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France Wins Its Second Miss Universe Crown After 63 Years / Review Of The Telecast


Manila, Philippines – January 30, 2017– Iris Mittinaere, a 24-year-old dental student from Lille, France, was crowned Miss Universe 2016 at the Mall Of Asia Arena in Pasay City, Philippines. The telecast aired live on FOX for the second year in a row. The telecast started at 8 AM on Monday, January 30, to benefit U.S. televiewers who watched it during primetime at 8 PM on Sunday night, January 29.

     Mittenaere was crowned by outgoing queen Pia Wurtzbach from the Philippines. Mittenaere's victory was the first by a French contestant in more than 60 years. "I think France and Europe really need a Miss Universe" after failing to win the crown for so long, she said at a post-pageant news conference when she was asked how her countrymen would receive her victory. The contest has not been as popular in France as in other countries, she said, but "French people will love it now and every year they will be watching Miss Universe. I'm very proud to bring this crown to Europe," she said.

     Emmy Award winner Steve Harvey hosted the three-hour event with backstage commentary from "body activist" and top model Ashley Graham. Grammy-award entertainers Flo Rida and Boyz II Men provided the entertainment.

     The panel of judges included former Miss Universe winners Sushmita Sen (1994), Dayanara Torres (1993) and Leila Lopes (2011); Mickey Boardman, editorial director for Paper magazine; Francine LeFrak, theatrical, television, and film producer and  founder of nonprofit named Same Sky; and Cynthia Bailey, actress, model and Real Housewives of Atlanta star. 

     Eighty-six countries were represented in the 65th edition of the pageant which skipped an entire year (2016) for the second time in its history (the 2014 pageant was held on January 25, 2015 in Doral, Florida). 

Final Results:

First Runner-Up:  Haiti, Raquel Pelissier

Second Runner-Up: Colombia, Andrea Tovar

Top Three: Colombia, Andrea Tovar;  France, Iris Mittenaere; Haiti, Raquel Pelissier

Top Six:  Colombia, Andrea Tovar;  France, Iris Mittenaere; Haiti, Raquel Pelissier; Kenya, Mary Esther Were; Philippines, Maxine Medina;  Thailand, Chalita Suansane.

Top Nine:  Colombia, Andrea Tovar;  France, Iris Mittenaere; Haiti, Raquel Pelissier; