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Pageantry in 2015: Trump's Universal Reign Ends, Scandals Galore While Philippine Beauties Conquer The Globe, The Earth And The Universe

A shakey universe: Colombia's Paulina Vega was crowned the winner of the 63rd edition of Miss Universe pageant which was held in Doral, Florida on January 25, 2015. For the first time in its history, the pageant "skipped" a year due to unforeseen circumstances. However, pageant organizers touted the 63rd edition as "Miss Universe 2014" even though it took place in January 2015.  

In spite of the unusual date move, the pageant was going well... until Miss Israel Doron Matalon took a selfie alongside Miss Lebanon Saly Greige which prompted a social media furor dubbed as "The Israeli-Lebanese Selfie War."

TOP: Miss Israel takes a selfie with Misses Lebanon, Slovenia and Japan.
BOTTOM: Miss Lebanon reposted the selfie on her Instagram but she cropped out Miss Israel.

“Since the first day of my arrival to participate to Miss Universe, I was very cautious to avoid being in any photo or communication with Miss Israel ([who] tried several times to have a photo with me),” Greige wrote on her Facebook. The green-eyed brunette begged fans back home for their continued support in spite of a photo that Matalon posted online that showed the two beauties of warring nations smiling side-by-side.
Matalon responded: “Too bad you cannot put the hostility out of the game, only for three weeks of an experience of a lifetime that we can meet girls from around the world and also from the neighboring country."

Beauty & Censorship: Former Miss Turkey (2006) MervBüyüksaraç made headlines last February when an Istanbul prosecutor attempted to take her to court for "insulting" Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan on her Instagram.  While the post has since been deleted, Hurriyet Daily News describes it as a satirical text titled The Master's Poem. It had originally appeared in the Turkish magazine Uykusuz, a satirical publication which prides itself on mocking the Turkish political establishment and Erdogan in particular. Buyuksarac was questioned by police about the poem. "I don't precisely recall the content I have shared on my Instagram account," she said, according to a report from Cihan news agency. "However, I might have taken excerpts from Twitter, other social media websites or the cartoon magazine Uykusuz.
I shared it because it was funny to me," she added. "I did not intend to insult Recep Tayyip Erdogan."

Scandal rocked Mister International: On his Facebook page dated February 7, 2015, Ecuador's national director Oscar Leopold Espinoza accused Alan Sim (right), the president of the Mister International Organization, of being a thief, as well as incriminating Korea's national director (whom he did not name). The 2014 pageant - which was won by policeman Neil Perez of the Philippines (left) - sailed smoothly despite controversies that culminated in the withdrawal of fifteen countries that could not participate due to the fact that the date had been pushed out three times (October 2014, December 2014, February 2015), and that they were not reimbursed by the Korean organizing committee for the airfares that they had purchased for the original date. Read here for details of the controversy.

Soul-kiyaki, anyone? On March 12, Ariana Miyamoto made history by being crowned as the first biracial Miss Universe Japan. Ariana, who was born to a Japanese mother and an African-American father, was faced with harsh criticism on social media for not appearing too Japanese. Ariana proved her detractors wrong by placing in the Top 10 of Miss Universe 2015 pageant held on December 20 in Las Vegas.

When your heart is in the wrong place: The brouhaha began when the eccentric president of  the Thailand-based Miss Grand International Organization (MGI), Nawat Itsaragirisl (left), posted on the official Facebook page of MGI on May 19, 2015 the following announcement - that he would take the current titleholder, Lees Garcia (center), and Miss Grand Kurdistan 2014 Dalia Hassan (right), with him to the Middle East to promote the organization's platform, "Stop The War And Violence" by visiting refugee camps in Kurdistan. Minutes after he posted the announcement, pageant fans rushed to express their major concern for the MGI team: would the team be guaranteed safety from any possible attack by the Islamic jihadist group, ISIS?  Despite pleas from her concerned fans, national director, and family, Lees packed her suitcases and headed to the airport. Lees' mother commented that the trip "is nothing more than a transparent attempt of self-promotion, using a tragedy of historic proportions for selfish reasons." Luckily, no one from the MGI team got hurt, kidnapped, raped or beheaded by ISIS. However, MGI was demoted to a minor status by Missosology, the world's biggest and most popular pageant website, due to Nawat's alleged inappropriate business ethics.  

