12.31.2013

Pride, Prejudice and Philippines : Pageantry in 2013

And why we still love Sushmita after all these years!



Sushmita Sen / Photo credit: Wizard.com
Sushmita's esSENce:   Sushmita Sen, the first Miss Universe from India and director of I AM SHE Pageant that selects India's representative to Miss Universe and minor global pageants,  announced on January 7th that she had terminated her ownership of the Miss Universe franchise after three years. Under her helm, India won the maligned Miss Asia Pacific World pageant in 2012 (though her candidate in 2011 was promoted to the title for reasons unknown), and her candidate to Miss Universe 2012 Shilpa Singh made the top 16. Eventually, the Times of India Group retook the franchise and produced its first ever "Miss Diva" contest, whose main winner, Manasi Moghe, was awarded the "Miss Universe India" title. Moghe would later make the top 16 of Miss Universe 2013 pageant in Moscow. Sushmita may have surrendered the franchise, but she has never given up in her relentless pursuit of excellence. On October 27, Sushmita received The Mother Teresa International Award for Social Justice. And on November 17, she was honored as an actress at the 19th Kolkata International Film Festival where she gave an impassioned speech about India's cradle babies and how to end female infanticide. Sushmita's prolific human rights and social activism truly echoes her memorable response to her Miss Universe question, "What is the essence of a woman?" To which she replied, "Just being a woman is God's gift. The origin of a child is a mother, a woman. She shows a man what sharing, caring, and loving is all about. That is the essence of a woman." Very few beauty queens live up to their supposed mission of extending oneself to the poorest of the poor and the most oppressed of the oppressed. Sushmita seems to have devoted her life to doing just that. As a good ol' Southerner would say, "Bless her heart!" Now let's help those cradle baby girls find permanent loving homes where they will grow up to be future Sushmitas or Mother Teresas!
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Yityish Aynaw / Photo credit: Miss Israel Organization
Jewish Ethiopian Princess:  On February 1st, Yityish Aynaw , a former Israeli army officer, became the first black woman to win the Miss Israel pageant. A panel of judges awarded the title to Aynaw, a 21-year-old model who came to Israel about a decade ago from Ethiopia. Aynaw is thankful of her new country, and worked hard to assimilate in the mainstream society by learning Hebrew. She even served in the Israeli army after school. During the competition, Aynaw cited the slain American civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. as one of her heroes. 
“He fought for justice and equality, and that’s one of the reasons I’m here: I want to show that my community has many pretty qualities that aren’t always represented in the media,” she said. Aynaw's victory made her an instant celebrity; she was invited to meet U.S. President Barack Obama during a visit to Jerusalem last March. The beauty queen called Obama "a world-class hunk, charming and an extraordinary gentleman." Obviously, she doesn't know him that well (lol). Aynaw's popularity compelled pageant fans to include her as a front-runner in Miss Universe 2013 pageant, but when she arrived in Moscow she failed to crack the top 16, leaving her admirers dumbfounded.
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Melissa King / Photo credit: New York Daily News
Sex, Lies & Videotape:  Miss Delaware Teen USA 2012 Melissa King, 18, relinquished her crown on February 26 amid speculation that she starred in a porn video that surfaced online the day before. King had claimed earlier that she is "absolutely not" the woman in it. New York Daily News wrote that the video producers said that King contacted them to shoot the video and was willing to film more scenes. However, the producers decided to stop making videos with King, describing her performance as frigid. The video in question runs slightly over five minutes and features a woman, who resembles and sounds like King, performing various sexual acts with an unidentified man, whose face is not seen. "I would like to confirm to you that the Miss Delaware Teen USA pageant has received a resignation letter from Miss King's attorney," pageant spokeswoman Dara Busch confirmed to The News Journal of Delaware.
It's too bad that King blew (no pun intended) her chances of becoming a reputable beauty queen, though I think she has plenty of time to redeem herself - perhaps change her identity and appearance - and then sign up for the Miss Delaware USA pageant a few years from now. Delaware is the only state that has not placed in the Miss USA competition, and King (or Kong, assuming she modifies her last name) may very well win Miss Delaware USA and be the first rep to break the curse!
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Florima Treiber / Photo credit: Spletnik.ru
She's French, so you can't shut her upOn February 18, Critical Beauty published the story of Florima Treiber, the French representative to Miss Asia Pacific World 2011 pageant (MAPW). Pageant officials claimed that Florima was dethroned for failing to fulfill her contract, but Florima alleges that she was dethroned after questioning the validity of the contract. If you missed Florima's detailed and juicy story, you can read it here followed by incriminating behind-the-scene videos. On August 18, Critical Beauty director Rafa Delfin received an e-mail from Fred Lee, the Licensing Director of MAPW,  threatening legal action if Florima's story was not taken down and claiming that the story had already caused major damage to the reputation of the pageant. Delfin never bothered responding to Lee's e-mail, because Delfin knows that MAPW can't afford to spend hundreds and thousands of U.S. dollars to hire American lawyers and that the story serves as a public service announcement to warn potential contestants and directors about the incompetence and unethical business dealings of the MAPW officials. But of course, the warning proved to be ineffective, as we see new gullible directors sending their girls to the 2013 pageant.
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Margaret Gorman was crowned the first Miss America in Atlantic City in 1921. / Photo credit: Miss America Organization

