Miss Universe Contestants See Moscow, Avoid Controversy

A gaggle of Miss Universe hopefuls strolled Red Square for a photo shoot last weekend prior to the contest. Sergei Karpukhin / Reuters

By Christopher Brennan

     Seeing scores of beautiful women in cocktail dresses is not particularly uncommon for Moscow, especially not in a setting like a money-soaked upscale restaurant. The city center may see an increase in turning heads, however, as the contestants for the 2013 Miss Universe beauty pageant have arrived in Moscow, where the competition is being held for the first time, and will spend the next two weeks preparing before the eventual finale Nov. 9.

     Having already arrived and participated in a lingerie fashion shoot last week, the young women, who range in age from 18 to 27 and represent 87 different countries, held an opening dinner at the swanky restaurant Zafferano on Friday. As representatives from their countries' national pageants, the group will compete in the preliminary round Nov. 5 after a week of photo shoots, fashion shows and meetings with fans. The final event will then be televised live from Crocus City Hall at 5 a.m., a time that is probably more aimed towards audiences on the U.S. East Coast than Moscow viewers.

     The president of the Miss Universe organization, Paula Shugart, said Friday that the pageant would reveal all the judges next week but mentioned that Sports Illustrated supermodel, Anne Vyalitsyna, would join previously-announced judge Steven Tyler of Aerosmith along with a team of other Russian judges. The jury will be joined by the competition's hosting duo, former "scary" Spice Girl Melanie Brown and MSNBC anchor Thomas Roberts.

     Not everything is without controversy in the land of free champagne and B-list celebrities, however. Brown and Roberts are replacing the pageant's usual pair of presenters, Giuliana Rancic and Andy Cohen, the latter of whom refused to host the show because of recent anti-gay propaganda legislation and said he "did not feel right as a gay man stepping foot into Russia."The organization responded by issuing a statement saying the law is "diametrically opposed to the core values" of the competition and also hiring Roberts, who is gay and published an op-ed saying the show was "a huge, visible opportunity for LGBT people. 

     The reaction, stronger than that of other organizations like the International Olympic Committee, prompted the thought that the contest could act as a platform for criticizing homophobia. Though contestants may be asked pressing questions on stage during the final, at Friday's dinner, which was followed by a small concert, the young women were not open to speaking out. Erin Brady, the reigning Miss U.S.A., who will share an apartment with the eventual winner in New York City, said she and her fellow contestants avoid the question, as it is most of the women's first time both at Miss Universe and in Russia and they are focused on enjoying the experience. Miss Bahamas Lexi Wilson said that most of what she knew about Russia before coming here was the country's politics, but when asked about her feelings on the anti-gay law she told The Moscow Times, "I would like to keep that private." Short of photo-ops on Red Square and the unavoidable video montage of women and monuments that will follow, the pageant seems to want little connection to Russia or its laws, and the actual NBC event will probably look incredibly similar to one being held in Las Vegas or Burbank, California.

     While the controversies surrounding Miss Universe may focus on the differences between countries and cultures, the women praised the beauty and personalities of their international counterparts. Miss Russia, Elmira Abdrazakova, played hostess to a horde of Russian press that was keen on asking the contestants whether they were single — most of them are not — and said she had become good friends with the other girls, particularly mentioning Miss Poland. Other contestants bounced around the party in geographic groups, like the Scandinavian trio of Miss Finland, Miss Norway and Miss Sweden or a group of Caribbean contestants.

     While "new friends" was a commonly occurring refrain throughout the night, there was still an air of competition. Perhaps for fear of ruining their figures ahead of the swimsuit competition, the women, who also cannot drink alcohol, did not go for the food provided by Zafferano, and at the end of Friday night had left nearly a full buffet of bliny and potatoes untouched. The beauty queens were then whisked back to their hotel to get their beauty sleep.

