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Miss Universe 2012 First Impressions & Preliminaries

Well, we're finally here in Las Vegas! Critical Beauty and Hector Joaquin Blog will provide you what is happening in the Miss Universe 2012. While Sao Paulo last year was not the best city to host an event of Miss Universe's caliber, Las Vegas provides us with the same venue as it did in 2010. The city is one of the major tourist destinations of the United States with its hotels, casinos and a lot of sin!

The first thing I did was to obtain press credentials from the MUO Press Room located at the mezzanine level of Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino. Then I bumped into Andrea Fonseka, Miss Malaysia 2004 and current director of Miss Universe Malaysia. Andrea is a extremely nice, friendly woman. And beautiful, too! Andrea told me that this would be her last year as director. Why? Because in the last three years, she has been living apart from her husband who lives in Australia and she wants to have children and start a family.When asked about Miss Universe Malaysia 2012 Kimberly Leggett, she told me that she will perform very well and her preparations had been very intense. I commented that many people were unhappy last year when Deborah Henry did not qualify, to which she replied that surprises happen all the time in beauty contests.

I saw Lupita Jones, the director of Miss Mexico and told me that she is currently participating in the telenovela "Rosario" on Univision Network with another Miss Universe Zuleyka Rivera. Lupita definitely looks better than ever. 

Likewise, on the same day that I arrived I met Desiree Lowry, the national director of Miss Puerto Rico and told me that she is very excited about the participation of Bodine Koehler in this edition of Miss Universe. Undoubtedly Desiree looks great,  she is more beautiful than many of the candidates and is one of the finest directors.

Who could not miss meeting Miss Universe President Paula Shugart, who gave me big hug when she saw me.She noticed that I was wearing shorts and jokingly commented that I was going to freeze when I went outside.I told her that she looks thinner and the years have been very kind to her - she has never looked more beautiful! Paula's kindness and availability to the directors and the fans of Miss Universe never ceases to amaze me.

Another person whom I knew personally, via social media, was Marisela Moreno, the director of Miss Panama with whom I had a long and interesting conversation. Ever since she took charge of the Panama franchise, the country has been sending strong and well-prepared delegates to the pageant.

After chatting with several directors like those from Uruguay and El Salvador as well as with several pageant fans, I sat right in the mezzanine of Planet Hollywood to try to see for the first time the girls as they were going out for dinner,  I took several photos and spoke with several of them to see who looked beautiful without makeup.

On Wednesday I had a good breakfast and I was able to mingle with fellow journalists and pageant fans until 2 PM. I had the opportunity to check out the stage before the prelims; the stage looks rather simple, with Christmas elements affixed to it. It looks more like a Miss USA stage than a Miss Universe stage, but knows, maybe they will add more fixtures during the final night to make it look more grandiose.

The stage at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino

After watching the rehearsals, I returned to my hotel room to prepare for the preliminaries. Here's what I think of the event:

First of all the theater was not completely full; there were a lot of empty seats. The event ran pretty fast and the format was the habitual one: it started with the intros, followed by the evening gown competition, and ended with the swimsuit round.

But certain situations left much to be desired, such as the following. How is it possible that none of the production crew realized that drops of water were dripping down precisely on the middle of the stage itself and exactly where the candidates had to stop after finishing their catwalk. Though I wondered why the production crew had to wait until the middle of evening gown competition to dry the floor. They did dry the floor, but the water kept dripping. This explains why Miss Guyana slipped and felled, but the public gave her a strong applause after she recovered quickly. From the beginning of the competition we see several candidates slip and struggle to walk on stage as was the case of Miss China. These are the kind of details that the production crew should be taking care of; or unless they make the stage slippery on purpose just to create sensation. Who can forget the famous fall of Miss Philippines during the prelims of Miss Universe 1999 and the serious fall of Miss USA in 2007 and 2008?

Miss Guyana falls. (Photo: Radaronline)
  The hosts did a great job, but it was amazing to hear so many people in the theater commenting that they didn't like Leila Lopes's speaking voice which sounded hoarse, that her English was not very good and other comments not worth mentioning.The sad part is that these comments come from pageant fans who probably wouldn't have the courage to tell Leila up front what they truly think about her!