She should know better: On June 10th, Emily Kachote was officially dethroned as Miss World Zimbabwe 2015 one of the local tabloids carried a story, which alleged that Emily Kachote’s nude photos had appeared on a WhatsApp group. The report came shortly after Kachote had confessed that she had once posed nude. Kachote was replaced by her 1st runner-up, Annie Grace Mutambu.

Damn! She could have been Brazil's second Miss World: On June 27th, Ana Luisa Castro (Miss Sergipe) was crowned Miss World Brazil 2015, but she resigned two days later after it was discovered that she was in fact married. The Miss World pageant does not accept married women, so Castro was succeeded by her first runner-up Catharina Choi Nunes (Miss Ilhabela). 

The Donald and Paulina Show (parental guidance is advised): On July 5th, real-estate magnate and U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump blasted at the reigning Miss Universe, Colombia's Paulina Vega, accusing her of being a "hypocrite" for criticizing him without giving up her award.

"Miss Universe, Paulina Vega, criticized me for telling the truth about illegal immigration, but then said she would keep the crown-Hypocrite," Trump, who owns the pageant.

According to the Associated Press, Vega said that Trump's controversial comments about Mexico were "hurtful and unfair" but she had no intention of giving up her crown "because the Miss Universe organization does meaningful social work in communities around the world." She was referring to comments made during Trump's June 16 campaign launch, in which he railed against Mexico for supposedly sending its "rapists" and drug runners to the US.

"When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best," Trump said then, according to a transcript. "They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people." Trump's controversial comments provoked several organizations and celebrities to break ties with him. NBC and Univision decided to drop the Miss USA pageant, Cheryl Burke and Thomas Roberts stepped down from their co-hosting duties, Emitt Smith would no longer be judging the pageant and both Flo Rida and Latin singer J Balvin have pulled their appearances.

Behind-the-scenes commentator Jeannie Mai stated that she would still be participating, telling People in a statement that while she doesn't condone Trump's statements, she "can't abandon" the women competing. However, a week later, Mai changed her mind and resigned from her post.

“It’s been an interesting, tumultuous year, but I think we’ve emerged in an even better position,” says Paula Shugart, the president of the Miss Universe Organization and producer of the Miss Universe, Miss USA and Miss Teen USA pageants.

I really, really, really, really, really, Reelzy like you: On July 12th,  cable Reelz Channel picked up the Miss USA 2015 pageant after being dropped by NBC and Univision following Trump's controversial comments on Mexico and illegal immigration. The broadcast instantly made Reelz a household name as not too many viewers knew that the cable channel even existed. Reelz CEO Stan Hubbard couldn't be happier: "Around 2.5 million people checked in for at least six minutes of the ceremonies over the course of two airings. We're not NBC, but we blew away numbers I thought we'd hit." 

Who runs the world? Girls! On July 12th, Olivia Jordan of Oklahoma was crowned Miss USA 2015 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. For the first time in the history of the pageant, the entire judging panel consisted of former MUO titleholders: 5 Miss USAs, 3 Miss Universes, and 1 Miss Teen USA. It was definitely an historical moment, enhanced by a group picture taken of the former titleholders along with the newly crowned queen. 

He's been Trumped... and dumped: On September 14th, Variety magazine reported that Donald Trump has sold the Miss Universe, Miss USA and Miss Teen USA pageants to WME/IMG for an undisclosed amount. WME/IMG had a previous relationship with the organization as producer of the three pageants.

“Having worked closely with The Miss Universe Organization in the past, we understand the incredible potential of the events and the star-quality of the participants,” Mark Shapiro, Chief Content Officer for WME | IMG, said in a statement. “The global reach of The Miss Universe Organization and the content opportunities presented by the pageants make this a strong, strategic addition to our portfolio.”

Trump also said in his announcement that he had “settled all lawsuits” with NBC, though he never in fact sued the network. A $500 million lawsuit against Univision, which canceled the Miss USA telecast ahead of NBC, remains pending.

