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Miss Universe 2004

Beautiful winner, confused universe

JENNIFER HAWKINS, a 20-year-old blond and blue-eyed model and dance instructor from Sydney, Australia was crowned as the new Miss Universe in Quito, Ecuador last night. Hawkins's court includes first runner-up Shandi Finnessey, Miss USA; second runner-up Alba Reyes, Miss Puerto Rico; third runner-up Yanina Gonzalez, Miss Paraguay; and fourth runner-up, Danielle Jones, Miss Trinidad & Tobago. This is the second time that Australia won the title. Kerry Ann Wells won in 1972. The other candidates who made the semi-final round were the representatives of Jamaica, Mexico, India, Norway, Ecuador, Angola, Colombia, Switzerland, Costa Rica, and Chile.

THERE IS ONE WORD that best describes this year's production - snafu ("confusion"). Let's start with the opening scene where the delegates introduced themselves in alphabetical order. After Miss Germany, a malfunction in the satellite feed caused Miss Georgia and Miss Germany's introduction to be repeated three times in a row. My first reaction was, "Oh, my God! What is happening? Is the telecast being sabotaged by terrorists?" The repetitive showing of Georgia and Germany must have contributed to a deep collective melancolia - or even anger - among the citizens of Ghana, Greece and Guatemala who never had the chance to see their representatives. Imagine the horror of the national directors of these countries. With this kind of snafu, you can pretty much tell how bad the rest of the evening would be like.

BURN THE BUSH. Yes, Billy Bush has got to go. I do not understand MUO's fascination with this man. He is mediocre, uninteresting, humorless, and classless. Did anyone hear him say "mostly distinguished judges" before he and Daisy Fuentes introduced the panel of judges? What did he mean exactly by what he said? Who was distinguished and who was not distinguished among the judges? Was it because of the presence of Katie Pritz - the "ordinary" woman who won the "Be a Miss Universe" judge contest? Who the hell is she and how did she win the contest? Another thing: did anyone notice how Bush and Fuentes would "fight" each other for attention? Did anyone notice one or two moments when both hosts raced to say something? The producers had explained that the reason Fuentes and Bush were selected again as hosts was because of the strong chemistry between the two of them, but did anyone explain to the producers that too much strong chemistry may also cause friction? Friction that would only compel a confused audience to ask: who is leading the show? Fuentes? Bush? Or both?

And what ever happened to Paula Abdul? Wasn't she supposed to judge? We see that Kwame Jackson was replaced by Bill Rancic, the winner of "The Apprentice", but what was Jackson doing sitting in the audience when he was supposed to have been dismissed? Very confusing. 

I LOVE Gloria Estefan, but her performance last night was pathetic, one of the worst performances I have ever seen in any pageant. I would have preferred to have seen American Idol reject William Hung perform his version of Ricky Martin's "She Bangs." Estefan's first number - a medley of her earlier hits - was muddled by the overwhelming musical accompaniment and terrible acoustics. While doing her second number (from her latest CD), her gigantic left earring fell flat on the floor. Wardrobe malfunction? She must have been embarrassed. You can tell that she and her musicians hardly rehearsed at all - she moved all over the place and sometimes was not sure where to go. And she looked dazed and confused. 

TO SASH OR NOT TO SASH? During her initial interview segment with the hosts, Amelia Vega looked stunning and radiant and her English has tremendously improved, although I would have preferred if she had worn the Miss Universe sash and crown to distinguish her from the other girls. To anyone who had just turned on the T.V. and stumbled upon this segment, one would wonder who she was. But if she had worn the crown and sash, then the neophyte viewer would not have had to guess who she was. And why were the finalists not wearing their sashes while the other girls had theirs on? Very confusing. 

IF THERE WERE EVER a more confused group of people. it would be the pageant fans who had hoped that top favorite Miss Ukraine, Oleksandra Nikolayenko, would at least be a finalist, but alas, she failed to crack the semifinals. Poor Oleksandra; she had to change the color of her hair from natural blond to faux brunette. What prompted the color change? Was she perhaps misled into thinking that the judges would pick another dark-haired winner? Virtually every pageant site, including mine, has predicted her as the winner. Imagine her sentiments: "I am so confused. Global Beauties loved me. How could the preliminary judges not love me as well?" Perhaps the most confused girl in the pageant was Miss Venezuela, Ana Karina A?ez who, shockingly, did not enter the semi-finals. Since 1983, Venezuela has never failed to advance to the semi-finals. In 1996, when Osmel Sousa was interviewed by ABC's Prime Time Live regarding Venezuela's immense su ccess in international pageantdom, he stated: "If Venezuela does not make it in the finals, I will have a heart attack!" Well, Osmel, your girl did not make it last night. I hope your new pesco-vegetarian diet has lowered your cholesterol level. But don't give up yet. You just acquired the Miss Argentina Universe franchise. Perhaps you can mold Ana Karina into an Argentine girl and send her to Chile next year. Or to China. Or to Timbuktu.

MISS PUERTOGENIC. Miss Photogenic 1999: Puerto Rico. Miss Photogenic 2001: Puerto Rico. Miss Photogenic 2002: Puerto Rico. Miss Photogenic 2003: Puerto Rico. Miss Photogenic 2004: Puerto Rico. Okay, let's take a poll: Who do you think will win Miss Photogenic next year? Care to guess? Your guess is just as good as mine. Brenda Liz Lopez and Denise Qui?ones deserved their awards, but their successors did not deserve theirs. Ever since MUO allowed Internet users to vote for Miss Photogenic, this category has turned into an arena for nationalistic pride. No matter how unattractive or homely a candidate may look, she will always get the support of her people if and only if her people love her. And that is why I admire Puerto Ricans for supporting their candidate at all costs. However, there are Puerto Ricans who are not happy with their country's repeat win of the award. Why? Because it has become so predictable and to a certain extent, it cheapens the delicate task of carefully scrutinizing and evaluating images that is usually reserved for professional photographers. It's time to overhaul Miss Photogenic and introduce Miss Internet. Something good came out of Alba's triumph: it vindicated Magaly Febles who, about two months ago, was being persecuted by rabid Puerto Rican fans for paying too much attention to her Dominican prot?g?e than to Alba. Magali's reputation remains intact, for now.

'TIS THE YEAR OF THE BLONDE. And she will be on the cover of virtually every beauty and fashion magazine all over the world. Trump must be very ecstatic. Finally, a set of three blonds will now reside at the Trump Tower. Aussie pride is bigger than ever. Mel Gibson. Russell Crowe. Kangaroos. Boomerangs. Wallabies. Nicole Kidman. And now Jennifer Hawkins who undeniably was favored by the judges (especially the swimsuit models) over Finnissey because she's younger and looks better in swimsuit. No Miss Universe has ever graced the cover of Sports Illustrated. Hawkins will surely be the first. 

The Judges
  • ELSA BENITEZ, Sports Illustrated swimsuit model
  • EMILIO ESTEFAN, musician and musical entrepreneur
  • WENDY FITZWILLIAM, Miss Universe 1998
  • ANNE MARTIN, Vice-President, Global Cosmetics & Marketing, Procter & Gamble Cosmetics
  • PETRA NEMCOVA, Sports Illustrated swimsuit model
  • JON TUTOLO, President, Trump Model Management
  • BILL RANCIC, Winner of "The Apprentice"
  • BO DEREK, Actress and entrepreneur
  • KATIE PRITZ, Winner of "Be a Miss Universe Judge" contest
  • JEFFERSON PEREZ, Ecuadorian walking champion 

Text by Rafa Delfin, 6/2/2004

Photo courtesy of Associated Press


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