Miss Universe 2012


It's all about the gown!
Glamor, glitz, and glitches in cold December

     Miss USA, Olivia Culpo was crowned Miss Universe 2012 live from Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas on December 19th . The 61st Annual “MISS UNIVERSE® Competition” was broadcast live on NBC with a Spanish simulcast on Telemundo. Culpo's court includes 1st runner-up Janine Tugonon of the Philippines, 2nd runner-up Irene Esser of Venezuela, 3rd runner-up Renae Ayris of Australia, and 4th runner-up Gabriela Markus of Brazil. Culpo's victory marks USA's 8th Miss Universe crown and the first crown since Brook Lee won in 1997.

     The rest of the Top Ten included Elizabeth Golonova of Russia; Marie Payet of France; Agnes Konkoly of Hungary; Melinda Bam of South Africa; and Karina Gonzalez of Mexico.

     The rest of the Top Sixteen included Cagil Ozge Özkul of Turkey; Nicole Faveron of Peru; Marcelina Zawadzka of Poland; Elizabeta Burg of Croatia; Shilpa Singh of India.; and Diana Avdiu of Kosovo who also won the Miss Photogenic Universe award.

Leila Lopes crowns Olivia as Miss Teen USA 2012 Logan West hands her a bouquet of flowers

     I had every intention of attending the pageant this year until MUO decided to push the dates further late in December. And since I had used all of my vacation weeks for this year doing other things (yes, I do have a life besides pageantry), I watched the live telecast in the comfort of my living room while tweeting about it. However, CB was able to cover the pageant thanks to Hector Joaquin who had attended the prelims, the national costume show, the Red Carpet event and the actual show at the theater. CB would like to thank MUO and its outstanding Public Relations team for granting CB access to all events leading up to the coronation night. 

      I must say that I really enjoyed the show, especially with the Christmas... err... Holiday theme! Who would have thought that pageant owner Donald Trump would open the show in a Santa Claus outfit? If memory serves me right, this was the first time that Trump had ever opened the pageant live on stage. Hours before the show, Trump had tweeted his favorite contestants under the guise of "pageant people":

     And lo and behold - all six countries made the top 16! Trump made sure that his presence was felt during the entire telecast by doing the voice-overs. And even more so during the post-telecast press conference when he congratulated Olivia - this time - wearing a suit and his Trump-labeled tie. He made sure that the public acknowledged him as Olivia's boss.

      Many pageant fans - especially Filipinos - were highly disappointed when Miss Philippines Janine Tugonon was not crowned the winner, considering that her answer to a Twitter question asked by judge Nigel Barker was the best and received thunderous applause from the audience. Her question was: "As an international ambassador, do you believe that speaking English should be a prerequisite to being Miss Universe? Why or why not?" And with confidence and conviction, Tugonon replied, "For me, being Miss Universe is not just about knowing how to speak a specific language. It's being able to influence and inspire other people, so whatever language you have as long as your heart is to serve and you have a strong mind to, to show to people, then you can be Miss Universe."  

     Compare Tugonon's response with Miss USA Olivia Culpo's response to a question asked by former Miss Universe Ximena Navarrete: "What is something that you have done that you would never do again?"  Her response, "First I'd like to start off by saying that every experience, no matter what it is, good or bad, you'll learn from it. That's just life, but something I've done that I've probably regretted would be picking on my siblings growing up because you appreciate them so much more when you're older, you get closer with your family. But everybody fights with their siblings, right? So... but I don't regret it."

    And while Miss Brazil Gabriela Markus and Miss Australia Renae Ayris's responses to their respective questions seemed adequate, many fans are wondering how Miss Venezuela Irene Esser's confusing answer and poor delivery still managed to carry her to the 2nd runner-up spot. Esser had picked a question asked by singer/actor Diego Boneta: "If you could make a new law, what would it be? And explain why."  Watch her response:

     And if you still didn't understand her, here's the transcript of what she said: "I think that any leys [Spanish for "laws"] there are in Constitution or in life, are already made. I think that we should have, uh, a straight way to go in our similar, or, eh, in our lives as is this. For example, I'm a surfer, and I think that the best wave that I can take is the wave that I wait for it. So please do our only, eh, law that we can do. Thank you Vegas!" 

