on vacation in Aspen, he was able to send out a gown that worked under the circumstances.
For the Final Five question, she was asked about her opinion on the US reviving its military presence in our country. She gave a very well said answer citing our long friendly historical ties since their colonization of our shores, and with that she sees no problem with that. I know she would draw flak from left-leaning and self-proclaimed nationalist circles for that answer, but one must note that she was competing on US soil, so it should be understandable why she would be presenting an unconditional pro-US message. But, I think to bring her A-level answer to the Janine Tugonon-level A+ level and to partly address the concerns of the leftists and nationalists, she could’ve added the conditional phrase, “Like the way good friends respect each other, and as long as mutual respect is observed…” she can then finish with the phrase from her original answer, “I don’t see any problem with that at all.”
She sealed the deal with her Final Three speech, as she showed she did her homework and was aware of the specific causes the Miss Universe Organization espoused (HIV/AIDS), added the current tagline for the pageant, and her momentary correction from “world” to “universe” was charming enough to showcase her presence of mind. Let’s repeat what she said verbatim: “To be a Miss Universe is both an honor and responsibility. If I were to be Miss Universe, I will use my voice to influence the youth and I would raise awareness to certain causes like HIV awareness that is timely and relevant to my country which is the Philippines. I want to show the world, the universe rather, that I am confidently beautiful with a heart. Thank you.”
In my heart of hearts, I was totally convinced Pia would bring forth our third Miss Universe crown if we judge from her performance throughout the finals night, though I was not counting my chickens before they were hatched at that moment. So I was shocked when Steve Harvey announced Colombia as the winner, just like the Filipino audience at Axis theatre. During the three minutes that Ariadna was crowned by Paulina Vega and did an initial walk, I underwent the five stages of grief. I quickly went from denial to anger, skipped on bargaining and momentarily went into depression before going into the acceptance stage–perhaps it’s like Miss Universe 2012 all over again with Janine clearly being superior to Olivia Culpo but still the judges favored the latter, and maybe this set of judges just like the hotcha Sofia Vergara sexiness of Ariadna to trump out the sterling performance Pia delivered throughout (as it turns out, not the case). Then, Steve stepped in again and the shocking correction heard around the world rang out. It was the most shocking and dramatic coronation moment in a major pageant ever, and also the most awkward as I can understand Ariadna would not willingly relinquish her crown and sash to the rightful winner–good thing Paulina Vega graciously stepped in to remove the crown and sash from Ariadna to place it on Pia. I have to salute Paulina for being gracious enough to give Pia a parting kiss after giving her the crown.
All this fracas made me realize that Pia’s road to ultimate glory was a very difficult, challenging one. First were the dramatic three attempts before she clinched the Miss Universe Philippines title–it was well documented everywhere that she was the favorite to win in her first two tries that it was frustrating that it was denied her during those times. Little did we know that after she garnered the drama will continue, as we have the now-famous Preliminary Show gown drama, and how she was not initially declared the winner by mistake. When she did her final walk and Seal sang the classic dance hit “Crazy”, little did I know his song would also apply to Pia’s entire journey to the crown. We have to hand it to Pia for handling herself with grace through it all, and now that glory is achieved, it will be smooth sailing for her from now on, though I don’t foresee visits to Latin American nations in the immediate time being…
As a parting note, I’d like to share two of my favorite internet memes that came as a result of this. First, the local gay club O Bar presented a parody show a few days later featuring their stable of drag queens, and added a musical element–when “Steve Harvey” came to correct his announcement, it was interspersed with Justin Bieber’s hit “Sorry”, and “Colombia” responded with a remake of Justin Bieber’s “What Do You Mean?”, and as “Miss Philippines” stepped forward to claim her crown, she mouthed Adele’s unstoppable mega-hit “Hello”. There’s even a drag queen portraying “Miss Bulgaria” with her immortal gesture. Check it out.
Then there is this lovely fan-art that superimposed a drawing of Pia with the Miss Universe logo. It feels so apt, especially how Pia’s gown and styling so fits perfectly with the logo.
All images courtesy of Miss Universe Organization unless otherwise indicated.