Source: The Moscow Times, Oct. 29, 2013


Blatant racism in Miss Universe 2013? No black contestant(s) in Fashion Show

     The Miss Universe pageant is not new to controversy, specially in this year's pageant. First, the host country Russia's draconian anti-gay laws have persuaded openly gay TV host Andy Cohen to boycott the pageant by not returning as the co-host. Second, Russia refused to grant a visa to Miss Kosovo Mirjeta Shala because her country is not recognized as a legitimate country by the Russian government; consequently, Miss Kosovo's good friend, Miss Albania Fioralba Dizdari, decided to withdraw from the pageant as a symbol of solidarity. Third, it is reported that Miss Georgia Janeta Kerdikoshvili has also been denied a visa allegedly due to Russia and Georgia's hostile relationship over the disputed territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

     And here's the latest controversy: 27 contestants have been selected to walk the runway during the Tony Ward Couture Fashion Show at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Russia on Wednesday, October 30th. These contestants represent the following countries: Australia, Poland, Romania, Singapore, Ukraine, Nicaragua, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Panama, Sweden, Turkey, Venezuela, India, Great Britain, France, Japan, Spain, Belgium, Canada, El Salvador, Austria, Lebanon, Russia, Philippines, Thailand and USA.

     Below are the head shots of the participants. Notice that no single black contestant was chosen, not even the popular Yityish Aynaw, the first black Miss Israel. What gives? Who made the decision to select these 27 contestants and on what basis? Could it be that the Russians in general are racists towards black people, and therefore do not wish to see black girls on stage, even though many of them are stunning, professional models? I guess we will never really know.

Miss Israel Yityish Aynaw


By Rafa Delfin


Miss Grand International Mexico 2013

Laura Elisa Alvarez, a 24-year-old model and nutritionist from Mérida, Yucatán has been elected as Miss Grand International Mexico 2013. Alvarez is the winner of  Rostro de Mexico 2012 (Face of Mexico 2012) and will represent Mexico in the new pageant, Miss Grand International 2013 to be held in Bangkok, Thailand on November 19.   

Information courtesy of Jesús Rábagov (President of Rostro de México)



New Mexican queens for Miss World and Miss Universe 2014

Daniela Álvarez Reyes, a 19-year-old student from Cuernavaca, Morelos, was crowned Nuestra Belleza Mexico Mundo 2013 (Miss World Mexico 2013) in Toluca on October 20th. She will represent Mexico in the 2014 Miss World pageant to be held in London.  

Immediately after the Nuestra Belleza Mexico Mundo 2013 pageant, the remaining contestants competed again for the Nuestra Belleza Mexico 2013 (Miss Universe Mexico 2013) title which was won by Josselyn Garciglia Bañuelos, 23, from Baja California Sur . She will represent Mexico in 2014 Miss Universe pageant. 


Uruguay drops out of Miss Universe 2013 pageant, blaming local organizers

     Micaela Orsi Jorcin, Miss Universe Uruguay 2013, has withdrawn from competing in Miss Universe 2013 pageant to be held on November 9 in Moscow. Her photo has been taken down from the official Miss Universe website - which brings down the total number of contestants to 86. 

     In a letter than Jorcin posted on the Miss Uruguay Facebook page on October 19, she states (my  translation; the original Spanish follows):

     In today's date and through this medium, I want to make public my non-participation in the Miss Universe beauty pageant to be held on 9 November in Moscow, Russia. In February of this year, I was elected Miss Universe Uruguay in order to represent my country in the most important pageant  and to fulfill a personal dream. I was coerced to sign a contract of employment in which Mr. Antonio Vergara yields the Miss Universe franchise to Mr. Alejandro Gamella after my coronation. Not being too familiar with the legalities, I signed the contract just like the other contestants did. But when I consulted with lawyers and with experts on the matter, as well as with the Miss Universe Organization, I learned that the contract does not have any validity, since there is a history that franchises are not transferred to third parties. I started my preparation during the month of April in Corozal, Sucre, Colombia staying at the home of the director of Miss Universo Uruguay, Antonio Vergara. The type of accommodation that was provided to me was not consistent with the level of the event that I was expecting. In the month of June I returned to Uruguay to see my family. On my return to Colombia on September 19 in the company of my mom, I was presented with certain proposals that bothered me and that went against the values that my family instilled in me.  As days went by,  there was no sign of wardrobe, national costume, evening gown, or airline tickets for my trip to Russia. 