Sim-plifying Disaster: The first edition of World Beauty Queen pageant, which took place on a beach on August 22nd in Incheon, Korea, got off to a bad start, and we mean a really bad start.  A pageant insider who is based in Asia has informed Critical Beauty that the new pageant, co-organized by Alan Sim (owner of Mister International pageant who was involved in a scandal earlier this year) and Jung-Hoon Jun (Sim's business associate and the Korean national director for Mister International), is a fake pageant designed to make money by exploiting gullible contestants. The winner from Japan, Kazue Oshima, is actually 30 years old (even though the age limit is 26).  There were only 14 contestants (4 of whom had questionable background). Two contestants (Misses Australia and Estonia) rushed off the stage after the pageant because they were so disgusted by the results - which appear to have been rigged - among other things.  There were no African or Latin American delegates, and that the mother of Miss Indonesia was crying because the organizers treated the girls like prostitutes. The pageant received so much flak that we decided to award it the "WTF Pageant Of The Year". (Hmmm, for those of you who don't know what WTF stands for, just look for the definition in Wiktionary.) And if you missed our extensive exposé on this messy pageant, you can read it here.

Quitters Never Win: Isabella Jedler Forsman, 19, Sweden's representative to Miss International 2015 pageant withdrew from the pageant a week after it began. According to the Swedish newspaper Expressen which published her story, Isabella said that the pageant was not what she had expected.  She claimed that when she got to Japan, she had to hand over all her personal information including passwords to social media. She also complained about the hectic schedule that included attending lectures, dinner parties and other events. She said that she felt like an escort sitting at a table with fifteen men and that she was obliged to be nice to them. Long days with little sleep caused her to be ill, and when she became ill, she chose not to join one of the planned events and she was scolded for it. She also said that she could not post pictures online and to express how she really felt about the competition, which she thought was "crap." She also recounted how she had sat through a long meeting with the Japanese police chief and three other officers who laughed at her and mistreated her, and refused to give her back her passport because she had a contract with the organization. Finally, the chief threw her passport on the table after a long conversation.

Did Isabella think that the two-to-three-week long pageant would be a fun vacation? If she did, she thought wrong. And we think that her story is nothing but a piece of "crap."

Lucky boy: Pradit Pradinunt, chairman of Mister Global Limited, issued an official statement on November 28 announcing that the current Mister Global Teen 2015, Daham Dias from Sri Lanka (right), would not be dethroned following the release of a controversial topless selfie of him lying next to a Thai "lady boy" (pre-op transgendered woman) and Christian Daniel Ortiz, the current Mister Universal Ambassador 2015 from Puerto Rico. The selfie was taken during a swimwear photoshot, and according to Pradinunt's statement, Dias had accepted the modeling job without Pradinunt's authorization, which is a violation of his contract with Pradinunt's pageant company. Dias is lucky to have a compassionate and reasonable boss, but the photo above will forever haunt him. Imagine what his own kids would say if they saw it: "Dad, is that mommy and Uncle Chris in the photo with you?" lol

Beauty Without a Purpose:  Anastasia Lin won the Miss World Canada 2015 on May 16 and was to represent Canada at Miss World 2015 pageant to be held in China but was refused a visa by Chinese authorities after being declared "persona non grata." Analysts widely suspected the reason for refusal of entry to be due to her advocacy of human rights in China and choice of film roles. She also practices Falun Gong, a spiritual movement condemned by the Communist government of China. Lin is the only Miss World contestant who didn’t receive a visa application from the host country in time to take her place for the 2015 pageant’s opening rounds. The Miss World Organization's attitude toward the strong-willed Canadian beauty has been rather less supportive. When asked whether it would consider moving the 2015 program if China insisted on blackballing Lin, an MWO spokesperson sniffed: “If we cancel or move the show each time a visa was not granted for a contestant, then it would be impossible to plan the event.” Lin was barred from entering China on November 26 to take part in this year's pageant in Hainan. Hoping to benefit from Hainan province's special visa policy for Canadian nationals, Lin transited in Hong Kong on a Cathay Pacific flight from Canada, but was not allowed to board her connecting flight to Sanya, Hainan. Chinese immigration officials gave no reason for their refusal. Can you say, "totalitarian regime?"

Ting Wen-yin , Taiwan's representative at Miss Earth 2015 says she has been kicked out of the pageant during the weekend of November 21st for refusing to wear a sash that reads "Miss Chinese Taipei" instead of the "Miss Taiwan ROC" that she had been wearing. Wen-yin revealed on her Facebook page that she had been warned before she made her way to Vienna, Austria where the pageant was being held, of the possibility of political pressure from China. "I told them 30,000 times that Taiwan is Taiwan," a defiant Ting wrote. "I was born in Taiwan, my sash now says Taiwan, I represent Taiwan, and I'm going to use the name of Taiwan in appearing at this pageant. Their response to me was, 'change your sash or just leave'."  She also blamed the organizers for failing to to provide lunch for contestants on two occasions, nor the time to buy their own lunch. Dinner was either some bread or some rather unappetizing pasta with tomato sauce. "Over the last three nights, we were shuffled from nightclub to nightclub, wearing beautiful clothes to talk and dance with men. I felt like a club hostess," she fumed. "So it might be a blessing in disguise that I'm out of this contest. We paid large sums of money to enter the contest, but we're treated little better than prisoners."

