1.27.2015

Colombia is crowned the 63rd Miss Universe / Review of the Telecast



Photo Credit: Miss Universe Organization

     Paulina Vega, a 22-year-old model from Barranquilla, Colombia, was crowned the 63rd Miss Universe at FIU Arena in Doral, Florida on Sunday, January 25, 2015. Vega's victory marks the second time Colombia has won the coveted title, and it is long overdue since Luz Marina Zuluaga's victory in 1958. Vega was crowned by the 2013 winner from Venezuela, Gabriela IslerVega's court includes 1st runner-up Nia Sanchez of USA, 2nd runner-up Diana Harkusha of the Ukraine, 3rd runner-up Yasmin Verheijen of the Netherlands, and 4th runner-up Kaci Fennell of Jamaica.

     Making the top 10 were Valentina Ferrer of Argentina, Tegan Martin of Australia, Mary Jean Lastimosa of the Philippines, Desiré Cordero of Spain, and Migbellis Castellanos of Venezuela. Completing the top 15 were Melissa Gurgel of Brazil, Camille Cerf of France, Noyonita Lodh of India, Elvira Devinamira of Indonesia, and Valentina Bonariva of Italy.

     The Miss Congeniality award was won by Queen Celestine of Nigeria. The Miss Photogenic award was won by Gabriela Berrios of Puerto Rico. And Twitter users voted Indonesia's costume as the Best National Costume for her magnificent 40-pound outfit inspired by the ancient Buddhist structure, Borobudur.

     Even though the pageant took place in 2015, the winner is officially designated as "Miss Universe 2014." The Miss Universe Organization (MUO) officials, by downplaying the fact that the pageant has skipped a year of production, opted to promote the latest pageant as the "63rd edition of Miss Universe." 

The Top 5 finalists from left to right: Paulina Vega, Kaci Fennell, Diana Harkusha, Yasmin Verheijen, and Nia Sanchez, Photo credit: MUO

The judging panel consisted of ten celebrities from various industries:

  • Kristin Cavallari – American actress, TV personality, fashion designer
  • William Levy – Cuban American model and actor, previously named People en Español’s Sexiest Man Alive
  • Manny Pacquiao – Filipino world champion professional boxer, Fighter of the Decade
  • Louise Roe – English TV presenter, fashion journalist, host of MTV International's “Plain Jane”, STAR World Asia's "Fit for Fashion"
  • Lisa Vanderpump – Reality star of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills
  • Emilio Estefan – musician and producer
  • DeSean Jackson – Washington Redskins wide receiver
  • Nina Garcia – Creative Director of Marie Claire Magazine, Project Runway judge, and fashion industry expert
  • Rob Dyrdek – Entrepreneur
  • Giancarlo Stanton – Miami Marlins right fielder

     This is the third time since 2012 that the number of judges has been even (10), which makes me wonder who breaks the tie if there ever was one. This is also the second time that Lisa Vanderpump has judged the pageant since 2012. Eighty-eight countries were represented this year, even though seven more had originally signed up but ended up withdrawing, notably Vietnam and Denmark. Nine countries returned, including perennial favorites Kosovo and Albania, but neither country placed this time.

Miss Jamaica Kaci Fennell during the question and answer phase. Photo credit: Miss Universe Organizaation)
    
     Okay, let's cut through the chase and let me tell you what I like and I did not like about the telecast. 

     What I like:

- The opening featuring all 88 contestants introducing themselves in their national costumes. I always look forward to this segment every year, and to me it is what truly makes Miss Universe a pageant in the theatrical sense of the word. Critics can say whatever they want, even questioning the national/cultural authenticity of each costume, or even joke about how ridiculous or crazy such and such costume is, but by critiquing too much they are missing out on the entertainment value. 

- The generous airtime provided to the city of Doral (I think most of us didn't know where it was before MUO chose it as the host city) and to the venue, Florida International University (FIU Arena). Damn those FIU professors for accusing Miss Universe of objectifying women and promoting sexual harassment: instead of deriding the pageant, they should be loudly protesting honor-killings, acid throwings, and female genital mutilations (FGMs) in countries governed by the barbaric Islamic Sharia Law and savage patriarchal misogynistic customs. I'm sure these "academicians" will be retracting their views when their class enrollments double after the school's huge global exposure.

Miss Colombia Paulina Vega, the eventual winner of the contest, Miss Jamaica Kaci Fennell, and Miss Ukraine Diana Harkusha, who finished third, are seen with headphones during a question phase. (Andrew Innerarity/Reuters)

- It's refreshing to see a non-traditional beauty, Kaci Fennell of Jamaica, make the top 5. Yes, she has short hair which made her stand out. Yes, she has the most flawless skin and the most graceful walk, which made her look regal. And yes, she gave the best answer to the final question, which proves that she is a good listener. And the fact that the public booed her 4th-runner-up placement suggests that she is well-loved by the public. But people are forgetting that Miss Universe is also an enterprise, a business organization supported by sponsors who will want to work with a young woman who will promote/sell their product(s) and generate more money. Unfortunately, as much as Miss Jamaica is loved by the public, the judges/MUO believe that her look is just not "marketable" enough - at least not to the huge Latino market obsessed with beauty products designed and manufactured for consumers with long hair. Being cute and sassy just doesn't cut it. 

- It is equally refreshing to see an exotic beauty, Yasmin Verheijen of the Netherlands, make the top 5! The first time I saw Yasmin in person was at the Press Junket a few days ago, and I was immediately blown away by her charisma, her unique look, and her strong presence. Even though I hadn't predicted her to be in the final five, I am glad she proved me wrong. Her flirtatious and sexy projection during the swimsuit segment (when she was doing some hand signal to the audience and cajoling them to cheer for her) was definitely one of the best swimsuit performances of all time!

- Miss Indonesia Elvira Devinamira advancing to the top 15 and being the only contestant to place and win a special award at the same time.

- It's very seldom for Miss Universe to gather former titleholders, so it was quite exciting to see many of them appear in cameos briefly sharing how winning has changed their lives. 

- Pop star Nick Jonas singing his hit song "Jealousy" during the evening gown competition and then gets off the stage and approaches and sings to his girlfriend, ex-Miss Universe Olivia Culpo, who was sitting in the front row. A sweet and tender moment.

- A video clip of Gabriela Isler sharing how her visit to the Philippines to reach out to the victims of typhoon Yolanda has changed her life.

- Color commentator Jeannie Mai intercepting a happy Miss Australia and Miss USA on the backstage after they had just been called to the top 10 and Miss USA doing a taekwondo pose:


- Co-host Thomas Roberts videobombing Jeannie Mai's interview with Miss Australia and Miss USA while Jeannie scolds Thomas for stealing the light from her (too funny!):



     What I didn't like:

- Announcing Colombia's Paulina Vega as the new Miss Universe first before announcing USA's Nia Sanchez as the first runner-up. Stop doing this, MUO! You're depriving the first runner-up some precious TV air time and you're diminishing the surprise element that many of us pageant fans have become accustomed to. Sheesh.

- The shocking exclusion of heavy favorite Desiré Cordero of Spain from the top 5. What went wrong? One judge must have really disliked Spain that it was enough to bring her down. 