     On October 8, we had a conversation to discuss the situation at hand, since time was running out fast. There were only 10 days to travel. After this talk my mother and I decided to return to Uruguay, and consequently to withdraw my participation from the contest. I want to make clear that the reasons mentioned above were the reasons for a deep disappointment that ruined my dreams about this experience. My commitment with Uruguay was to represent my country in a dignified manner at the Miss Universe contest. Given that the conditions were not appropriate to do so, I gave up this opportunity that had been presented to me.

     I regret very much to have disappointed a lot of people who have supported me during this time, but I could not fail myself going to a contest in unfavorable conditions. Not having obtained the financial support that I needed from the beginning, I thus made this decision that I am communicating now.

Thanks again for all your support
Micaela Orsi.  

          Orsi is the second Uruguayan candidate to withdraw from a major pageant this year. Mercedes Bissio del Puerto had to withdraw from Miss World 2013 (which took place last month in Indonesia) citing personal reasons, though sources say that Bissio had a falling out with the organizers. 

By Rafa Delfin


Kremlin blocks Kosovo’s entry to Miss Universe

Miss Universe Kosovo Mirjeta Shala. Facebook photo

By Richard Johnson

The universe is shrinking for this year’s Miss Universe pageant in Moscow, as gays decline to travel to homophobic Russia — and the Kremlin refuses to issue Miss Kosovo a visa.
Mirjeta Shala, the dark-haired beauty crowned Miss Kosovo in August, was packed and ready to fly from New York to Moscow  to join the winners from 90 other countries for the Nov. 9 pageant, airing on NBC.
“They won’t let her in,” Donald Trump told me on Friday, the day before she was to travel. “She’s very beautiful. Many people thought she was a contender. Unfortunately, she couldn’t get a visa.”
Fadil Berisha, the pageant’s official photographer, also hails from Kosovo, which used to be part of Yugoslavia. “[Shala] was denied a visa because Russia doesn’t recognize Kosovo’s independence,“ Berisha said. “Her fans in Kosovo will go crazy because they were expecting her to win, and this is a beauty contest, not a political event.”
Bravo TV host Andy Cohen, who hosted last year’s pageant, dropped out this year because of Russia’s criminalization of homosexuality. Cohen was replaced by Mel B. and “MSNBC Live”‘s Thomas Roberts, who is also gay.
Roberts told Variety, “Boycotting and vilifying from the outside is too easy. Rather, I choose to offer my support of the LGBT community in Russia by going to Moscow and hosting this event as a journalist, an anchor and a man who happens to be gay.”
But some of the homosexual hairdressers and stylists who are usually part of the Miss Universe crew aren’t making the trip. “Everyone’s afraid. They think they’ll be jailed,” Berisha said.
Trump told me, “Some don’t want to go. Others want to go to make a statement. I agree with the second view.”
The controversy is just a taste of what will happen February when the Winter Olympics are held in the Russian resort town of Sochi.

Source: PageSix.com, 10/18/2013


Miss Serbia 2013

Milica Vukliš, 20, from Belgrade, was crowned Miss Serbia 2014 on October 15th, 2013 at the Pink Television Studio in Belgrade. She will compete in Miss World 2014 which will be held in London, England sometime in October next year. Arne Zeković, 20, was 1st runner-up and will represent Serbia in Miss Universe 2014, in Fortaleza, Brazil. Jovana Maksimovic, 23, was 2nd runner-up.


Miss World 2013: Megan Young Has Yet to Receive Prizes from Beauty Pageant Organizers

     Although Miss World 2013 Megan Young has been crowned as the first Filipina titleholder of the oldest international beauty pageant, she has yet to receive her prizes, Victoria Young, the beauty queen's mother disclosed on Tuesday. In fact, she doesn't even know exactly what prizes should be received by her daughter since Mrs. Young researched on the Internet for any information about the prizes but found none. However, she confirmed that Megan received the P1 million prize for winning the local title of Miss World Philippines.