     Say what? So let me get this straight. In 2010, Miss Philippines Venus Raj was bashed for her pedestrian "major, major problem" riposte that fairly justified her 4th runner-up position. An unwritten pageant code would claim that the Q & A segment would either break you or make you, but some of us in the business of training beauty queens do not always yield to this code. Any avid longtime pageant follower would know that there have been numerous cases when the candidate who gave the worst answer somehow managed to win, or that the one who gave the best answer ended up not winning at all. Eventually, it boils down to preference - which is entirely subjective. This may explain why Miss Venezuela placed higher than Miss Australia because the judges probably appreciated her bubbly personality more than her ditzy answer.

     Two days after the pageant, a U.S.-based Spanish-language early morning show Un Nuevo Dia interviewed Esser and was asked about her dismal response, she claimed that there were too many things going on in her head which made it difficult for her to formulate a good answer and that her emotions stunted her linguistic best (although she could have answered in her native Spanish). She also said that Miss Universe owner Donald Trump had told her "It's the best answer I've heard in my life!" . When she asked him, "Did you understand what I said?" And Trump replied, "No, but you answered with so much confidence!"  (which, of course, was more patronizing than sincerely genuine). And when the other Venezuelan host of the same program asked her two questions: "Why didn't you answer in Spanish? And are you ready to be the most popular YouTube sensation?" - she answered: "I don't have any problem with that. The best thing is that people talk about you. I think some people will understand you, others will not."

     And speaking of gowns, did anyone notice that the top 5 finalists all wore colors that reflect the Holiday season? Gold, Red, White, Icy Blue and Green? I love Miss Brazil's form-fitting, strapless gold gown with a thigh-high slit which truly complemented her hour-glass bronze figure. Miss Australia's dress evoked a sparkly wedding gown fit for a beautiful bride. Although Miss Venezuela's tiered hunter green gown with mesh sleeves was the most distinct,  the "Christmassy" quality felt a little costumey for my taste. And although Miss Philippines looked radiant and executed the best stage projection, her gown could be taken as recycled version of Venus Raj's ribboned, metallic, strapless chiffon dress in 2010. Which leaves us with Miss USA's red (raspberry) velvet gown.

      Culpo's gown came off the runway from Georges Hobeika's Fall 2012 couture collection. “When Miss Culpo and the fashion director of the Miss Universe Organization approached me about selecting this gown, I knew they wanted to do something drastically different and to break the mold of the typical pageant evening gown,” the Lebanese designer exclusively told InStyle.com. “I loved that Miss Culpo was so confident about wanting to make a statement, because that is very essence of why and how I design.” 

     Now you wonder why Miss USA - in spite of her mediocre response - won instead of Miss Philippines. It's because of the gown! Compared to the bedazzled and bejeweled gowns of the other four finalists, Culpo's gown was a royal standout in its sheer simplicity. It was different. But most of all, it had never been seen before, at least not in raspberry color on a world stage. With some adjustment - such as removing the white band that covered the cleavage and tailoring for a perfect fit - the gown certainly caught the eye of celebrity stylist Brad Goreski. When you have stylists or designers on the judging panel, you should always expect to be judged on your choice of gown, apart from how you wear it. Miss Universe has been flirting with designers since 2002 when Oxana Fedorova was crowned in an eye-stopping, strapless, high-waisted, white Gucci sheet gown. 

     Ever noticed that MUO has never invited so-called pageant experts/coaches to judge? Because these people care very little about fashion, much less about the business connection between beauty and fashion. Designers/stylists on the other hand are obsessed with perfection: girl gotta have the perfect hairdo, the perfect makeup, the perfect (fashion forward) dress, the perfect look. Olivia's idol is Audrey Hepburn, and like Hepburn, Olivia oozes with star quality - a trait lacking in the other contestants. That face. That beautiful face. It's commercial, it's fashionable, it's stylish. Photographer Nigel Barker would die to shoot her. And she's not a pageant patty either. Minutes after the coronation, Olivia said: “I never, ever thought that I would ever be here today. One year ago, in October, I entered the Miss Rhode Island Pageant, and I was in a $20 rental gown that was too short and had a hole in the back of it. I did not know how to walk onstage, I had never been in pageants or anything like that, and I just wanted to test my abilities and practice my interview skills." 

      Memo to pageant directors: Please send inexperienced, raw, genuine, and facially beautiful contestants next year!

