IT'S A HALO-HALO UNIVERSE
Sweet victory for Canada
NATALIE GLEBOVA, 23, a striking Russian-born model from Toronto, Canada, beat eighty other beautiful young women from around the world to win the coveted Miss Universe crown during a live telecast from Bangkok, Thailand last May 31st. Glebova's court include first runner-up press favorite Cynthia Olavarría of Puerto Rico, second runner-up Renata Soñé of the Dominican Republic, Laura Elizondo of Mexico, and Monica Spear of Venezuela. Glebova is the second Canadian to win the title (Karen Baldwin won in 1982). The other candidates who completed the semi-final list includes Misses Peru, Switzerland, Latvia, USA, Israel, Trinidad & Tobago, Greece, South Africa, Norway and Indonesia.
One of my favorite Philippine desserts is called halo-halo [pronounced HAH-loh HAH-loh] which in Filipino literally means "mixed." A typical halo-halo consists of the following ingredients: cooked red beans, cooked white beans, bananas, jackfruit, jello, sweet purple yam, sweet palm, macapuno, nata de coco, sugar, milk and shaved iced. Other fruits such as kiwi, papaya, avocado or cherries may also be added. And if you truly want to be decadent, you can also add leche flan (milk custard) and ice cream for topping. Dee-li-cious! Of course, as a vegan, I use non-dairy alternatives and the taste could be just as good as a regular one, but healthier!
Perhaps now you are wondering what the connection is between halo-halo and the Miss Universe pageant. No halo-halo was served in any of the pageant-related social events, at least not that I was aware of. But the halo-halo spirit prevailed in virtually all situations. Consider the following observations:
THE ART OF BEING CANADIAN : Many pageant fans have questioned the Universal Queen's Canadian-ness: How could she be Canadian if she was born in Russia? Miss Universe pageant officials should create a rule forbidding women from representing a country which is not their place of birth. She should have returned to Russia and participated in Miss Russia. Glebova's family moved to Toronto when she was 12. Her Russian-ness is evident in her ability to speak Russian, but her spoken English sounds hardly Russian. Like any other immigrant who tries to assimilate with the mainstream culture, Glebova has had her share of struggles: "At first it was difficult, just because I went to grade eight at the time, and as you can imagine, kids and teenagers can be cruel sometimes... I was one of the only kids in school with an accent and a different last name, so it was difficult for the first few years until I really perfected my language and started believing in myself more." (1) It would be hard - and yes, impossible - to wash away any traces of her Russian-ness. She should not wash them away: "Canada, Oh Canada, rejoice for thine Russian-born daughter is the ice cream topping of your sweet Canadian halo-halo."
THE SLAVIC CONNECTION : During the three-week long pageant, Glebova made friends with Miss Israel, Elena Ralph who immigrated to Israel from the Ukraine just three years ago. Like Glebova, Ralph has brought her sweet Ukrainian-ness to the Israeli mainstream culture. Even though Glebova has not revisited Russia, she found herself in Bangkok speaking Russian with Ralph and with the representatives from the Ukraine, Georgia and Russia. One of the celebrity judges happened to be Oleksandra "Sasha" Nikolayenko, last year's Miss Ukraine Universe who was considered a heavy favorite for the crown but failed to make the semi-finals. Many fans remain puzzled by MUO's selection of Nikolayenko as a judge. How could a former non-placing participant be invited to select the new Miss Universe? Halo-halo theories abound as to why. Maybe Sasha is Slovenian-Slavic Melania Knauss's new best friend? Maybe Sasha is the Donald's mistress? One could only guess. But in a halo-halo jar filled mainly with Caribbean white and red beans, it is nice to see a handful of Slavic cherries thrown in.
INDO-DIVA : Make no mistake. Indonesia's Artika Sari Devi's inclusion in the semi-finals might not have been caused by the controversy surrounding her participation in the swimsuit segment as much as by the inner diva in her. What did the preliminary judges see in her? A rare halo-halo of class, elegance, grace, ebullience and spicy chutzpah. No one could stop this Indo dynamo, not even the Japanese Amazon or the thousands of protesting Indo Islaminazis whose misguided religious zeal hinders them from realizing an important aspect of the pageant: to promote what is beautiful about each country. There are over thirteen thousand islands that comprise Indonesia, the world's largest archipelago, and some of us would have liked to have learnt more about the diversity of this country from Devi. And certainly, it was delightfully sweet to see an Indonesian woman wearing something else besides an ugly, loose, and boring sack. Some viewers may hate th e gown she wore during the telecast, but to me, her Bird of Paradise gown is the sweet purple yam in the halo-halo of fashion.