     "But I have talked to people who have experience in Miss World pageantry. They said every time she has activities to attend to raise money, she will get an honorarium.
     Mrs. Young is also hopeful that with a Miss World crown on her daughter's head, this would translate into higher talent fee for endorsements.
     While Mrs. Young is extremely happy with the victory of Megan, she also complained that she hardly sees her daughter now because of too many Miss World activities she has to attend to. In fact, when Megan went to her mother's hometown, Olongapo City, to visit her grandmother, she could only spend 15 minutes with the old woman because of her very hectic schedule.

Source: Au.ibtimes.com, 10/15/2013

Miss World 2013 Megan Young: “I’m Against Abortion,” and “Sex is for Marriage”

      Megan Young, the recently crowned Miss World, is pro-life and believes in abstinence before marriage.
     In an interview with the Philippines-based ABS-CBN News Channel in August, back when she was Miss Philippines, Young revealed her more traditional views on abortion, sex and marriage.
     “I’m pro-life and if it means killing someone that is already there, then I am against that of course,” Young said when asked whether she was for or against the country’s Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health (RH) law, which allows taxpayer funds to be used for contraception, abortifacients and family-planning education. The nation’s Supreme Court suspended the law over the summer.
     “I’m against abortion,” she added.
     When asked for her views on contraception, Young explained she does not participate in activities that would require it.
     “I don’t engage in stuff like that as of now. I think that’s — sex is for marriage. That’s my belief.”
     The interviewer pressed Young on how “a woman as gorgeous” as she says “‘no’ to sex.”
     Young replied, “You just say no! That’s it.”
     “I mean if they try to push you then you step away because you know that that person isn’t — doesn’t value you, doesn’t value the relationship as much and if the guy is willing to, you know, sacrifice that, then that means a lot,” she said.
     Young added that she does not believe in divorce.
     “I’m actually against divorce because I’ve seen that of course in my family. So I think that if you marry someone that should be the person you should be with forever. Through sickness and health, through good of through bad, you should be with that person.”
     Young is the first woman from the Philippines to win the title of Miss World.
 Source: The Daily Caller, 10/14/2013


Miss Tourism World 2013

Beronika Martinez, 19, of Venezuela was crowned Miss Tourism World 2013 during a glittering ceremony at the Sipopo Conference Centre in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea on Saturday 12th October 2013.Her court includes first runner-up Hillary Ondo of Gabon, second runner-up Michaela Haladova of Czech Republic, third runner-upAndrea Huisgen of Spain and fourth runner-up Olena Popova of the Ukraine. Completing the top 10 were the delegates from Equatorial Guinea, Great Britain, Portugal, Lithuania and Puerto Rico.



Olivia Culpo Controversy: Miss Universe Organization Apologizes for Photo Shoot at Taj Mahal


Prabhas Roy/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Miss Universe officials evidently feel pretty sorry that a photo shoot in front of the Taj Mahal involving Miss Universe 2012 Olivia Culpo may have violated India's Heritage Act.
"The Miss Universe Organization would like to extend its deepest apologies to the people of India for the incident...which occurred this past Sunday," the Miss Universe organization said in a statement.
"Throughout her reign, the Miss Universe Organization continually creates video diaries of our titleholder to keep fans and sponsors up to date on her travel and to share in the experience. As part of these videos, we sometimes incorporate sponsors into these shoots.
"The filming that took place outside the Taj Mahal was never intended to be used as a commercial nor was it meant in any way to be disrespectful. We sincerely apologize for any unintentional harm our indiscretion and insensitivity may have caused."
The statement comes in the wake of the state-run Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) filing a complaint with police after the 21-year-old Culpo posed for a photograph over the weekend and showed off some red high heeled shoes purportedly for a footwear company, the Hindustan Times reports.
India's Supreme Court strictly prohibits any commercial activity or branding and publicity on the Taj grounds.
If found guilty of the violations, Culpo and other members of her group could reportedly face up to two years in jail and a $1,600 fine.

