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Rafa's Blog - 8.27.2010

 | 08.27.10 | Friday

It is what it is

     What can I say? The first Miss Universe pageant that I have ever attended was exactly what I had expected. As a pageant fan, it was exciting to see the pageant live, in person, to be surrounded by equally enthusiastic fans cheering for their favorites. However, I was not happy with my seat; I had paid $350 to get a good seat in the floor area, only to discover that the seats were folding metal chairs, uncomfortable and pressed too tightly against each other. The visibility from my seat was so bad that I ended up borrowing my neighbor's binoculars just so I could take a closer look of the finalists on stage. From time to time, ushers would come up to tell you to sit down because you're blocking the view of those behind you, or that they had to confiscate your videocam with zoom lens. For whatever it's worth, I guess you can't put a price tag on the intoxicating ardor that you felt in the theater that you would not have felt otherwise if you were watching at home.

     As member of the press, I am thankful to MUO for providing Hector and me with updated tip sheets and for facilitating our access to certain events. It is never easy to coordinate events, and I am grateful to MUO for trying their best to give the press with as many opportunities as possible to photograph and interview the girls. Hector's popularity is mind-boggling; he was interviewed by several Latin media outlets (in print, electronic, TV and radio) who wanted to know who his favorites were for the crown. I myself was interviewed by the Philippine network ABS-CBN - an interview which I never saw. And I suppose I should stop being perplexed by the fact that the pageant had not been covered by mainstream U.S. media such as CNN, FOX News or even NBC which barely featured the pageant on entertainment magazines like Access Hollywood. Pageants in the U.S. just don't get much attention as they do in Latin America and the Philippines, or even in France. But I digress. As a reporter, I witnessed things that an average pageant fan did not see - things that I'd rather keep to myself.

     As a fan rooting for Miss Philippines Venus Raj, I was ecstatic that the Philippines made the cut after 11 years of drought, but at the same time a bit disappointed that Venus didn't win. Critics blame her loss to the perception that she didn't answer the question, but I beg to differ. She did answer the question, but her response appeared rather spurious to the judges who couldn't believe that a 22-year-old young woman - from an impoverished and humble background - could not have possibly made "the biggest mistake" of her life. Surely, she did commit mistakes, but they were not enough to be considered "biggest." She did admit being nervous, but her nervousness didn't cause her to stammer or to stumble. Critics - some of them pretentious or faux pageant coaches who don't know tiddly-twat about the subtleties of Filipino English - accuse Venus of not having prepared herself to deliver safe or canned answers, or that she should have said this and that she should have said that. It's immaterial. We are not Venus. Venus told the truth as she saw it. Her response - which triggered the highest Google search on the web - was almost similar to Miss Colombia's in 2008 (she placed second) or from Miss Puerto Rico's in 2001 (she won, despite pauses in her delivery). And even if Venus had answered in a manner that judges would have liked, she still would have been critiqued. Lastly, unlike the questions posed to the other four finalists (Mexico, Ukraine, Australia, Jamaica) that asked their opinions about something to demonstrate their intelligence, Venus's question demanded a response based on personal experience. Watch the Final Q & A segment.

     As for the winner, Miss Mexico Ximena Navarrete, she was not and never was a favorite of mine. If her victory was based simply on the quality of her answer, her response - and delivery - was rather average, not to mention the fact that she bought time by using an interpreter (the same one from Precision Translating Services who enhanced Alicia Machado's response in 1996 - which brought her the crown). Without doubt, Ximena has a pretty face, but her beauty is too generic. Compared to Miss Australia Jesinta Campbell's cherubic and fresh loveliness, to Miss Ireland Rozanna Purcell's blow-up doll countenance, or to Venus's regal dusky looks, Ximena has no particularly distinctive physical quality, except her thick eyebrows and hirsute arms. Last year's winner, Stefania Fernandez, stood out because she had a distinctive look, with long neck, an oval face, and a big mouth - and a natural aura generated by her beaming smile. Stefania was not my favorite in 2009 either, but eventually I warmed up to her. I am sure I will also warm up to Ximena in no time. 

PHOTO CREDIT: Miss Universe Organization


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