- There was new twist regarding the Q & A segment of the competition. Each of the five finalists had to respond to two sets of questions: first, a question asked by a judge and picked out of a bowl. Nothing unusual about that, but what annoyed me was that the questions were asked by foreign-born judges whose accents were barely understandable, or who articulated poorly (yeah, I'm talking to you, Manny Pacquiao and Emilio Estefan.)  If a judge's accent was not bad enough, the terrible audio in the arena also made the question hard to understand. The execution of this phase felt awkward, as each finalist struggled with her response. Actually, none of them came close to even answering their respective question. When Pacquiao asked Miss USA the question, "If you were given 30 seconds to give a message to the global terrorists, what would you say?" - Sanchez responded by saying that she would do her best by spreading "a message of hope, love, and peace". As soon as I heard her response, I nearly spewed my glass of lemon water on my keyboard! LOL. I can't blame Nia, though, or any contestant for that matter. Each finalist had only 30 seconds to respond, and it is simply not possible to give - much less elaborate - a substantial response in just 30 seconds. So to avoid controversy (note that Pacquiao said "global terrorists" and not "Islamic global terrorists" (even though virtually every terrorist act is committed by Islamic jihadists.) Don't you just love pageants when they try to be controversial yet politically correct at the same time? Ha! But when you ask a politically correct quesiton, expect a politically correct answer. Watch the individual questions on YouTube and you be the judge:


    

     Next time, MUO, please, please, please just have the questions read by the co-hosts themselves! You're wasting precious airtime by having these foreign judges repeat the questions while annoying music is playing in the background. Enough already.

      Second, all five finalists had to answer the same question that had been submitted by a Twitter user: "What is the greatest contribution of your country to the entire world?" Though it was admirable of MUO to engage online users by allowing them to submit questions, the question itself proved disadvantageous to contestants from countries that have not yet contributed anything "great" to the world. Nevertheless, based on their responses, Colombia gave the worst response; not only was she rambling, but her response did not make any sense - even with the help of the interpreter. She says, "I believe that my country has been an example to be followed by the rest of the countries.We are a persevering people, no matter what obstacle we have on our way and we continue fighting for that which we want to accomplish,  not withstanding many difficulties that we have gone through. Today, we are world leaders in many different matters. And I am quite proud to represent it before all of you."  Really? She could have talked about her country's rich cultural heritage or exceptional biodiversity and landscapes or Nobel laureate Gabriel García Márquez, but no, Instead, she gave a totally canned response, which makes you wonder if she is even culturally or historically literate.

     Miss Ukraine's response was equally senseless and bizarre. Through an interpreter, she says, "We have a very difficult situation in our country. And right now the very most important contribution is to direct all our energies to support our army and our people. We have to restore schools, we have to restore kindergartens and orphanages." Clearly, her answer was a subtle (and yes, politically correct) commentary on the Russian incursion into her country (she must have been ecstatic that Miss Russia - even with her $100,000 Elie Saab gown - failed to make the cut). But still, she could have at least mentioned the great medical and scientific contributions of her country to the entire world (and there are many!).

     Miss USA's response was slightly better, though rather vague: "I’m very proud to live in the USA, and am honored to represent it. We have a wonderful influence on the world, and we can always help other countries if they need our help, and we can give back as much as we can."  She gave a safe answer by not specifying what kind of "wonderful influence" her country has brought to the world, yet mentions her country's strong tradition of generosity and kindness.

     Miss Netherlands' response was more specific, but poorly delivered: "I’m born and raised in Amsterdam, and Amsterdam is one of the most tolerant cities of the world...  a lot of art and history, and I’m very proud of that."

     But Miss Jamaica's answer topped the others with specifics and great delivery: "We have the home to the legendary Usain Bolt, Bob Marley, who [has] contributed such great music to this world. And we have the fastest man who has been trailblazing the Jamaican flag."  (heavy applause from the audience)

     Watch the video and judge for yourself:



     Based on each contestant's response, it seems that Miss Jamaica delivered the best one. No wonder her supporters booed her (unjust) fourth runner-up placement. If the selection of the winner were going to be based on the quality of each response, then Jamaica should have won, followed by Netherlands, USA, Ukraine and Colombia. Eventually, Jamaica had the time of her life - and the love and affection of the other delegates who congratulated her!

Photo credit: Miss Universe Organization

- I really don't pay much attention to musical entertainers invited to perform during the telecast, but I have to say that Prince Royce's performance during the swimsuit segment has been one of the most pathetic performances I've seen. It's bad enough that his lip-synching was obvious, but that machismo vibe that he was trying to project was anything but macho. Girl... please...

- Many fans are complaining that no black girl made the cut this year. Even though Miss Jamaica is part-black, she is just not black enough, some would say, Many see the 63rd edition as a repeat of the 2002 pageant where stunning black girls were eliminated and none advanced to the finals. And many more would claim that Miss Universe is a racist pageant. Obviously, this claim is not only absurd but it is also baseless, since Miss Universe has crowned black beauties before. Though I must say that I share the sentiment of these fans regarding the exclusion of black girls, particularly Miss Guyana Niketa Barker who, to me, is the most beautiful black girl this year. Neither can one deny the sultry and chiseled features of Miss Gabon Maggaly Nguema who was 2nd runner-up in Miss Supranational 2014. No one knows exactly how these two beauties did during the interviews with the judges, but both of them certainly made a good impression on me during the Press Junket and the preliminaries.

 - A three-hour show was not necessary. Overall, the pace felt tedious, made worse by the lengthy Q & A segment and the dull performances by the musical guests (except Nick Jonas).

- Scheduling the pageant in winter in the United States! As I write this review two days after the pageant, I am still stuck in Miami because my return flight to Boston has been cancelled due to the blizzard in the Northeast region, which means incurring extra expenses for extended hotel stay, food, and transportation. But I can't complain. Covering the pageant for Critical Beauty has been both exciting and rewarding.


     And here she is... the new Miss Universe with the new crown. According to MUO: "The new crown was designed to blend the Czech roots of D.I.C. with the beautiful skyline of New York City, home of the Miss Universe Organization and its titleholders. Craftsmen spent over 3,000 hours to create this beautiful and timeless crown with a very unique infrastructure, inspired by design elements of various royal crowns throughout history. The crown symbolizes and expresses the beauty, stability, confidence and power of women around the world."

After a remarkable reign by Gabriela Isler, Paulina Vega has big shoes to fill. 
Photo credit: Miss Universe Organization

     Many fans have expressed on social media that they hate the new crown, that it looks cheap and plastic and heavy and that it is not elegant enough. But aren't these remarks similar to those made regarding the past crowns? Eventually, we learned to accept and appreciate every one of them. The new one should not be an exception. And the winner? She is not everyone's cup of tea, but surely many of us would love a good cup of Colombian coffee once in a while.


By Rafa Delfin, January 27, 2015
     

1.22.2015

Review of the Press Junket & Preliminary Show of Miss Universe 2014/2015 pageant

     

     Last January 19th,  I attended the Press Junket of the 63rd edition of Miss Universe pageant (a/k/a Miss Universe 2014, even though it's being held in January 2015) that took place at the Crowne Plaza Miami International Airport Hotel in Doral, Florida. It was a chance for members of the media (print, digital, television, radio, etc.) to interview the 88 contestants who have come from four corners of the earth to compete in the most coveted beauty pageant title in the world. I wish to thank the Miss Universe Organization (MUO) for inviting Critical Beauty to cover the event. My plane had just landed at Miami International Airport at 2:30 PM and the event was supposed to start at 3:30 PM. I took the airport shuttle which brought me directly to the hotel. When I arrived at the hotel at around 3:15, there was already a long line of media people waiting to get into the ballroom to interview the girls. Moments later, I found myself with media heavyweights like NBC, Telemundo, Teletica, Caracol, GMA Network, and Primera Hora which is represented by my dear friend, Héctor Joaquín Colón-González. While the heavyweights were well-equipped with massive videocams, tripods, microphones and well-coiffed attractive female interviewers, I came with my new Panasonic Lumix camera, my three-year-old iPad, and my two little digital cameras. 