Miss USA Olivia Culpo, right, reacts after being named Miss Universe in the 2012 Miss Universe Pageant at PH Live in Planet Hollywood on Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012. Miss Philippines Janine Tugonon was first runner-up. Photography by Tom Donoghue
     Overall, I'd rate the telecast 3 1/2 stars out of 5. A few irritants: the sound glitch in the beginning of the show prevented the mention of the contestants from Angola, Argentina, Aruba and Australia. It was supposed to be a two-hour live telecast, but the preponderance of compressed narrative (pre-taped montages) felt rather overwhelming. The national costume competition - which took place a day after the prelims - was reduced to a 40-second montage that featured the ten best costumes, with China's strikingly unusual porcelain vase-inspired costume topping the list. It would have been nicer - just to keep up with the Holiday festive spirit - if all 89 contestants had introduced themselves in their costumes - like they would in the olden days - instead of theatrically challenged Sherri Hill cocktail dresses. 

     No offense to Michael Schwandt, but choreography was far less exceptional than last year's.

     Bring back Andy Cohen and Giuliana Rancic next year. And the next. And the next. Great chemistry between good friends always makes for great hosting.

My favorite part of the entire show: Color commentator Jeannie Mai surprises Miss Guatemala Laura Godoy Calle backstage by presenting her in Spanish with the Miss Universe Congeniality 2012 award.

Good night, Las Vegas! Til next year! 
The Judges

  • XIMENA NAVARRETE, Miss Universe 2010 and Face of L’Oréal
  • PABLO SANDOVAL, Two-Time World Series Champion and MVP with the San Francisco Giants
  • NIGEL BARKER, Photographer and host of Oxygen’s new series The Face
  • DIEGO BONETA, Singer and Actor best known for starring role in “Rock of Ages” film
  • SCOTT DISICK, TV Personality from the E! Network
  • BRAD GORESKI, Celebrity Stylist and Star of Bravo’s It’s a Brad, Brad World
  • CLAUDIA JORDAN, TV & Radio Personality and competitor on the upcoming series All-Star Celebrity Apprentice
  • KERRI WALSH JENNINGS, three-time US Olympic Gold Medalist in Beach Volleyball
  • LISA VANDERPUMP, Star on Bravo’s hit series The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and new series Vanderpump Rules
Text by Rafa Delfin, 12/27/2012


Miss USA Olivia Culpo is crowned Miss Universe 2012

Miss Teen USA 2012 Logan West rushes to congratulate Miss USA Olivia Culpo for winning Miss Universe 2012 at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, Dec. 19
Miss Universe 2011 Leila Lopes crowns her successor, Miss USA Olivia Culpo.

Miss USA Olivia Culpo tries to regain her composure before being crowned by Leila Lopes

Leila Lopes and Logan West assist in the coronation of the new Miss Universe, Olivia Culpo

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A 20-year-old Boston University sophomore and a self-described "cellist-nerd" brought the Miss Universe crown back to the United States for the first time in more than a decade when she won the televised contest Wednesday.

Olivia Culpo beat out 88 other beauty queens to take the title from Leila Lopes of Angola during the two-hour competition at the Planet Hollywood casino on the Las Vegas Strip.

Culpo wore a tight navy blue mini-dress with a sequined bodice as she walked on stage for the competition's opening number. Later in the night, she strutted in a purple and blue bikini, and donned a wintery red velvet gown with a plunging neckline.

Culpo's coronation ends a long losing spell for the U.S. in the competition co-owned by Donald Trump and NBC. An American had not won the right to be called Miss Universe since Brook Lee won the title in 1997. Culpo was good enough during preliminary competitions to be chosen as one of 16 semifinalists who moved on to compete in the pageant's finale. Her bid lasted through swimsuit, evening wear, and interview competitions that saw cuts after each round.

She won over the judges, even after tripping slightly during the evening gown competition. Telecasters pointed it out but also noted her poised recovery.

Minutes before the middle child of five was crowned, she was asked whether she had she had ever done something she regretted.

"I'd like to start off by saying that every experience no matter what it is, good or bad, you'll learn from it. That's just life," she said. "But something I've done I've regretted is probably picking on my siblings growing up, because you appreciate them so much more as you grow older."

The Five Finalists

Miss Philippines, Janine Tugonon, came in second; Miss Venezuela, Irene Sofia Esser Quintero, placed third; Miss Australia Renae Ayris placed fourth; and Miss Brazil Gabriela Markus placed fifth.

All the contestants spent the past two weeks in Sin City, where they posed in hardhats at a hotel groundbreaking, took a painting lesson, and pranked hotel guests by hiding in their rooms.

Culpo was the first Miss USA winner from Rhode Island when she took the national crown in Las Vegas in June.