There she is... back in Atlantic City Miss America, the spectacle that became synonymous with Atlantic City, returned to the New Jersey seaside resort after a six-year fling in Las Vegas. The move to Las Vegas came amid sliding TV ratings for the pageant, as it tried to interest a younger demographic and incorporating elements of reality television programming.  The Miss America pageant left Atlantic City in 2006 after deciding it was just too expensive to stage its production there. It went to Las Vegas, where the 2012 Miss America, Mallory Hagan, was crowned in January at the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino. But Hagan's reign was cut short when the 2013 pageant was broadcast on September 15 and the classic pageant theme song, "There She Is, Miss America!" was not played because the estate of songwriter Bernie Wayne has been embroiled in on-and-off litigation against the pageant for years over the use of the tune. Oh, well... it's just a song. I'm sure songwriters are toiling day and night composing new songs that could replace the original. Or better, why not just use Jason Mraz's "Beauty In The Ugly" where Mraz tells - for lack of a better word - ordinary - girls to "own your name and stand up tall." 
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Denise Garrido and Riza Santos / Photo credit: Beauties of Canada

Queen for a day:  Just barely twenty-four hours after she was crowned Miss Universe Canada 2013 on May 25, Denise Garrido has been demoted to 3rd runner-up position due to a human tabulation error.  Riza Santos,  26, who was 1st runner-up, has now been declared as the true winner. “My heart sank. I was so sad,” Garrido said of learning that a typo was to blame for the mix-up — and that she had actually come in fourth, not first.  Beauties of Canada, which runs the pageant, released a statement apologizing to Garrido while praising her grace and wishing her well in her future endeavors. It's nice of the pageant officials to admit their error and to apologize, but one could not help but wonder if the controversy was merely a publicity stunt to gain media attention (after all, pageantry in Canada is practically dormant) and/or if dark forces were working profusely to discredit Garrido. If Garrido had been able to keep the Miss Universe Canada title, then she would have become the first Canadian woman to have won all three major national titles. In 2008, she was crowned Miss Earth Canada, and in 2010 she was crowned Miss World Canada - two titles that Riza Santos had also won in 2006 and 2011 respectively. Riza's election as Miss Universe Canada 2013 now makes her officially as the first Canadian woman to be a triple national winner. Perhaps to compensate for the tabulation error, the Miss Universe Organization invited Garrido to judge at Miss Teen USA 2013 which took place in the Bahamas on August 10th. 
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Korinna Kocsis tells the co-hosts that they can take the Miss Hungary Intercontinental title
and shove it up their you know what! 