     Finally, I made it to the ballroom. I had thought that we would get to interview 12 to 15 delegates face to face as it had been originally arranged, and that there would be chairs and tables everywhere where we could sit comfortably with each delegate and ask her several questions, similar to the set-up from the 2010 pageant in Las Vegas. However, because of the huge number of media outlets this time, the event became a  round-robin type of interview consisting of several one-on-one interviews, panels or a combination of both. See photo below:


Miss Italy Valentina Bonariva poses for the camera

     Before coming to Doral, I had prepared specific list of questions that I wanted to ask 15 countries that I had previously selected, and that I was hoping to interview each delegate in a more relaxed setting, but alas, it didn't happen the way I would have wanted to. An MUO staff led me to my spot. There was barely enough space between media outlets which bothered me, especially when you're next to a major Spanish-language TV station. Then one by one, the contestants walked in. Any media outlet could just call out any delegate they wanted to interview, followed by photo ops. Some of these media outlets, I swear to God, have little concept of time-sharing as they ended up monopolizing much of the interview time allotted for each girl. Actually, there was really no time limit given to each media outlet; they could interview any girl as long as they wanted, and this is what made the press junket a little unpleasant. One media outlet in particular interviewed Miss Philippines for nearly 20 minutes. Several outlets interviewed Miss Venezuela for an average time of 15 minutes or so. I'm sure Miss Venezuela was getting tired of responding to the same questions, as well as the other girls in her situation. But if you're a beauty queen, you should be prepared to answer any type of question thrown in by the interviewer, and it doesn't matter if it's repetitive, annoying or personal. 

     So instead of waiting for any of the 15 countries on my list to walk in, I did what most everybody else was doing  - yell the name of the country (India! Colombia! Belgium! Bahamas! Mexico! Turkey! Ecuador! etc.) and as soon as its representative caught my attention, I just coaxed her to say a simple greeting to her countrymen or to readers of Critical Beauty. To members of the Critical Beauty Fan Page who were nice enough to submit interview questions to me, I apologize for not having had any chance to ask any of them. Everything felt rush and uneasy. Instead, I just took endless photos of the girls. I took photos of them posing for others. I recorded videos of them being interviewed by other outlets. Yes, I was a parasite. LOL. But this critical parasite came up with some of the most interesting photos taken (you can view them at the Critical Beauty Facebook Page). 

     Every year, we pageant fans love making our own list of favorites even before watching the preliminaries. Sometimes, we base our list even without having yet seen any of the contestants in person. So we mostly rely on still photographs, videos, or social network commentaries to help us assess each candidate. People are asking me if my list of favorites has changed now that I have seen most of the contestants in person. I say most because there were several countries that were missing at the Press Junket like Lebanon, South Africa, Guatemala, Japan, Korea, Slovak Republic, Sweden, Switzerland, Slovenia, St. Lucia,Turks & Caicos, British Virgin Islands, Croatia, Czech Republic, Ethiopia, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Uruguay, Nicaragua, New Zealand (I honestly do not know the reason for their absence). So to be fair to these countries missing from the Press Junket and to other countries who were present but whose presence I missed (Germany, Guam, Guyana, Angola, Slovak Republic, Kosovo, Kenya, Tanzania), I will suspend my judgment until after the preliminary show.




So who impressed me at the Press Junket? In random order:

Turkey - for such a tender young age of 19, Dilan Çiçek Deniz impressed me with her natural beauty, eloquence and warmth. I just wanted to hug her like a daughter I never had. :)

Spain -She is currently my favorite to win the title. Desiré Cordero is undeniably gorgeous!

Netherlands - Tall, exotic, and vivacious, Yasmin Verheijen is in for the win!

Philippines - What can I say? Mary Jean Lastimosa exudes warmth and poise and a million-dollar smile! If looks could kill! But the girl is short. She was wearing 6-inch heels with 2-inch platforms, without which she would probably be around 5'4" in stocking feet.

India - Noyonita Lodh's beauty is rare as black gold. She's just as short as Mary Jean, but she is so full of charisma and energy! India is back in the game!

Mexico - Josselyn Garciglia wasn't on my original list, but with her Audrey Hepburn look at the event, she automatically got my attention (and Audrey is one of my favorite beauty icons of all time!)

Argentina - Valentina Ferrer probably stayed the longest in the ballroom, grabbing every opportunity to be interviewed. For that, I give her high points for her boldness! And she has the most incredible physique!

Serbia - Andjelka Tomašević is simply stunning! I didn't see any flaws whatsoever! I love that she wore her hair straight and made her look slightly taller.

Trinidad & Tobago - Jevon King is the ebony queen of the pageant! Tall, graceful, and exquisite!

Jamaica - Kaci Fennell is perhaps the most polished and the most recognizable candidate this year. She also has the most flawless skin! To me, she is the best candidate from the Caribbean.

Ukraine - If I had to choose the girl that resembles the Barbie doll the most, it has to be Diana Harkusha! She was wearing a ponytail and she would pull it playfully sometimes for the pictures!

Venezuela - Say what you want about Migbelis Castellanos, her hideous attire (a poor imitation of Chanel jacket and a purple mumu dress), or her "voluptuous" (a/k/a "fat") physique, but I found myself mesmerized by that undeniably gorgeous face!

Ecuador - Alejandra Argudo could very well be her country's first Miss Universe! This young woman is stunning, articulate, energetic, friendly and stylish.

Singapore - Rathi Menon is not pageant material, but she is definitely a modeling material! She was the best-dressed and the most entertaining girl at the event. She even managed to show me her amazing catwalk! 

Puerto Rico - Gabriela Berrios has the most beautiful eyes and the sexiest legs! This girl could easily win her country's sixth Miss Universe crown!


And now the disappoinments from the Press Junket. These girls are some of the favorites to crack the top 15, but I'm not sure anymore:

Russia - Yulia Alipova is tall and has a great posture, but she looks like a vampire with a bit of color.

Australia - Tegan Martin looks pretty from a distance, but up close is a different story.

Colombia - I don't understand the hype about Paulina Vega. To me, she came across as strange, with all that hair-tossing and over-the-top posing. Not my cup of tea.

France - Like Colombia, Camille Cerf only looks good from a distance or in photoshopped images, but up close her beauty is ordinary.


So there you have it. My impressions on the Press Junket.


And now the preliminary show!

     The prelims were held yesterday, January 20th, at FIU Arena. But before I give my impressions, allow me to gripe about getting to the venue. Who knew that there is both an FIU Stadium and an FIU Arena. The former is an outdoor football stadium and the latter is an indoor basketball stadium. It is easy to find the former as there are signs everywhere and the structure itself is obvious. But the latter one is not. My Uber driver had to stop and ask me to Google-Map the correct address, but it was not coming up on my iPhone GPS. So we ended up going in circles. We saw a golf-cart load of athletes and asked them to direct us to the arena, which we finally found!  It was already about 1:30 PM. Hector Joaquin was already inside the arena and was waiting for me. MUO had sent an e-mail to the media stating that a press center would be set up. Since HJ and I were both starving, we asked a friendly female student to direct us to the nearest eatery, so she led us to a food court on the campus itself. 

     After a late lunch, we headed back to the arena, and the MUO staff notified us again that the press center was not yet ready. Instead of waiting for the set-up, HJ and I just grabbed a couple of folding chairs and set up our own press center on the second floor, just around the corner near the elevators used by the production crew. It was already 3:45 PM, almost 3 hours before the prelims. I started writing my review on the Press Junket, but I could not finish it because we were being told that all members of the press had to officially check in at the lobby, which took almost an hour. As soon as HJ and I got our VIP/Media seats located on the left side facing the stage, we just started taking photos and videos. A pair of Thai fans showed up wearing traditional Thai costumes. Several Filipino men showed up wearing the barong. As usual, you had  eccentric and flamboyant individuals fluttering from one place to another wanting to get attention. And of course, the most passionate pageant fans from the Philippines, Colombia, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, and Mexico came bearing their country's flags. As usual, the Latin fans are the most boisterous; they can cheer and boo as much as they want to their hearts' content. On the other hand, the Filipino fans - even if they are the most brutal online - are the most behaved in public. 