Oh, well... life is not meant to be fair. But just in case Ting wants to enter another international pageant that will guarantee all her wishes, she may want to redesign her sash to say "MISS I WANT."  lol 

Miss Exaggeration: Nicole Harding, a 22-year-old pageant queen from New Zealand, traveled to the Philippines during the second week of November to compete in the inaugural Miss Pancontinental pageant, but was advised by a Filipino government official to leave amid safety and security concerns - including being at risk of human trafficking. Harding told that contestants were led to believe all costs, including accommodation in a five-star hotel, would be covered by the pageant but upon arriving in the Philippines, but instead they were forced to stay a night in a hotel room that resembled a ‘prison cell’ and guarded by armed gunmen and dogs. Harding said the hotel room was ‘crawling with bugs’ and had one double bed with a thin mattress on a concrete floor which was to be shared between three people. 

The pageant's prelims were held in Cagayan de Oro, the capital city of the Misamis Oriental province in Mindanao. After their first night in the hotel the women flew to Cagayan de Oro, where they were moved to a different hotel that was not expecting their arrival. Their luggage, two pageant organizers and a photographer had been held at the previous hotel as the bill had not been paid. ‘We met with the Cagayan governor and he said it was not safe to be here, this place is more unsafe than Afghanistan,’ Harding told ‘He told us, where we were, they kidnap people and use them as sex slaves, it’s the number one place for human trafficking and we needed to get these girls out of here.’ The girls traveled back to Manila before making their way home. ‘I’m saddened that this has to come to an end as I have worked so hard to get here but with the lack of organisation, climate and security it is unsafe for me to be here any longer,’ Harding wrote on her Facebook page.

Filipino authorities ordered investigations after it cast Cagayan de Oro city in bad light, and believed it showed signs of being scam. The pageant's chief organizer Meleen Miranda complained to police, blaming a local host for the fiasco. Meanwhile, the finals of the pageant went on smoothly, there were no kidnappings, no human trafficking, and no terrorist acts. Harding and a few other contestants, including the Pakistani owner of the pageant himself, Usman Aman, withdrew from the competition and missed all the fun! 


The Miss Critical Fabulous 2015 Award goes to...

The former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia seldom competes in international pageants and rarely catches the attention of pageant fans until Dunavka Trifunovska made a splash with her over-the-top poses at the Miss Grand International 2015 pageant held in Bangkok on October 25th.  We weren't sure whether Dunavka was high on something, was taking advantage of the pageant to make a name for herself (or perhaps a fool of herself), or sincerely thought that her bizarre poses would help her win the crown. Alas, she didn't even place, but she definitely became an instant "icon" of fabulosity on social media! 

The Sorest Loser of the Year Award goes to... 

... Sheislane Hayalla, the first runner-up who snatched the crown off the winner of the Miss Amazonas 2015 contest on January 30th, refusing to accept her loss. is justifying her reaction by claiming her rival, Carol Toledo, bought the title.  “I wanted to express my disapproval of the actions shown in preparation of Miss Amazonas 2015. I don’t regret having protested,” she wrote in a message posted on her Facebook page.  “I wanted something clean and honest.” Hayalla initially hugged her opponent as the winner’s name was announced. Seconds later, as a woman adjusted the crown onto Toledo’s hair, Hayalla stepped forward to snatch the tiara violently from her head and throw it onto the stage before storming away while the crowd applauded.  Hayalla represented Brazil in Miss Globe International 2014 pageant, held in Baku, Azerbaijan, where she also was named first runner-up.

The Critical Beauty Spirit Award goes to... 