Hung(a)ry for more During the Miss Hungary pageant in June, scandal erupted  during the live telecast when the 3rd placer, Korinna Kocsis, refused the Miss Hungary Intercontinental 2013 crown and title because she had expected to win either one of the two major titles (World or Universe). Kocsis, who represented Hungary in Miss Earth 2009, immediately took to Facebook to express her disappointment, hinting that the pageant had been rigged, while at the same time congratulating  the two winners. By refusing the Miss Hungary Intercontinental title, Kocsis was loudly proclaiming that she would rather compete in any of the two most prestigious pageants and not in some third-rate pageant. Imagine the "ouch" expression on the faces of the Miss Intercontinental organizers. When Kocsis competed in the national pageant for the first time in 2009, she placed third and was awarded the Miss Hungary Earth title. Since Miss Earth is considered the third biggest pageant in the world, competing in Miss Intercontinental would signify a downgrade. Now wouldn't it be funny if Kocsis competed again in the national pageant in 2014 and actually won any of the top two titles? I hope she does. After all, a true winner never quits.
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Prince Tuli and Yukta Mookhey / Photo credit: Moviezzada.com
Inset: Yukta as Miss World 1999 / Photo credit: Miss World Organisation

Worldly dispute:  Miss World 1999 Yukta Mookhey married Prince Tuli of Nagpur on November 2, 2008. Four years into their marriage, Yukta moved back to Mumbai into her parents' house and filed a case of domestic violence against Prince and his family on July 4th, 2012. On May 16, 2013 he filed an application for divorce. In July, 2013, Yukta lodged a domestic violence complaint against her husband. Police issued a statement: "In her complaint,  Yukta alleged she had often been beaten up and troubled by her husband Prince Tuli. A First Information Report (FIR) has been registered under Section 498A (cruelty and harassment) and Section 377 (unnatural sex) of Indian Penal Code after her complaint."
Hmmm... one wonders what the alleged unnatural sex consisted of.  Indian women are sadly familiar with domestic violence, but the problem affects all social classes - even celebrity royalty. Several Bollywood female celebrities have suffered physical and psychological abuse from their partner. Former Miss World Aishwarya Rai reportedly was physically abused by actor Salman Khan while the couple were in the relationship. Khan was also accused of stalking Rai at her house. Zeenat Aman, a former Miss Asia, was regularly physically abused by husband Sanjay Khan who once beat her up badly enough to leave a scar under her eye. Indian girls and women who aspire to be models or beauty queens should better enroll in Durga Vahini’s militant training camp to learn to shoot rifles and to break collarbones in case they end up dating or marrying a potential abuser.
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Inset: Miss Universe 2012 Olivia Culpo

Russian-style homo-xeno-phobia:  This year's edition of Miss Universe proved to be the most controversial in the history of the pageant. On August 21, the Miss Universe Organization released a statement condemning Russia’s laws banning “gay propaganda.” Even though MUO categorically stated that "the violence experienced by the LGBT community in Russia, are diametrically opposed to the core values of our company,"  pageant fans and human rights activists nevertheless criticized MUO's  decision to hold the Miss Universe 2013 pageant in Moscow in November.  Bravo’s Andy Cohen - who had hosted the pageant before - announced that he would not be hosting the pageant because he refuses to go to Russia. On the other hand, openly gay journalist Thomas Roberts filled in for Cohen and stated that hosting the pageant would be an opportunity  "partly because it is a huge, visible opportunity for LGBT people."  The controversy also extended to Russia's refusal 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 solidarityIt was also 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. One thing is certain - Russia has been the least amicable host country in the history of the pageant. And for a nation that boasts of its military prowess and its status as an economic powerhouse, its politics are still entrenched in Cold War mentality and the majority of its people tend to dislike/hate the Other.  