     Now I know why some pageant fans would rather watch the pageant (prelims or finals) at home in the comfort of their living room and on giant flat screen TV. Why? Because you can see the girls up close and the cameras pick up the right angles. But if you were watching the show in the arena from your seat, you get a totally different perspective. Oh, and another thing... there were no big flat screens in the arena, which prevented us from seeing a close-up of the girls' faces and attire. However, what televiewers are missing is the incredible amount of energy permeating in the arena, and of course, the thrill of being in the same room with passionate and highly enthusiastic pageant fans.

     Okay, so let's cut through the chase and let's talk about the girls that continue to impress me after the preliminaries. In random order:




France - Yes, Camille Cerf had the personality of a jellyfish at the Press Junket, but on stage she was anything but flat! She was styled to perfection, from head to toe. And that simple yet elegant white gown simply enhanced her already perfect look.

Ukraine - Diana Harkusha's performance and looks have been very consistent, and I want her to crack the top 15.

Ecuador - Alejandra Argudo remains consistent throughout the competition. She could certainly equal or surpass her compatriot Constanza Baez's second runner-up position in 2013.

Philippines - Mary Jean Lastimosa's most powerful weapon is her captivating nature! She captivates the audience with those swaying hips, that effervescent smile, and those amazing curves!

India - Love her or hate her, but Noyonita Lodh delivered to the hype! So what if she's petite? At the prelims, she was giving a Celina Jaitley vibe - full of energy and phenomenal stage presence! 

Jamaica - If singer Alicia Keys and legendary icon Josephine Baker had a daughter, she would look like Kaci Fennell! Kaci is just the epitome of grace, coolness, and sensuality that is rare among beauty queens. 

Mexico - Josselyn Garciglia's impeccable styling and aristocratic bearing, coupled with a beautiful gown and sultry catwalk, makes her a shoo-in for a top 15 position.

Puerto Rico - Gabriela Berrios, in my opinion, is the best delegate from her country since Mayra Matos in 2009. She is a fierce competitor and I would be shocked if she didn't make the top 15.

Argentina - Valentina Ferrer is the best representative from her country in a very long time. She is one hot, amazing young woman with an incredible physique and stage presence.

SpainDesiré Cordero is the girl to beat! She would make an excellent Miss Universe.




***Girls that did not impress me at the Press Junket and/or that I missed at the Press Junket but impressed me at the prelims:

Dominican Republic - Some people ridicule Kimberly Castillo's nose job, but it's really not that bad. LOL.  She looked and presented herself like a true beauty queen on stage. I wouldn't be surprised if she entered the top 15.

Thailand - Pimbongkod Chankaew. Her name is forgettable, but certainly not her performance at the prelims! This young woman did her homework. She simply beamed on stage with her radiant aura and exquisite movement.




Guyana - Niketa Barker is the best representative from her country. And the stunning green gown just complimented her gorgeous ebony skin and face! Could the crown not be too far from her reach?

Russia - Although she looked like a vampire with a little bit of color during the Press Junket, Yulia Alipova looked like a billion rubles in her stunning red dress and perfect pulled back coiffure. 

Indonesia - Elvira Devinamira wore a stunning and expensive-looking gown during the Press Junket, which was over the top and inappropriate for the informal occasion. She also seemed aloof. But at the prelims, her inner fierceness just exploded on stage in her exquisite gown and dazzling catwalk.



Colombia - Paulina Vega projected herself on stage like a true beauty queen, and now I see the hype about her. She's in it to win it!

Kenya - Forget that she resembles actress Lupita Nyongo. Lupita doesn't have Gaylyne Ayugi's spunky personality and fierce catwalk. Gaylyne could very well be the first delegate from her country to make the semis.

Kazakhstan - If Aiday Issayeva were wearing a Philippines or Thailand sash, she would get unlimited amount of attention, but unfortunately she's not because her country is not yet a pageant powerhouse. But if you took away her sash and just focused on her performance at the prelims, you would perhaps contend that she's in the same league as Miss Philippines or Miss Thailand. An amazing body, a sexy catwalk, and a flawless face - all traits of a real beauty queen.


***Girls that impressed me at the Press Junket but disappointed me after the prelims:

USA - I loved Nia Sanchez when she competed in Miss USA. But at the Miss Universe prelims, I felt that she has lost that spark that made her win Miss USA. Her red Michael Costello gown is to die for and it fit her like a glove, but I just don't see her making the top 5. Though I could be wrong.

Trinidad & Tobago - I was expecting more from Jevon King. This young woman wowed me at the Press Junket with her eye-catching outfit and regal demeanor, but that white gown she wore at the prelims did not compliment her lovely figure at all. She looked like she was wearing a silk bed sheet. Poor choice for a gown.

Venezuela - Migbellis Castellanos's saving grace is her undeniably beautiful face and the huge support that she receives from the huge Venezuelan population in Doralzuela, er, Doral. But the girl also has the worst physique among the favorite contestants. 

   
     So who do I think could be the 63rd Miss Universe? Only 15 semifinalists will be chosen this year to advance to the final round, but this year has become even more competitive than last year;  so instead of top 15, we're going to have a Top 20 Critical Beauty favorites, regardless whether or not they performed well during the preliminaries. Please also consider that we don't know how each contestant did during the one-on-one interviews with the preliminary judges, which leaves room for either elimination or advancement.


The Top 20 CB favorites for the 63rd edition of Miss Universe (in random order)

SPAIN - ARGENTINA - MEXICO - COLOMBIA - USA

PUERTO RICO - INDONESIA - SERBIA - UKRAINE - RUSSIA

THAILAND - PHILIPPINES - VENEZUELA - ECUADOR - JAMAICA

TRINIDAD & TOBAGO - INDIA - FRANCE - DOMINICAN REPUBLIC - GUYANA


If you missed the live streaming of the preliminary show, you can watch it on YouTube:





By Rafa Delfin / Photo credit: Miss Universe Organization



















1.18.2015

Miss Lebanon's Selfie with Miss Israel Causes Stir at Miss Universe pageant



Miss Israel Doron Matalon posted this selfie on her Instagram next to Misses Lebanon, Slovenia and Japan

A Lebanese beauty queen pleaded selfie defense after a Facebook pic of her posing with an Israeli pageant competitor caused outrage in Lebanon, which forbids its citizens from fraternizing with Israelis and is threatening to disqualify her.
“Since the first day of my arrival to participate to Miss Universe, I was very cautious to avoid being in any photo or communication with Miss Israel ([who] tried several times to have a photo with me),” this year’s Miss Lebanon Saly Greige, who​ is set to compete in ​the Miss Universe contest​ in Miami​ on Jan. 25, wrote on her Facebook.
The green-eyed brunette begged fans back home for their continued support in spite of a photo that Miss Israel, Doron Matalon, posted online that showed the two beauties of warring nations smiling side-by-side.
Most of her followers posted positive comments after the apology, but her government may not be as forgiving.
In 1993, the country stripped its Miss Lebanon, Ghada al-Turk, of her title after Agence France Press distributed a photo of her smiling arm-in-arm with her Israeli contender.
This time around, the Lebanese government has vowed to “launch an investigation” and will decide this week whether the offensive photo will get her crown snapped, too.
That’s exactly what Miss Israel was shooting for, said Miss Lebanon’s delusional agent, who likened the beauty to a stealthy saboteur, stalking his client with her camera drawn before she “photo-bombed” Greige standing with Miss Japan and Miss Slovenia, according to Lebanese media.
But Miss Israel said quit the kvetching.
“It doesn’t surprise me, but it still makes me sad,” wrote Matalon, in her own Facebook response.
“Too bad you cannot put the hostility out of the game, only for three weeks of an experience of a lifetime that we can meet girls from around the world and also from the neighboring country.”
Source: The New York Post, 1/18/2015
Miss Lebanon reposted the selfie on her Instagram but she cropped out Miss Israel

1.16.2015

Miss Guinea 2015



18-year-old Mama Aissata Diallo (second from left) was crowned Miss Guinea 2015 last December 27, 2014 in the capital city of Conakry. She succeeds Halimatou Diallo (second from right). Mama Aissata will represent her country in Miss World 2015. Safiatou Diallo (far right) was 1st runner-up and Yero Bah (far left) was second runner-up.