Amidst all the ugliness of war, beauty triumphs: For the first time since 1972, Iraq crowned its first beauty queen.  Shaymaa Abdelrahman, a tall, green-eyed 20-year-old from Iraq's multi-ethnic city of Kirkuk, was crowned Miss Iraq 2015 on December 19.  "I'm very happy to see Iraq going forward," the new beauty queen told AFP as she tried to fend off a scrum of admirers hoping to clinch a selfie. "This event was huge and put a smile on the faces of the Iraqis," she said. Well, maybe most Iraqis. A few days after Abdelrahman was crowned, the Islamic terrorist group ISIS threatened to kidnap her if she did not join the group's ranks. But the feisty beauty queen dismisses her nemesis and pushes through with her main project which is educational support for children in IDP camps in Iraq. #YouGoGirl


Universal Gaffe: Host Steve Harvey made a terrible blunder by announcing the wrong winner during the live telecast of the Miss Universe 2015 pageant at Planet Hollywood Theater & Casino in Las Vegas on December 20th.  Harvey accidentally announced that Miss Colombia, Ariadna Gutierrez, was the new Miss Universe when the crown was really supposed to go to Miss Philippines, Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach.  After he proclaimed Miss Colombia as the winner, there was "a lot of hell going on" in his ear piece. Throughout the press conference, Harvey owned up to his mistake, and also took to Twitter to say sorry to both pageant contestants. "I'd like to apologize wholeheartedly to Miss Colombia and Miss Philippines for my huge mistake. I feel terrible," he wrote. "Secondly, I'd like to apologize to the viewers at that I disappointed as well. Again it was an honest mistake. I don't want to take away from this amazing night and pageant. As well as the wonderful contestants. They were all amazing."

The announcement blunder caused an explosion of comments on social media, pitting Miss Colombia fans and Miss Philippines fans against each other. It also generated huge publicity for Miss Universe, for Harvey, for Wurtzbach, but most specially for the Sophia Vergara look-a-alike Gutierrez who will now be remembered forever as the beauty queen "humiliated" in front of millions of viewers. Even to this day, Gutierrez still believes she is the rightful winner. Four days after the pageant, Wurtzbach posted a touching note on her Facebook page: “To Ariadna, you are an amazing woman and we are now bonded together forever by a unique experience. In the last 3 weeks we were together, I saw how strong and beautiful you are inside and out. You represented your country with honor and I know how proud everyone must be of you. Fate has a plan for you, and I’m excited to see what’s ahead.” 


P is for Prolific... and Philippines! The Philippines once again proved its pageant supremacy by conquering the globe, the earth, and the universe! Ann Lorraine Colis was crowned Miss Globe 2015 in Toronto on October 8. Then Angelia Ong gave the Philippines its first back-t0-back Miss Earth crown (and the third for the country) by winning Miss Earth 2015 in Vienna on December 5.  And Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach won the country's third Miss Universe crown on December 20. Other notable placements include Christi Lynn McGarry (1st runner-up, Miss Intercontinental 2015), Parul Shah (3rd runner-up, Miss Grand International 2015), Cindy Madduma (winner, Miss Scuba International 2015), Trixie Maristela (Miss International Queen 2015), and last but not least, Leren Bautista who was crowned Miss Tourism Queen of the Year International 2015 in Malaysia on December 31st. That's six international beauty titles for the Philippines! No other country has ever achieved such feat in one year, not even pageant powerhouse Venezuela. And that is why we crown the Philippines as the Country of the Year for the third consecutive year!


Sylvia Hitchcock, Miss Universe 1967 from the United States,  lost her battle with cancer and passed away on August 16th. Sylvia had represented Alabama in the Miss USA 1967 pageant, and she became the third American to win the Miss Universe crown. 

Damarys Ruiz shot to stardom in 1973 at the age of 26 when she entered the Miss Venezuela contest to represent her home state. But her body was found in a park in the country's capital Caracas during the last week of May. None of her family had visited the hospital to identify her. Ruiz was 68 and died penniless. 

The first Colombian to be crowned Miss Universe, a title she earned in 1958, died on December 2. She was 77. Luz Marina Zuluaga passed away at the apartment where she lived in the city's Palermo neighborhood. Zuluaga apparently fainted while in the company of friends at her apartment and that paramedics were unable to revive her.

"It's very bad news ... that truly saddens us as well. She was not only an extraordinary (beauty) queen but also a great lady," the director of the Colombian National Beauty Pageant, Raimundo Angulo, told Blu Radio. A native of the city of Pereira, she finished first runner-up in the 1957 national contest. But after the winner was forced to resign her title because she had gotten married, Zuluaga went on to represent the Andean nation the next year at the 7th Miss Universe pageant in Long Beach, California, where she was awarded the crown.



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