EXTRA INGREDIENTS : For the first time in my Critical Beauty reviews, I have invited a pageant fan, Armin Amari, to assist me in the review of the telecast. Armin is a frequent poster on the CB Message Board and many of his comments reflect intelligence, wit, humor, and well, sarcasm. Here are his observations:
"Can I get some extra Thai seasoning on the side?"
- Thailand was MUO's decorative centrepiece this year! From the lavish stage (the best in years) to the authentic Thai dancers, cultural flare was embedded in all aspects of the production. even though many non-placers decided to perform unenthusiastically, led in revolt by Miss Antigua and Barbuda!
- The cameo appearances by former Miss Universes from Thailand, Porntip and Apasra, reaffirmed the host country's victorious past!
- Of all the finalists, Miss Canada (the eventual winner), was the only woman to integrate traditional Thai hand gestures into her presentations and to address the Thai people in their native tongue during the Final Question round. This is what clinched her the gazillion dollar crown.
"Who slipped me a Nyquil?"- The evening gown and especially the swimsuit choreography was quite lulling due to the fact that the movements were too slow for the up tempo music. Billy and Nancy sounded like someone had just slipped them a mickey when they announced the names of the 10 delegates during the swimsuit round. It took forever!
- I'm glad Miss Philippines woke up in time to receive her Miss "Votogenic" Award. She looked tired and in need of rest but it was so refreshing seeing an actual Asian getting some limelight in Thailand! Go figure! Mabuhay!
- Oleksandra Nikolayenko had a bad case of bed-head hair and reminded all of us why she didn?t place last year. Go back to being blonde sister!
- Donald's absence was quite unusual. Perhaps his alarm clock conked out and he slept in! Or perhaps Melania Knauss wore him out the night before!
"P-Cubed: Puzzling Pageant Politics"
- The Top 15 was quite generic and the only real surprise was Switzerland.
- With so many strong Asian women this year, only 1 ½ made the cut (Indonesia and Norway), while only 1 black delegate (Trinidad & Tobago) made the semi-finals, even though both Africa and the Caribbean had a variety of competitive delegates. Despite strong presentations in the evening gown, both Indonesia and Trinidad & Tobago were axed; Indonesia's deletion was due to her swimsuit controversy.
- Miss Israel's absence from the Top 5 is mind-boggling, as her SS presentation was the most animated of all 10 contestants. Could the Middle Eastern bombshell have been a threat to others if she had continued?
- Miss USA's inclusion into the swimsuit round
- 1 North American and 4 Latinas in the Top 5 almost seemed like the "perfect" place to be for Miss Canada. A little too perfect.
- The Top 15 was full of the most hyped delegates, despite some of these praised ladies having mediocre preliminary presentations. How much is a candidate judged on her pre-prelim coverage? I would say a lot!
"Dynamite comes in small packages but not in European ones!"
- It was interesting to note how many shorter delegates made it into the Top 15 this year. Indonesia, Mexico, Puerto Rico and USA showed the world and that blabbering fool Osmel Sousa that it's all about spunk and personality. Perhaps we'll see a 5'3"? Miss Venezuela next year? LOL! Highly unlikely!
- The Thai children that flanked either side of a mini runway when Jennifer Hawkins made her entrance were reminiscent of the Little Sisters!
- What is up with the lovely European reps that made the semis? They looked stunning yet they acted like they had as much vibrancy as librarians.
"The sky is falling! The sky is falling!"
This famous line is taken from the children's play Henny Penny and by coincidence the characters of this beloved story were in attendance at the Impact Arena!
Henny Penny - Miss Japan: I had my fingers crossed when the Top 15 was announced, as I wanted Yukari to strut her stuff in that chicken outfit, detailed with red feathers, bird like knee-high stalkings, a gizzard shawl and clunky yellow heels! Miss Japan did indeed sport this costume during the parade of gowns but was put way in the back for understandable professional purposes by MUO.
Goosey Lucy - Miss South Africa: Only a matronly woman could fill the shoes of Goosey Lucy and, well, Miss South Africa looks like she's 40. She also managed to gallop, trudge and waddle through the evening gown competition, which eventually brought her demise.
Foxy Loxy - Miss Colombia: With the look on this woman's face, she wanted to murder everybody! But wait! This story takes a rather unusual twist! Lucky the elephant made a guest appearance during the pageant! I wonder how many tranquilizer darts they had to use to calm that pachyderm down. I'm sure Miss Chile will need the same amount; she looked ready to wage war on the universe!