Source: Koaci.com

1.05.2015

Ex-Miss America & former New York politician Bess Myerson dies at 90


Brooklyn native Bess Myerson is shown just after being crowned Miss America 1945. She went on to have careers in television and city government. / ASSOCIATED PRESS

Bess Myerson, who was the only Jewish Miss America and later forged a career in New York City government that ended in scandal, died at home in California, reports said Monday.

Myerson was 90.

She died in her Santa Monica home Dec. 14, Los Angeles County Coroner Assistant Chief Ed Winter said. The New York Times first reported the death.

The Bronx-born Myerson was crowned Miss America in 1945, just days after the end of World War II and at the height of the pageant’s popularity.

Her victory — after resisting calls to change her last name to the less ethnic-sounding “Marshall” — made her a national name, and a hero to the Jewish community.

Bess and Mayor Ed Koch (USA Today)

She also was famous for her close relationship with former Mayor Ed Koch.

She campaigned with the lifelong bachelor frequently, often holding his hand in front of voters.

They weren’t dating, but the image helped with voters.

One of Koch’s closest advisers, David Garth, later said Koch wouldn’t have won without her.

“She was the equivalent of Jackie Robinson,” Henry Stern, a former city Parks Commissioner and longtime friend, said of her Miss America win.

“Everyone took great pride in her.”

A talented pianist, Myerson parlayed the pageant win into a successful TV career, and ended up serving as the Consumer Affairs Commissioner under Mayor John Lindsay.

Stern, who served as her first deputy in Consumer Affairs, said she was one of the “most intelligent” people he ever knew, and led the agency to enact tough consumer protections.

Koch appointed her commissioner of cultural affairs, but her role ended in scandal when she was accused of getting her boyfriend’s alimony reduced by giving a low-level job to Judge Hortense Gabel’s troubled daughter, Sukhreet.

She was ultimately acquitted, but the scandal hurt her image.

In 1988, she pleaded guilty to shoplifting in Pennsylvania.

She left New York and lived in Florida for several years, before ultimately settling in Santa Monica to be near her daughter, Stern said.


Source: New York Daily News, 1/5/2015

Photoseeum 




1.01.2015

Players, Haters, Fakers: Pageantry in 2014

Taylor Swift missed her call & Donald Trump's complexion is still orange


PHOTO CREDIT: MISS UNIVERSE ORGANIZATION

 Dethronements, demotions & resignations: A big chunk of drama in pageantry in 2014 is due to beauty queens being fired, demoted or resigning from their post. On January 20th, Miss Nicaragua 2013 Nastassja Bolívar (above) had her crown taken away, according to a statement from the country’s local Miss Universe franchise. The surprise move has shocked the country. The director of the franchise, Karen Celebertti, stated that Bolivar had failed to fulfill her duties. Celebertti decided that Bolívar “will have no involvement in the official events” for the Miss Nicaragua Organization. Celebertti alleged that the conflict began shortly after Bolívar was elected to represent Nicaragua, and insubordination led to the beauty queen losing her title.  It appears that the origin of the conflict occurred before the Miss Universe pageant, when Bolívar “in her own decision” left pageant preparation in Nicaragua and moved to Miami. The beauty queen also allegedly removed her manager, and gave that role to her mother. To avoid giving the country a bad image, Celebertti allowed Bolívar to enter Miss Universe, and paid her entry fee, airplane ticket and baggage.
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On January 7, Manhunt France Ricardo Pinto 2014 was dethroned for failing to fulfill his contract and was succeeded by his first runner-up, Thibaud Marchand. Pinto was also charged of providing false information about his residency.
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On April 11th, Detlef Tursies, the president of World Beauty Organization, dethroned the outgoing Top Model of the World 2013, Monica Palacios of Colombia, just one day before crowning her successor. Palacios broke an important clause in her contract that forbids her to defame and malign the pageant (she should know better!) It appears that since Palacios arrived in Egypt where the 2014 was taking place, she had been badmouthing Tursies, the staff, the contestants, and the judges. 
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PHOTO CREDIT: ZIMBIO.COM

In May 2014, Jasmine Stringer (above), the reigning Miss Teenager from Australia, has resigned because pageant organizers were bullying her financially. “When I first entered the pageant, my main cause was to make a stand against Cyber bullying however, for the past 3 months I have been bullied by the Miss Teenager Universe organisation run by Toni Berganza in Guatemala who has sent me threats and ultimatums involving finances which as a 17 year old I do not have,” she said in a statement. “I would highly recommend that teenage girls from around the world do their own research before entering a contest.” (Uhmmmm... yeah!)
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In a press conference on November 9, the Miss Ukraine Universe Organization announced that the current Miss Universe Ukraine 2014, Anna Andres has stepped down from her title as Miss Ukraine Universe 2014 due to school obligations. Her 1st runner-up, Diana Garkusha from Kharkov has been promoted to Miss Ukraine Universe 2014 and will representing the Ukraine at the 63rd edition of Miss Universe pageant Doral, Florida on January 25, 2015. Andres is the second Miss Universe 2014 contestant to have stepped down from her position. A week earlier, Miss Universe China 2014 Nora Xu was replaced by her 1st runner-up, Karen Hu, citing school obligations as well.


REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

   Miss Asia Pacific World ousted its 2014 winner, Myanmar model May Myat Noe (above) because she was rude and disrespectful, contest organizers headed by Lawrence Choi said. After the announcement, the 18-year-old allegedly ran off with the pageant's $100,000 crown. That's right. The organizers called her "rude and disrespectful" - this coming from the same organizers who mistreated, threatened and allegedly sexually harassed some of the contestants from the first edition of the pageant back in October 2011. Ha! On December 11, a fact-finding panel formed by Jun Won Young, chairperson of the organizing committee for Miss Asia Pacific Supertalent of the World (yup! a not-so shrewd attempt to change its name) confirmed that Noe was telling the truth when she alleged that the organizers had urged her to give sexual favors to some rich Korean businessmen. And speaking of Choi, the panel revealed that he had committed misappropriation and embezzlement during the previous pageants and was imprisoned for fraud in 2013 and is now on probation.
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In a press release dated November 14, the Miss World Panama organizers announced that the outgoing Miss World Panama 2014, Raiza Erlenbaugh, has been dethroned for failing to fulfill her obligations as written in the contract. Sources also reported that she had gained weight, that she neglected going to the gym, and that she would have to reuse the same wardrobe that wore while competing in Miss United Continents since it was the only kind that fit her. She was replaced by a runner-up, Nicole Pinto, who was sent to London for Miss World. Pinto is also the reigning Miss America Latina del Mundo  2014, a title she won on September 6 in the Dominican Republic. 
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Just weeks after being crowned Miss Universe Thailand, Weluree "Fai" Ditsayabut  has stepped down from her title after receiving criticism for comments she made against the country's pro-government activists. The 22-year-old beauty queen broke the news to reporters in Bangkok in June saying, "I felt under pressure, I tried to improve myself but what I could not stand was to see my mother stressed." Shortly after Ditsayabut  won the competition on May 17, controversial comments she made on her Facebook page that predated the contest were resurfaced. She referred to pro-government demonstrators, who are known as Redshirts, as "dirty" and "evil activists" that should "all be executed."