She grew up in Cranston with two professional musicians for parents and has played the cello alongside world-renowned classical musician Yo-Yo Ma. On her Miss Universe page, she said she hopes to pursue a career in film or television, and cites Audrey Hepburn as a role model because of her "generosity, intelligence and grace."

With Culpo's promotion, Miss Maryland Nana Meriwether becomes the new Miss USA.

The Miss Universe pageant was back in Las Vegas this year after being held in Sao Paulo in 2011. It aired live on NBC and was streamed to more than 100 countries.

Organizers had considered holding the 61st annual Miss Universe in the popular Dominican Republic tourist city of Punta Cana, but Miss Universe Organization President Paula Shugart said that country's financial crisis proved to be too much of an obstacle.

The panel of 10 judges included singer Cee Lo Green, "Iron Chef" star Masaharu Morimoto and Pablo Sandoval of the San Francisco Giants.

Asked on the red carpet whether he found playing in the World Series or judging the beauty pageant to be more difficult, Sandoval said both were hard.

Sharply dressed women and men, including a large contingent from South America, held banners and cheered on their favorite contestants.

The pageant started as a local revue in Long Beach, Calif., organized by Catalina Swimwear. It is not affiliated with the Miss America pageant and unlike that contest, does not include a talent section.

Contestants in the pageant cannot have been married or have children. They must be younger than 27 and older than 18 by Feb. 1 of the competition year.

As Miss Universe, Culpo will receive an undisclosed salary, a wardrobe fit for a queen, a limitless supply of beauty products, and a luxury apartment in New York City.



Critical Beauty TOP 16 for Miss Universe 2012

After spending hours and hours of analyzing the photos & video interviews of all the delegates, watching the prelims, and engaging in actual face-to-face interviews during the Press Junket, Critical Beauty is happy to present our Top 16 for the title of Miss Universe 2012. Anyone of these beautiful young women could easily win the coveted crown, and we considered 10 more as wildcards, that is, with the potential to pull a surprise and topple anyone from the top 16 list. 
Here they are in alphabetical order:

15. USA




TUNE IN on Wednesday, December 19th (5PM PT / 8PM ET) to watch the 2012 MISS UNIVERSE® Competition LIVE from Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas.

CB Awards for Miss Universe 2012 Pageant

It's that time of the year when Critical Beauty honors the best performers in numerous categories.
Congratulations to the deserving winners!

Best National Costume: PERU
     Runners-Up: China (1st), Curacao (2nd), Angola (3rd), South Africa (4th)
     Honorable Mentions: China, Indonesia, Thailand, Mexico, Honduras, Japan, Nigeria, Panama, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, USA, Vietnam

Most Significant National Costume: CHINA

Face of the Pageant: CROATIA

Most Photogenic: SOUTH AFRICA
Runners-Up: USA (1st), Poland (2nd), Finland (3rd), Great Britain (4th)

Best Glam Shot: KOSOVO



 Best Legs: BAHAMAS

Most Beautiful Smile: TANZANIA

Most Beautiful Eyes: GREAT BRITAIN

Sexiest: SRI LANKA

 Best Stage Projection: PUERTO RICO & SOUTH AFRICA (tie)

 Best Catwalk: PHILIPPINES

 Best in Swimsuit: SOUTH AFRICA

Best Video Interview: SOUTH AFRICA

Best In Evening Gown: PUERTO RICO

Most Beautiful Evening Gown: CROATIA, PUERTO RICO & BRAZIL (3-way tie)
Honorable Mentions: Lebanon, Georgia, Guatemala, Kosovo, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia

Best Fashion Sense: CURACAO & PUERTO RICO (tie)

Most Elegant: CROATIA
Top Model:  GEORGIA
Best Personality:  SPAIN
People's Sweetheart: VENEZUELA

Best in Africa & the Middle East: SOUTH AFRICA

Best in Asia-Pacific: MALAYSIA

 Best in the Caribbean:  PUERTO RICO
 Runner-Up: BAHAMAS

Best in North & Central America: USA
Runner-Up: MEXICO

Best in South America: PARAGUAY
Best in Northern Europe: RUSSIA
Runner-Up: FRANCE
Best in Southern Europe & the Mediterranean: SPAIN
Runner-Up:  LEBANON
Best Group: ASIA

Best Designer: SHERI HILL
Best National Director - DESIREE LOWRY (Puerto Rico)
TUNE IN on Wednesday, December 19th (5PM PT / 8PM ET) to watch the 2012 MISS UNIVERSE® Competition LIVE from Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas.