Miss Universe 1988

Thai victory in Taiwan
Asians dominate finals 

     The 1988 pageant was a tribute to the wonders and mystery of the Far East. As opening numbers go, this year's was a mini-production on its own. The reigning Miss Universe, Cecilia Bolocco of Chile, is meditating by herself in a garden. As she takes a delicate whiff from a chrysanthemum, we listen to a hypnotic voice-over in which Cecilia compares her year-long experience as Miss Universe to the natural beauty of the Orient. She ascends the grand steps to a "temple" in the center of the main square in Taipei and is eagerly greeted by dozens of children--the future of the Universe.

     The camera zooms to the theater where Taiwanese folk dancers run and twirl brightly-colored ribbons toward the stage. The popular 1980's tune, "Dancing on the Ceiling," is the theme song opened by three of the delegates in their respective native tongues. Miss Republic of China [Taiwan] addresses the audience in Cantonese. Miss France speaks French. Miss Brazil, Portuguese. What do they all say?......"Oh, what a feeling!!" After all sixty-six delegates introduce themselves in their national costumes, the folk dancers climb a giant gold pyramid (lettered with red Chinese characters) and wave and 'dip' several national flags from it. The whole spectacle concludes in smoke and sparkles.

     For the first time in more than twenty years, Miss Universe introduced a new host replacing the venerable Bob Barker, Alan Thicke. I vividly recall Bob threatening to "walk out" at the last minute as host in 1987 when he found out real fur jackets would cover the bare shoulders of the semi-finalists in the 1987 Miss USA pageant swimsuit competition. Bob stayed on to host both Miss USA and Miss Universe events one last time in 1987 only after the contest people agreed to utilize "synthetic" fur stoles during the most controversial swimsuit segment episode in Miss USA history. Bob Barker most likely could not bear to continue as emcee to a pageant system proudly awarding fur coats to its winners. Today, he is a hero to both animal rights advocates and vintage pageant fans alike.

     Alan Thicke was a natural interviewer, if a bit formal. Hard-core pageant fans know he went on to marry Miss World 1990!! The interviews this year were so comical because Mr. Thicke possessed such a dry, Canadian sense of humor. Miss Hong Kong (an actress) wanted to meet Eddie Murphy, Miss Dominican Republic talked about futuristic architecture and a dead Argentinian writer, Miss Mexico hoped to wear a really "big" dress at her wedding and visit the Greek islands on a honeymoon cruise, Miss Japan compared American literature to Japanese literature and loved the USA for its garage sales, and Miss USA aspired to meet First Lady Nancy Reagan. Miss Thailand admitted to learning English from Big Bird, Miss Korea spoke Korean for what seemed like hours, Miss Colombia was fond of her pet boa constrictor but did not care for the Taiwanese custom of drinking the blood of snakes, Miss Norway did not exhibit any personality in spite of the fact that she was a personality development trainee(!), and Miss Venezuela could have effortlessly won the award for the "biggest" hair!!

     The girls modeled 'cherry red' swimsuits against a sea of undulating fans of sky-blue feathers simulating the motion of the ocean. After the most stunning evening gown segment in the history of beauty pageants (read my article on the Little Sisters to find out why I make this superlative claim), the five finalists were announced. Mexico, Thailand, Korea, Japan, and Hong Kong. Four of the five finalists hailed from East Asia!!! Newspaper headlines all over the world "bugled out" this fact the next morning. The finalists were then pared down to the winner, Porntip Nakhirunkanok, who was the second woman to ever wear the Miss Universe crown for Thailand.

The 10 Semi-finalists
  • PAULINE YEUNG, Hong Kong
  • DIANA AREVALO, Colombia
  • PATRICIA JIMENEZ, Dominican Republic
  • YAJAIRA VERA, Venezuela
by Juan Prado

Miss Universe 1988 in Wikipedia

Photo courtesy of the Miss Universe Organization 

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