PHOTO CREDIT: ANDRE LAMAR/DOVER POST
On June 14, 24-year-old Amanda Longacre (above) was crowned Miss Delaware and less than two weeks later she was informed she would be losing her title. She would turn 25 in October, disqualifying her from the competition, because according to Miss America regulations the pageant requires contestants be between the ages of 17 and 24. "I lost everything and they want to erase me forever," Longacre told the news station. The former  pageant winner said she was unaware of the rules when she entered the competition.  She also said that the organization is to blame for the oversight. "It’s not really quite fair if somebody is allowed to turn 25 during January and be 25 for almost 75 percent of their reign." A month later, Longacre filed a $3 million lawsuit against state pageant officials. 
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On June 21, Elizabeth Fechtel was overjoyed to be crowned Miss Florida but only five days into her reign she received a shocking call. There had been a scoring error. She was no longer Miss Florida, and was now relegated to first runner up. The woman who had initially come in second, Victoria Cowen, was elevated to Miss Florida and would be eligible to compete in the Miss America pageant in September 2014.  
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In early August, Thabiso Phiri, Miss Zimbabwe, had been forced to resign following the release of nude pictures of her on social media by her boyfriend. The pageant organizers staged another pageant to crown a new queen - Catalina Makaya, 19 - but barely two months into her reign, Makaya was dethroned for misbehaving, for not attending required meetings, and for disobeying the organization's rules. Makaya claimed that she denounced the Miss Zimbabwe organization after an argument with its president, Marry Chiwenga, as to how she would be prepared for Miss World. Makaya was replaced by her first runner-up, Tendai Bongani Hunda.
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STEPHANIE DE ZORZI & OSMEL SOUSA. PHOTO CREDITS: VENEVISION/UNIVISION
In early November, Osmel Sousa, the president of Miss Venezuela Organization, decided not to send Miss Earth Venezuela 2014 Stephanie De Zorzi  to Miss Earth 2014. Zorzi had been working as a model in Mexico for several months and it appears that she had gained an extra twelve kilograms which was unacceptable to Sousa. She was replaced by her successor, Maira Alexandra Rodríguez who would then win the Miss Earth Water 2014 title in the Philippines. Nevertheless, a merciful Sousa allowed De Zorzi to keep her title. 

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The Beast in Beauties: Pageantry can produce the world's most beautiful women but it can also produce the world's most beautiful women with the ugliest intentions. Take, for instance, Sally Aponte Tejada, 23, who represented the Dominican Republic  in Miss World 2012. Aponte Tejada, her husband Jerry Tejada (above photos), and  two other Miami residents were arrested and convicted of bank-related fraud on December 3. Detectives said the group deceived banks into believing that they were account holders who had their accounts raided when they had made all of the withdrawals themselves. They also ran a credit card fraud scheme to defraud financial institutions out of more than $100,000. 
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On January 26, A former Nuestra Belleza Tamaulipas beauty queen and former Nuestra Belleza Latina contestant was arrested early Sunday outside a local bar in North Laredo, Texas. Police charged Barbara Falcon-Prieto, 24, with interfering with a police officer’s duties, a misdemeanor. Security officers from Agave Azul told police that a man was trying to exit the bar with an alcoholic drink in his hand. Authorities say Falcon-Prieto interfered with an officer attempting to talk to a "rowdy" man involved in the incident. “(Falcon-Prieto) started to pull the officer’s right arm and hands from the (man detained by police), impeding and interfering while the officer was trying to hold the rowdy subject during the investigation,” said Investigator Joe E. Baeza, spokesman for the Laredo Police Department.

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PHOTO CREDITS: BLOOMINGTON POLICE/MISS AMERICA ORGANIZATION
On December 10, a former Miss Indiana pageant winner was arrested in Bloomington on several charges. The police had received a report of an intoxicated female knocking on the caller's apartment door for about half an hour. The caller said the female was banging on the door and yelling, "let me in." Officers arrived found Terrin Thomas (above) still outside of the door. Thomas won the Miss Indiana 2013 pageant, a preliminary to Miss America. Bloomington police said Thomas appeared to be intoxicated based upon her slurred speech and abusive attitude toward them. The officer also reported noticing a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage coming from Thomas. Now, what do you think are the chances for her being invited to future Miss America-related events?  If the Miss America Organization is so committed to elevating women and making them better human beings, you'd figure that they would reach out to Thomas and offer to help her kick her habit, no?
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On November 19, Jamie Lynn France, 23, the 2009 Miss Teen Oregon-World, was arrested in a Salem, Oregon motel room and was charged with one count each of possession of methamphetamine, possession of heroin and possession of suboxene,  a prescription medicine to treat opiate addiction. It appears cops raided the room to bust a dealer. She was booked into the Marion County Correctional Facility and later released on $30,000 bail.

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Top left: Monica Spear with her daughter Maya. Center left: Fans mourn the tragic death of Monica and her ex-husband Thomas Berry. Bottom left: a screen shot of Monica's Instagram video posted on Dec. 31, 2013 - six days before her demise. Right: Monica crowned as Miss Venezuela 2004.

V is for Venezuela... and Violence: On January 6, Monica Spear, Miss Venezuela 2004, was in her native Venezuela on vacation with her ex-husband. Thomas Henry Berry, and their five-year-old daughter, Maya. On a highway in central Carabobo, when the three were inside their car waiting for assistance after the vehicle had broken down, Spear and Berry were killed during an attempted robbery and their daughter shot and wounded in the leg. Spear's tragic death sent shock waves across the world and a country that had already been spiraling down into total chaos - political, economic and social. Monica's death was not in vain; it inspired her Miss Universe 2005 fellow competitor, Chelsea Cooley, Miss USA 2005, to establish a foundation in Monica's name. It also inspired  Miss Trujillo 2005 Angelika Hernandez Dorendorf to start "Misses4Peace" that calls for beauty queens and kings, past and present, to pose for the camera holding signs that bear their titles and the hashtag #Misses4Peace with the goal of mourning the loss of Spear and other Venezuelans who were victims of violent crimes or were brutally attacked for protesting peacefully. Check out the official website: http://www.misses4peace.com/index.php/en/ 


Venezuela, despite its reputation as the world's most successful nation in pageantry, has proven to be the unsafest country in the Western Hemisphere. 
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PHOTO CREDIT: ETHAN MILLER/GETTY IMAGES

Come out, come out from wherever you are:  In early March, Djuan Trent, 27, who won the crown of Miss Kentucky in 2010 and finished in the top 10 of the Miss America competition in 2011, has made history by coming out as a lesbian – the first national pageant contestant to do so. She made the announcement in a lengthy post on her blog. 

"I have written and re-written and deleted and restarted this post more times than I care to share," she wrote, "and after all of that I have finally realized: 'There ain't nothin' to it, but to do it.' So, here we go folks …" 

"I am queer."  Ta-dah!
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PHOTO CREDIT: GALLO IMAGES

Setting the record straight: On April 29, Miss South Africa 2014 Marilyn Ramos released a press statement hitting back at a well-known local tabloid for calling her the “worst Miss SA ever”.  Ramos did not identify the magazine and said that their “derogatory comments” was a “personal attack” on her as a person. Don't get me wrong; even though I wouldn't change anything from the year of me wearing the crown, I would be lying if I said everything came easy. More often than not, I was presented with some major obstacles that I had to overcome all by myself. 