Another thing that caught my attention is the following: the audience was prevented from recording the first 20 minutes of the preliminary competition according to the specifications outlined by the organization - which is understandable - but please advise us about this rule as we enter the theater and not when the event is about to begin. As soon as the show started, many in the audience including national directors started recording with their iPads. How could you prevent avid fans from putting away their cameras and their smartphones? It's ridiculous.

Suffice it to say that most of the attendees were Filipinos cheering for Miss Philippines. Filipinos know how to deliver joy and that's always good to see! Other countries that had large contingent of supporters were Korea, Colombia, El Salvador and Puerto Rico.

This year's preliminary competition began as usual with the introduction of the girls wearing Sheri Hill dresses much like those of Miss Universe 2010. And also this year for the first time the candidates began to parade in their evening gowns.

The contestants who stood out in this competition were the following:

Albania (Adrola Dushi) - Her bright yellow number certainly captured the audience's attention
Australia (Renae Ayris) -  A subtle dress, very feminine and complements her very well.
Brazil (Gabriela Markus) - A dress that leaves you breathless and fits her like a glove; she wore it with panache and elegance.

Miss Croatia

Croatia (Elisabeta Burg) - Undoubtedly one of my favorite dresses and is currently en vogue. Croatia looked regal and elegant and the cut of her dress enhanced her figure.
Curacao (Monifa Jansen) - After last year's disaster with Evalina Van Putten, Monifa Jansen who won the Miss Critical Beauty award when she was crowned Miss Curacao, wore a Sheri Hill number in soft metallic gold that made her look very chic
France (Marie Payet) - An elegant and sophisticated dress
Guatemala (Laura Godoy): - Laura stunned us with a white and silver dress accompanied by a great stage projection
Japan (Ayako Hara) - A very modern dress, simple but elegant.
Kosovo (Diana Avdiu) - Diana wore a very feminine dress which resembles the one worn by Miss Ukraine 2011, but Miss Kosovo wore it more elegantly
Malaysia (Kimberly Leggett) - simply beautiful with an edge
Paraguay (Egni Eckert) - looked like an angel on the catwalk with a simple but very chic dress

Miss Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico (Bodine Koehler): Once again the master of haute couture in Puerto Rico, Harry Robles, dressed Bodine who owned the stage with a beautiful, jaw-dropping gown.

South Africa (Melinda Bam) - The golden color fits Melinda very well and she modeled it like a queen.
Tanzania (Winfrida Dominic) -  looked regal and royal in a dress designed by Tony Bowls

I loved Miss Peru's dress but I've seen it before on other women. However, Nicole Faveron wore it like a queen.

The Worst dresses were: Botswana, Denmark, Guyana, Finland, Serbia, USA, Hungary, Cyprus, Lithuania and Ecuador.

The dresses that you either hate or love

- I don't quite understand Miss Mexico Karina Gonzalez's dress; it looked more like a copy of Ximena Navarrete's winning dress in 2010, but with a cabaret flair. But there's definitely something wrong with it. When she walked, you could see her butt.

- Miss Venezuela Irene Esser's gown: I only like the upper part but the lower part looked short and she didn't shine on stage. Though we can't deny that she has a great catwalk. Her gown is not suitable for a pageant but more for an editorial or a magazine cover.

- Miss Philippines Janine Tugonon's dress - I liked it, but when will Mrs. Stella Marquez de Araneta. the national director of the Philippines. give the opportunity to a Filipino designer to dress up the Filipina candidate?  I've always loved the gowns by Alfredo Barraza but enough of recycled gowns and start promoting talented Filipino designers (and there are many of them!)

Miss Paraguay, Miss Kosovo, Miss Finland
For me the best in swimsuit were: Australia, Brazil, Colombia, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Finland, France, Georgia, Guatemala, Japan, Kosovo, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Panama, Paraguay, Philippines, Puerto Rico, South Africa, USA & Venezuela.

That's all for now. Tomorrow I will let you know about my impressions on several candidates that I interviewed at the Press Junket, plus photos and more stories from the pageant!

Hector Joaquin with Miss South Africa Melinda Bam


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