EONLINE.com, 10/11/2013

Miss Universe Olivia Culpo 'Didn't Want to Do' Illegal Taj Mahal Photo Shoot

Oct. 11, 2013
Miss Universe Olivia Culpo, who is under fire for an allegedly "unauthorized" fashion shoot on the sacred grounds of India's Taj Mahal, says she did not want to take part in the controversial session.
"Honestly, I did at one point say out loud, 'Isn't this a little inappropriate?'" Culpo, 21, said in an interview with her hometown Rhode Island newspaper, The Providence Journal. "It's really upsetting because I loved my visit to India, and I would love nothing more than to go back, even in the near future."
VIDEO: Indian Authorities lodged a formal complaint over an alleged unauthorized fashion shoot.
Outrage Over Miss Universe Taj Mahal Photo Shoot
Authorities in India said Thursday they had filed a formal complaint over Culpo's fashion shoot for shoes at the famed landmark after the U.S. beauty queen posed with red high heels in front of the "monument to love" without permission.
The session was organized by the New York-based Miss Universe Organization, which is jointly owned by business magnate Donald Trump and NBCUniversal Inc.
Culpo could face up to two years in prison and a $1,600 fine for violating India's Heritage Act, which bans commercial activities on the Taj Mahal grounds.
The Rhode Island native was on a 10-day tour of India to raise awareness about AIDS and female empowerment during the now-controversial trip and had posted a photo of the Taj Mahal on Instagram on the day of the incident. "Gorgeous Taj Mahal #india #instabeauty #nofilter," she wrote.
The incident took place on a bench known as Diana's Seat, named after the late Princess Diana posed there in 1992. Other celebrities, including Tom Cruise and even Oprah Winfrey, have been photographed in front of the famous monument.
"I was given directions to pose with the shoes and, honestly, 5-inch heels on a 10-inch bench in 90-degree weather -- you know, I didn't want to do it," Culpo told the Journal. "It's upsetting to me that I was a part of that."
The fashion designer who accompanied Culpo on the shoot has also been named in the complaint, the Agence France-Presse news service reported.
The Miss Universe organization has apologized for the photo shoot, stating that "the filming that took place outside the Taj Mahal was never intended to be used as a commercial nor was it meant in any way to be disrespectful."
Now, Culpo, who won the Miss Universe crown in 2012, is left with limited options, according to one expert.
"She essentially only has one option, which is to apologize and throw away the tapes and allow the Indian government to make an example of her to discourage other people from doing something like this ever again," said Davidson Goldin, a crisis communications expert at Goldin Solutions in New York City.

Miss Venezuela Universe / International / Earth 2013

Three new Venezuelan queens were crowned last night at the Poliedro de Caracas. Migbelis Castellanos, 18 (Miss Costa Oriental), was crowned Miss Venezuela Universe 2013 and will compete in Miss Universe 2014. Michelle Bertolini, 19 (Miss Guárico) was crowned Miss Venezuela International 2013 and will compete in Miss International 2014. Stephanie de Zorzi, 20 (Miss Aragua) was crowned Miss Venezuela Earth 2013 and will compete in Miss Earth 2014. The 1st runner-up was Wi May Nava, 19 (Miss Cojedes) and the 2nd runner-up was Gabriela Graf, 23 (Miss Nueva Esparta). Completing the top ten were the delegates from Barinas, Distrito Capital, Lara, Sucre and Yaracuy.

Miss Venezuela Universe 2013 Migdelis Castellanos

Watch her coronation:


Miss Earth Portugal 2013

23-year-old Solange Duarte was crowned Miss Queen Portugal 2013/Miss Earth Portugal 2013 on October 5 at the Alfandega Club in Caminha – Viana do Castelo. She will represent Portugal in the upcoming Miss Earth 2013 to be held from November 17 to December 7, in the Philippines.