“Because of these obstacles people are still asking questions like 'why were you so rarely seen in the media and public eye?'; 'Is it true that you were more than often unavailable telephonically?' and 'What exactly happened at Miss World and Miss Universe?'”

Ramos blamed the organizers of Miss South Africa for not documenting the events and charities that she had attended, for not providing her wardrobe in both international competitions, and that no one from the organization even come to send her off. “I still went ahead and represented my country to the best of my abilities. The fact that I didn't place at either pageant wasn't because of anything I did or didn't do. I tried my utmost best, poured my heart and soul into it, and firmly believe that it just wasn't my time. I think it is also fair to mention that I was not the only Miss South Africa, that did not place at Internationals; in fact, there were three other Miss South Africa’s that did not place in previous years. 

"Perhaps the absence of a South African director played a role while 99% of all contestants had someone from the national organisation present for meetings, events and the final show.” (Perhaps? No, Marilyn. If the director does not care about his/her candidate, then this director should step down and be replaced by someone who does!)
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PHOTO CREDIT: DARK MOON RISING

Can you say "opinionated?"On February 19, Cuban-born, Venezuelan-raised former Miss World Venezuela turned singer and actress Maria Conchita Alonso (above) told "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV that movie director Oliver Stone "got paid" to support the Venezuelan government, a dictatorship being infiltrated by foreign interests that ultimately pose a threat to the United States. Alonso blasted the bloody dictators: "This is a war about the next-door neighbors of the United States. The Cubans are there. The Russians. The Iranians. The Chinese. Just now, in the past few days, planes full of soldiers from Cuba have been arriving in Venezuela. Chinese are also arriving in Venezuela." On May 9, Alonso stood amid hundreds of fired-up Venezuelan-Americans in front of the White House to protest the Venezuelan government and advocate for U.S. sanctions against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. On September 18, the Venezuelan government declared that it has begun the process of stripping Alonso of her Venezuelan citizenship for her criticism of the Maduro regime. And on December 18, Alonso took to Twitter and lambasted U.S. President Barack Obama for his decision to normalize relations with communist Cuba.

Hell hath no fury like an armed, Cuban-born, Venezuelan-raised, naturalized American citizen.
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Will the real Miss Supranational stand up? From the looks of it, the one produced by the Polish Gerhard Parzutka von Lipinski is the real one; we actually see the 2014 winner Asha Bhat of India being crowned by her predecessor, Mutya Datul, during the lavish production that took place on December 5 in Poland. On the other hand, the one run by the German Carsten Mohr is only as real as it gets - in his imagination. Mohr's version originally called for a staged pageant that was supposed to take place in Udaipur, India last November 14, but Mohr - via the Miss Supranational TV Facebook page - posted that the Indian government had set restrictions on visas due to the Ebola virus outbreak - which forced Mohr to cancel his pageant and elect the winner (based on photographs) with the help of "an international jury." The lucky "winner" is Yenniffer Poleo of Venezuela. Mohr also posted that Poleo's "win" and image would be used to promote a real pageant to be held in January 2015.  Meanwhile, there is much skepticism among pageant fans who suspect that India's victory in von Lipinski's edition was strategically engineered to piss off Mohr and to persuade Indian fans that Mohr's edition is the fake one. It worked! Bhat was given a warm reception by Indian fans during her homecoming three weeks ago! Sorry, Carsten... but this time, Mohr is less. LOL! 
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PHOTO CREDITS: GIANTBOB.COM / GETTY IMAGES

A Hole in the Universe: For the first time in the 63-year history of Miss Universe, the pageant is skipping a year; in other words, no pageant was held in 2014, much to the dismay - and frustration - of pageant fans. Pageant owner Donald Trump (above, right) had tweeted at one point that ten countries were bidding to host the 2014 pageant but he never mentioned their names. As the month of September rolled in, there was still no official announcement of the dates and venue. Then suddenly on September 23, MUO released a statement confirming that the next pageant will be held in Doral, Florida on January 25, 2015. Yup, you read it right! 2015! In the press release, MUO does not refer to the 63rd edition of the pageant as "Miss Universe 2014" - which made fans assume that the next pageant would be called "Miss Universe 2015." But wait. On the official Facebook page of Miss Universe dated Dec. 16, 2014, the admin posted this:



... which means that a 2014 pageant will be held in 2015! Makes sense? Somewhat. But what caused the delay? We can only speculate that Trump had made up the "ten countries bidding" claim, or that perhaps he was telling the truth but in the end none of the countries could afford the hosting fee - which prompted Trump to move the pageant back to American soil. But why Doral of all places? In the press release, Trump has this to say: “The City of Doral is experiencing a record amount of economic growth and has gained attention from Fortune 100
companies in the short time since its incorporation in 2003. In its 11 years of being an established city, Doral has become internationally recognized for its outstanding commercial and industrial accomplishments. Doral is a symbol of success and holding the Miss Universe Pageant here will amplify its reputation as a world showcase city.”  

Fair enough. But having the 2014 pageant in 2015 has inconvenienced a handful of national directors who were forced to withdraw their candidates who would rather pursue their studies or accept lucrative modeling jobs instead of waiting for the pageant to occur. On the upside, the average temperature in southern Florida during winter is in the mid-70s, so everybody bring their swimsuit and suntan lotion! Woohoo!
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MARC ANTHONY & DAYANARA TORRES. / RON GALELLA, LTD./WIREIMAGE

Hmmm... she's not used to poverty: In June, the latest court battle between Marc Anthony and ex-wife Dayanara Torres, Miss Universe 1993, was finally settled. A judge ruled that the singer must pay $26,800 a month in child support for his two sons, Christian Anthony Muñiz and Ryan Anthony MuñizTorres was originally asking that the amount be raised from $13,400 a month to $123,426 but was denied her request. She testified that Jennifer Lopez's ex only saw his sons 35 days in 2013, which Anthony later disputed. She also told the court that 10 years have passed since her divorce and her needs have changed. In addition to her child support requests, Torres estimated that she needs between $4,000-$7,000 a month for a nanny and housekeeper. Torres and Anthony were married in 2000 and divorced in 2004. Per their initial marital agreement, Torres received a house in Florida, a BMW, a Lincoln Navigator, a golf club membership, as well as a vacation budget. Anthony also paid for Torres' legal fees for the divorce in the amount of $70,000. 

We still wonder if Dayanara's life would have been less dramatic if she had stayed in the Philippines and married her old flame, the actor Aga Muhlach.
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BRUCE FORSYTH & ANN SIDNEY AT A PRESS DANCE IN BOURNEMOUTH, 1964.
(DAILY MAIL UK) INSET LEFT: ANN WHEN SHE WON MISS WORLD 1964 (GETTY IMAGES). INSET RIGHT: ANN TODAY (FROM ANN'S WEBSITE)

Worldly snub: Ann Sidney of the United Kingdom was crowned the 14th Miss World in London on November 12, 1964 - fifty years ago. She was dating English television personality and entertainer Bruce Forsyth before and during her reign while he was still married to Penny Calvert, but had told Ann that he was separated. He was 16 years her senior. The 2014 Miss World pageant took place in London on December 14 and Ann had expected the Miss World Organization to invite her to the final and to celebrate her 50th coronation anniversary, but it never happened. On her blog dated December 12, 2014, Ann writes: "It is my belief that I have been shunned because I have dared to speak out about my time as Miss World."  MWO had committed a terrible decision by not inviting Ann to the 2014 pageant; instead, they preferred the company of a royal jerk (uhmmm... yeah... believe it or not, he's now Sir Bruce Forsyth) who cheated on his wife and toyed with the emotions of a then vulnerable young woman. Ann, we can't wait to read your memoir. And if MWO will not recognize your 50th coronation anniversary, Critical Beauty will! Expect a surprise soon!
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LEMIGOVA & NAVRATILOVA. CREDIT: URI SCHANKER/GC IMAGES

There is no love in this love: Julia Lemigova, 42, who represented the former USSR in Miss Universe 1991 where she placed third, married long-time girlfriend and tennis superstar, Martina Navratilova, 58, in New York City on December 15. So Julia competes in Miss Universe in 1991, moves to France to set up her own cosmetic firm, marries a wealthy French banker in 1997, gives birth to a baby boy in 1999 but who dies at 6 months of age, her husband is shot to death by a dominatrix prostitute in 2005, gives birth to two daughters by different fathers, becomes romantically involved with Martina in 2009, and ties the knot with the world's most successful female tennis superstar! And her rollercoaster life started with winning a beauty pageant! We wish her and Martina the best of luck in their marriage. And if you know how the word "love" is used in tennis, it wouldn't apply in this couple's blissful relationship!
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Violence does not discriminate:  Monica Spear's untimely and tragic death in early January was just the beginning of more tragedies that would befall other Venezuelan pageant celebrities.

On January 8, Ángela Ramírez,  former Miss Cojedes and Miss Latinoamérica 2013, was assaulted in the home of her parents in the city of Tovar (Mérida). She and her parents were threatened by the robbers who stole their belongings.

On January 11 in the city of Valencia, Mister Venezuela 2012 Jessús Zambrano was mugged by a gunman who stole his cellphone, watch and cash. He later took to Twitter condemning the unsafe state of Venezuela and the gangs that run the country. #NoMasViolenciaVenezuela

EL CARABOBENO/HANDOUT/EPA

On February 19, Genesis Carmona (above), 22, a Venezuelan beauty queen and student demonstrator was fatally shot in the head during a political protest in Caracas. She later became the symbol of protest against the Nicolás Maduro government during the time of demonstrations in the country. Carmona had served as 2013 Miss Turismo for her state of Carabobo.

On April 4, Anaís Osío, a candidate for Miss Aragua 2014 whose winner would compete in Venezuela 2014, died of heart attack. She had been suffering from congenital heart disease, and on September 13, 2013, she successfully underwent a procedure to install a pacemaker. After months of recovery, Osío, who  had always dreamed of winning Miss Venezuela, consulted with pageant director Osmel Sousa who had suggested that Osío needed to have her breasts enlarged, which she had in January 2014. This was followed by months of intense exercise and strict diet, which resulted in a loss of 30 kilograms and which has been blamed for her death. She was 25. 

On May 3, the outgoing Miss Earth 2013 Alyz Henrich posted on her Instagram that her cellphone was stolen by a gang of delinquent juveniles in Maracaibo. She also said that it was not the first time that she had been victimized.


On August 8 in Caracas, a group of young thugs stole the van belonging to Osmel Sousa, the national director of Miss Venezuela. The driver received death threats and was forced to give up the vehicle. Fortunately, Osmel was not in the van.


Other notable deaths:



The bodies of  Maria Jose Alvarado (above), 19, and her sister Sofia Trinidad, 23, were found nearly a week since they were last seen on November 13. Both were last spotted leaving a party in the Santa Barbara region and four people have been questioned over the pair's disappearance, including Maria Alvarado's boyfriend.  The women had been shot and their bodies buried in a field by a river.  And just a few days after Alvarado's death, her former hairstylist, Luis Alfredo Garcia, was found murdered in his bath tub. Alvarado was crowned Miss Honduras World 2014 on April 26 in San Pedro Sula, Cortes, and was set to compete in the Miss World competition in London on 14 December. 

On December 21, Reinaldo José González Colmenares, who was Mister Bolívar in Mister Venezuela 2004, was killed in a car accident. He was 31.

On February 21, Miss Peru 1976 Rocio Rita Lazcano died of heart attack while she was visiting her daughter in Italy. She competed in Miss Universe 1976 where she won the Best National Costume award.

PHOTO CREDIT: FACE OF MALAWI
On March 14, former Miss Malawi Faith Cutepie Chibale (above) lost her battle to tubercolosis. She was 24. She was supposed to compete in Miss World 2011 but could not go due to lack of sponsorship.

On April 2, Diana Gabriela Vallecillo Alemán, who was a semifinalist in Miss Honduras World 2009, was killed in a car accident on her way to the capital city of Tegucigalpa. Authorities reported that she had lost control of her car which hit a gutter. She died instantly from head wounds. She was 25.

On September 16, Shurina Rose Wiah, Miss Liberia 2009, died after not eating for a week as she suffered from a year of malnutrition and depression following the death of her sister. Wiah's death was initially attributed to the ebola virus, but her mother later denied this. 


BESS MYERSON / PHOTO CREDIT: PHOTOSEEUM
On December 14, former Miss America (1945) Bess Myersondied in her Santa Monica home Dec. 14, Los Angeles County Coroner Assistant Chief Ed Winter said. The New York Times first reported the death. Myerson who was the only Jewish Miss America and later forged a career in New York City government that ended in scandal.

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And the Country of the Year is... you guessed it! The Philippines! The country may not have equaled or surpassed its amazing feat in 2013, but it continued its successful streak in 2014. There were nearly 30 international beauty pageants and modeling competitions held last year, and Philippine representatives placed in at least 25 of them, the most notable of whom include Jamie Herrell (Miss Earth 2014), Odessa Mae Tadaya (Miss Heritage 2014), Kris Tiffany Johnson (2nd runner-up, Miss Intercontinental 2014), Glennifer Perido (2nd runner-up, Miss Tourism International 2014), Jerwin Mark Sunglao (Starhunkz International 2014), Renee Soraya Hassani (1st runner-up, Miss Diversity Culture International 2014), Adam Davies (3rd runner-up, Mister Model International 2014), Yvethe Marie Santiago (Top 20, Miss Supranational 2014), Valerie Weigmann (Top 25, Miss World 2014)


MISS EARTH 2014 COURT. FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: MAIRA ALEXANDRA RODRIGUEZ OF VENEZUELA (MISS EARTH FIRE 2014), JAMIE HERRELL OF THE PHILIPPINES (MISS EARTH 2014), ANDREA NEU OF USA (MISS EARTH AIR 2014), ANASTASIA TRUSOVA OF RUSSIA (MISS EARTH FIRE 2014) / PHOTO CREDIT: MISS EARTH TV

The second place goes to... the U.S.A.! Yes, it seems that American reps are making a comeback on international stage. Andrea Neu  earned the title of Miss Earth Air 2014 during the Miss Earth 2014 finals in the Philippines last November 29. Allyn Rose placed 3rd runner-up in Miss Supranational 2014. And Elizabeth Safrit placed 2nd runner-up in Miss World 2014. Americans also won a handful of minor competitions: Sabrina Pinion (Mrs. Universe 2014), Shelynne Paige Hoyt (Miss Model of the World 2014), Tabitha Leonor Lipkin (Miss Scuba International 2014), and Susan Romanishin (Reina Mundial del Banano 2014). Incidentally, Neu has now the distinction of being the first American woman to have won two major national titles (she was Miss U.S. International 2013 and the current Miss Earth United States 2014) and placed in both Miss International 2013 (Top 15) and Miss Earth 2014 (second place).

And last but not least, the third place goes to... Thailand! This Southeast Asian country is quickly inching its way to pageantry stardom with successful placements in the major leagues: Patraporn Wang won Miss Intercontinental 2014, Punika Kulsoontornrut placed second runner-up in Miss International 2014, and Sasi Sintawee placed in the top 16 of Miss Earth 2014. Expect Thailand to make better and bigger gains in 2015!


By Rafa Delfin  

Updated: January 5, 2015 to include the mention of Bess Myerson's death