“I hate everything you say, but not enough to kill you for it.” 
 Boris PasternakDoctor Zhivago
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Finally Filipino! For the first time in the 63-year-long history of the Miss World pageant, the Philippines - a pageant-crazy nation - won the coveted crown in Bali, Indonesia on September 28. Megan Young, a 23-year-old aspiring filmmaker born in the United States, was crowned by outgoing titleholder Wenxia Yu of China at Bali Nusa Dua Convention Center.  "I promise to be the best Miss World ever," Young, 23, said after winning the crown, as a large number of Filipino fans who traveled to Bali celebrated by jumping and waving the country's flag. Young's victory earned the Philippines as the first country to have won all the big international pageants so far (Universe, World, Earth, International, Supranational) and sealed the Philippines's reputation as the leading pageant powerhouse in Asia. Young's reign is not without tribulation. On October 31st during a visit to an orphanage housing in Haiti with Miss World CEO Julia MorleyYoung and Morley fell about 8 to 10 feet when the floor of the temporary building's second story collapsed. Around 20 of the 78 children being housed in the orphanage rushed towards Young when they saw her enter their classroom, causing the floor to collapse. Morley and a young boy suffered major injuries and required immediate medical attention, but Young was "able to land on her feet" escaping injury. The letter "M" in Megan's name stands for "Mabuhay!" ("Long live!")
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Random photo of a child beauty queen / Stock photo

France says no to sexualized kiddie pageants:  On September 18, the French senate voted to ban beauty pageants for children under 16 – and to impose up to two years in prison and a 3,000-euro fine for adults who try to enter children into such a contest. The amendment is part of a broader bill on women’s rights, which will now proceed to the National Assembly, French Parliament’s lower house, for debate and another vote. The senators who voted in favor of the measure argue that it will protect children from being prematurely “sexualized” through the use of heavy make-up and often provocative attire. “Let us not make our girls believe from a very young age that their worth is based only on their appearance,” the author of the report, former sports minister and current senator Chantal Jouanno, said in an interview with free French daily “20 Minutes” last year. 
Perhaps the French would prefer that the girls be forced to cover themselves in burka instead? I used to think that the French were the most logical and rational people in the world, but whatever happened to debates concerning the pros and cons of kiddie pageants? It appears that the French see everything in a sexual way and ignores the simple pleasure and immense joy that the pageants could bring to a girl. Surely, kiddie pageants could certainly attract pedophiles and other deviants, but this could easily be prevented if the parents, pageant officials and local safety authorities cooperate with each other to create a safe and enjoyable event. Besides, would the French find Little Redneck Honey Boo Boo too sexy for their crème brûlée?
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Olivia Culpo at the Taj Mahal / Photo credit: India Express

Oh, no, she di'nt!  Miss Universe 2012 Olivia Culpo has come under fire for posing in high-heeled shoes at Diana Seat on Central Tank at Taj Mahal on Sunday, October 6.  The notoriously inflexible Archaeological Survery of India lodged a police complaint against Culpo and the Miss Universe Organization (MUO), saying the shoot violated strict product placement rules at the Taj Mahal. The incident took place at the marble bench popularly known as the Diana Seat, named after the now famous picture taken of a dispirited-looking Princess Diana on a trip to the Taj in 1992 - which was seen to highlight the sad state of her marriage to Prince Charles. MUO felt sorry for the shoot and explained that the shoot "was never intended to be used as a commercial nor was it meant in any way to be disrespectful." Yeah, sure. If there's one thing that MUO always fails to do is to research the laws and the customs of a foreign country to which the titleholder is sent. When the pageant took place in Bangkok in 2005controversy erupted when images of the contestants in their bikinis with the Wat Arun or the Temple of Dawn in the background appeared in the local Bangkok newspapers. The controversial pictures were taken during a photo-shoot on a boat along the Chao Phraya river, where the photographers had framed their bikini-clad subjects with the temple as a backdrop, apparently not aware that the Buddhist conservatives considered the poses in front of the Temple as inappropriate because of the contestants' skimpy attire. MUO relented and claimed that it did not intend to offend anyone and promised not to repeat the same, and pulled out the photos. And of course, bringing this year's pageant to Russia without first researching its gross human rights violations against the LGBT community. 
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Ikumi Yushimatsu testifies in court / Inset: Ikumi is crowned Miss International 2012