"Silence speaks louder than words."
- The moment of silence in remembrance of the tsunami victims was sensitive, tasteful and classy. The added hand held lights were the perfect touch!
- On the opposite end of the spectrum, Miss Venezuela's unfinished answer to her final question leaves me wanting to slap her fat cheeks! You are from Orlando! You are a drama student! What is wrong with you, child?!
"From glitches to stitches."
- The cue cards must have been too small for Nancy O'Dell as she mistakenly prepared the audience to await the announcement of the Top 12! Learn your lines, honey!
- Did anyone else notice the unnecessary clip of Billy Bush and Daisy Fuentes back at MU 2004 before this year?s Miss Photogenic was announced?
- The way Miss USA Chelsea Cooley kept violently snapping her head back during the swimsuit round made me hope that first aid professionals were on standby back stage!
- Miss Peru had a near fatal experience (to her ego) when she tripped on something while sashaying down the ramp during swimsuit segment.
- Jennifer Hawkins's entire interview with Billy and Nancy was a glitch!
- I found it awkward that the four Latinas in the Top 5 all managed to answer their questions in English yet they relied on the interpreter to translate the question in Spanish.
- When thanking Apasra for being in attendance in Bangkok (a presumable 20 mintute ride on a Tuk Tuk for her), Nancy failed to thank Michelle MacLean for coming all the way from Namibia!
- In a shocking moment in all of MU history, Billy Bush publicly outed choreographer Scott Grossman when he said, "I am the only straight male on that stage," after Grossman had assisted the 15 semi-finalists down the steep stairs! This left me in stitches!
"Extreme Makeovers: The Good, the Bad, the Fugly."
- Porntip looked radiant as a judge. I wanted to see her on stage competing again!
- Billy Bush and Nancy O'Dell were surprisingly colour coordinated the entire evening. I believe this is the first time in MU history where a male host has actually changed ties. I liked the blue one better. The red one made President Bush?s nephew look like a ventriloquist's dummy.
- The music used for the SS round was the same music used for last year's SS round except this year was the "Asian Xylophone Techno Remix" of the original.
- Standouts during the Intro segment: Egypt and the busty France!
- Many of the semi-finalists opted to wear evening gowns in the unconventional colour of yellow.
- Miss Indonesia wore the most avant-garde dress while Miss TnT's gown looked like an extention of the silk banner hanging behind her!
- Miss Latvia's turquoise gown was also a hit, while Miss Canada and Miss Venezuela opted for classic white.
- Miss USA and Miss Norway decided to take the ragamuffin approach.
- Miss Kenya decided to sport a tattoo on her forehead for reasons unbeknownst to anyone but the driver who drove over her!
- Despite being deemed as the Michael Jackson of the pageant, Miss Puerto Rico looked gorgeous and was quite natural and likeable during her final answer.
The outgoing Miss Universe made a fashion faux pas in choosing to wear a yellow, satin abomination of a dress for her final walk.
"PHUK-ET! They should?ve placed!"
The following are favorites who didn't place: Albania, Antigua & Barbuda, Chile, Colombia, Curacao, Ethiopia, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, Thailand, Turks and Caicos (hehe) among many others.
"The Diva Duo"
The final two was a classic showdown between two powerhouse opposites (one dressed in white satin and the other in black lace), something that is rarely seen at MU! Even though many knew Canada had already won at that point, this was the ultimate finale to an already outstanding show, as both exhibited sophistication, excellent runway skills and even some arrogance during the competition. These two mega-favourites were over-hyped, harshly criticized and came off as women who were full of their own bravado yet, when all was said and done this duo showed all their supporters and their doubters that they were the true divas of the night and deserving of their final placements!
- HEIDI ALBERTSEN, model and actress
- CHUTINANT BHIROMBHAKDI, Executive Vice Director, Director of Boon Rawd Brewery
- MARIO CIMARRO, Latin soap opera star
- CARSON KRESSLEY, one of the stars of "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy"
- CASSIE LEWIS, Trump Model
- LOUIS LICARI, leading hair colorist
- OLEKSANDRA NIKOLAYENKO, former Miss Ukraine Universe
- PORNTIP NAKHIRUNKANOK SIMON, Miss Universe 1988
- JEAN-GEORGES VONGERICHTEN, leading chef
- BRYAN DATTILLO, stars in "Days of Our Lives"
- KEVIN BRIGHT, executive TV producer
(1) Interview with Associated Press.
Text by Rafa Delfin & Armin Amari, 6/2/2005.
Photo courtesy of The Miss Universe Organization