Duarte will only be the fourth Portuguese woman to compete in Miss Earth since the pageant began in 2001. So far, Portugal's best placement in the pageant was when Susana Nogueira cracked the Top 16 in 2011.


Miss Guyana Universe 2013

Final Four: From right to left: Alicia Bess, Katherina Roshana, Ayana Whitehead and Carlea Chappel

Katherina Roshana was last night crowned Miss Guyana Universe 2013 after triumphing over seven other delegates in the local pageant held at the Pegasus Hotel Poolside.
Over the course of the evening it was obvious that Roshana proved she was a crowd favourite but throughout the event she was given stiff competition by delegate Number 5, Ayana Whitehead who received massive support. It was Whitehead’s placement that had the hundreds in attendance in an uproar as she was named the third runner-up, Carlea Chapelle, the second runner-up and Alicia Bess, first runner-up.
Roshana was sashed by First Lady Deolatchmee Ramotar and crowned by her predecessor Ruqayyah Boyer.  She will now be set to represent Guyana in Moscow, Russia at the 2013 Miss Universe Pageant.

Source: Stabroek News, 10/7/2013


Miss Universe New Zealand 2013

Holly Michelle Cassidy was crowned Miss Universe New Zealand 2013 in Auckland on October 5, 2013. The beauty from Auckland is 22 years old  and will represent New Zealand in Miss Universe 2013 pageant on November 9th in Moscow, Russia. Her court includes first runner-up Kylie Tan and  second runner-up Deborah Lambie. Completing the top five were Haley Robinson and Rachel Maree Millns

Latvia wins Miss Tourism Queen International 2013

25-year-old Alisa Miskovska (Alise Miškovska) of Latvia (center) was crowned Miss Tourism Queen International 2013 on October 3rd, 2013 in Xianning, Hunan, China. Her court includes from left to right: fourth runner-up Miss Portugal Ana Bomfim, second runner-up Miss China (Guandong) Xu Zi Xin,  first runner-up Miss South Africa Roxzelle Rheeder and third runner-up Miss Korea Na Ran Hi. Completing the top ten were the delegates from France, Hong Kong, Kyrgyzstan, the Philippines and China (Xianning).

This is the first time Latvia has won the pageant which started in 2004. The pageant has attracted over 100 countries and territories in the last three editions, but the 2013 edition only attracted a little over 40 countries. The pageant has not been held consistently since 2009. No pageant was held in 2010 and 2012, and the production quality has diminished over the years. 


Miss Universe Puerto Rico 2014

Gabriela Berrios, a 22-year-old beauty from Toa Baja municipality, was crowned Miss Universe Puerto Rico 2014 on Thursday, October 3rd,at San Juan's Fine Arts Center. 
Berrios has previously competed in the Miss Supranational 2012 contest and was named Ms. Latina International-USA in 2010. She was also crowned Miss Tourism Intercontinental in 2010. She will now compete in Miss Universe 2014 pageant.
Her court includes 1st runner-up  Aleyda Ortiz Rodriguez (Bayamon), 2nd runner-up  Estefany Soto Rios (Añasco), 3rd runner-up Alexandra Montalvo (Juana Diaz), 4th runner-up Patricia Quiñones Negrón (Cayey), and 5th runner-up  Larissa Santiago Escaso (Rio Grande).


Miss Myanmar Universe 2013

Moe Set Wine was crowned Miss Universe Myanmar 2013 at the Kandawgyi Palace Hotel in Yangon on September 6, 2013. She will represent Myanmar in Miss Universe 2013 pageant on November 9th  in Moscow, Russia. 

Wine's court includes 1st runner-up Aye Chan Moe, 2nd runner-up Myat Hnin Phyu, 3rd runner-up Hnin Yamone Oo and 4th runner-up May Chit Pone.
Myanmar's former name is Burma, which competed in Miss Universe three times only 
(1959, 1960, 1961). It won the Miss Congeniality award in 1960.