Bullied beauties:  On December 11, outgoing Miss International 2012 Ikumi Yoshimatsu filed criminal and civil charges against one of Japan’s most powerful talent agencies’ executives for stalking her and attempting to ruin her career. The harassment began shortly after Yoshimatsu became the first Japanese to win the title in the pageant’s 52-year history and then refused to sign up with a problematic talent agency.
 Her story has transformed her into an icon of resistance against Japan’s yakuza (members of the country’s organized crime groups), who have infiltrated Japanese society to what many say is an alarming degree. According to the 26-year-old Yoshimatsu, trouble started last spring, even before she won. She was working as an actress and model, and the most powerful Japanese talent agency, Burning Productions, expressed an interest in having one of their associates represent her. Yoshimatsu says she refused the offer, because of the alleged ties the agency has with the powerful Yamaguchi-gumi crime group. “Morally and ethically, I cannot work with such people or their associates, nor do I want to,” Yoshimatsu said at a press conference in Tokyo on December 16. Yakuza are known to have a strong influence over the Japanese entertainment industry, with high-level gang members wielding unofficial control of several top talent agencies. Due to the gravity of Yoshimatsu's charges, pageant organizers banned her from attending the 2013 Miss International activities and from crowning her successor.

 - On November 27, dethroned Miss World Trinidad and Tobago 2013 Sherrece Villafana broke her silence to accuse pageant director, Athaliah Samuel, of being a bully who withheld funding from sponsors for the 2013 Miss World Pageant in September. Villafana has been accused by Samuel of failing to hand over $200,000 sponsored by the Sport and Culture Fund of the Office of the Prime Minister. She was stripped of her crown the week earlier and, after a mostly silent response to Samuel’s statements against her, Villafana issued a press release denying the allegations and claiming a portion of the money was given to Samuel. Villafana painted a picture of a nightmarish preparation period, during which she alleged she was threatened by a male acquaintance of Samuel when she refused to sign over a percentage of her earnings. She said working with a certain pageant official “was one of the most horrendous and traumatic experiences I have ever had in my life and never have I been bullied and threatened to the extent of crying all night and being scared,” the 19-year-old Villafana stated.

- In a similar exprience, Miss Universe Uruguay 2013 Micaela Orsi Jorsin withdrew from Miss Universe 2013 competition in Moscow. On her Facebook page, Jorsin explained that she had been forced to sign a contract in which the original franchise owner, Antonio Vargas, would relinquish the franchise to a third party, Alejandro Gamella. After seeking legal consultation, Jorsin realized that the contract had no legal validity. The new contract also obliged Jorsin to commit to proposals that "went against the values" that her family had instilled in her. Perhaps as a form of retaliation, the pageant organization failed to assist Jorsin in her preparations for Miss Universe.

“If you're horrible to me, I'm going to write a song about it, and you won't like it. 
That's how I operate. ”   Taylor Swift
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Mabuhay, Philippines - Part 2!  In 2012, the Philippines proved itself to be a major pageant powerhouse by placing in over a dozen major and minor international pageants, thus claiming the title "The Country Of The Year."  2013 was no different; in fact, it was even better! The Philippines won four major crowns: Mutya Datul won the country's first Miss Supranational title in Belarus on September 6; Megan Young won the country's first-ever Miss World crown in Indonesia on September 28; Bea Rose Santiago won the country's fifth Miss International crown in Tokyo on December 17;  and to close 2013 with a bang, the Philippines won the Miss Tourism International title for the second year in a row when Angeli Dion Gomez triumphed in Malaysia on December 31st. Additionally, the country made the top 8 in Miss Earth in Manila on December 7, reached the top 10 in Miss Tourism Queen International in China on October 3,  placed 3rd runner-up in Miss Universe in Russia on November 9, placed 3rd runner-up in Miss Grand International in Thailand on November 19, placed 4th runner-up in Mister International in Indonesia on November 21, placed 3rd runner-up in Miss Intercontinental in Germany on December 14, and placed 1st runner-up in Miss Scuba International in Malaysia on December 20. All these successes confirm that 
the Philippines remains as the undisputed pageant champion of Asia, and there is 
no doubt that its winning streak will continue in 2014 and beyond.

"There is no 'i' in team but there is in win."  Michael Jordan
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Critical Bests: For the first time, Critical Beauty Facebook members took a poll to select the best international contestants & pageants for 2013.  Here are the official results:

Miss Critical Beauty 2013 - Megan Young of the Philippines (Miss World 2013)
Most Beautiful Winner in 2013- Megan Young of the Philippines (Miss World 2013)
Best Set of Winners for 2013 - Miss World 2013 (Philippines, France, Ghana)
Best Finalist or Semifinalist of 2013 - Amy Willerton of the United Kingdom (in Miss Universe 2013)
Best Set of Semifinalists in 2013 - Miss Universe 2013 Top 16
Best Non-Finalist of 2013 - Paulina Krupinska of Poland (in Miss Universe 2013)
Best Host Country of 2013 - Philippines (for hosting Miss Earth 2013)
Best Hosts/Presenters - Thomas Roberts & Mel B. (Miss Universe 2013)
Best in Evening Gown for 2013 - Patricia Rodriguez of Spain (in Miss Universe 2013)
Best in National Costume for 2013 - Nastassja Bolivar of Nicaragua (in Miss Universe 2013)
Face of the Year 2013  - Anna Zayachkivska of the Ukraine (in Miss World 2013)
Best in Swimsuit 2013 - Constanza Baez of Ecuador (in Miss Universe 2013)
Best in Africa 2013 - Carranzar Naa Okailey Shooter of Ghana (Miss World 2013 Second Runner-up)
Best in Asia 2013 - Megan Young of the Philippines (Miss World 2013)
Best in Oceania 2013 - Erin Victoria Holland of Australia (in Miss World 2013)
Best in the Americas - Alyz Henrich of Venezuela (Miss Earth 2013
Best in Europe - Patricia Rodriguez of Spain (1st runner-up in Miss Universe 2013)
Best Pageant of the Year - Miss World 2013

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In Memoriam: Several beauty queens left this world and passed on to a place where they will remain eternally beautiful. Some of the notable queens who will be missed are:

Photo credit: El Anecdatorio
  Adalgisa Colombo, Miss Brazil 1958 and 1st runner-up in Miss Universe 1958, 
died on January 17. She was 73.

Photo credit: Miss Universe Organization
Anna Litvinova, who represented Russia in Miss Universe 2006, died on January 22.

Photo credit: Peru Beauties
 Mary Ann Sarmiento, Miss Peru 1953 and Peru's first representative to Miss Universe, 
died in early April at the age of 77.

Photo credit: Peru Beauties
Karol Castillo, Miss Peru 2008, died suddenly of cardiac arrest in Australia
 in early April. She was 23.

Photo credit: Passarela Cultural Blog
Rejane Goulart (née Rejane Vieira Costa), Miss Brazil 1972 and first runner-up in Miss Universe 1972, passed away on Christmas Eve, December 24.

“Each night, when I go to sleep, I die. And the next morning, when I wake up, I am reborn.” 
 Mahatma Gandhi



By Rafa Delfin

Updated: January 7, 2014

     
     

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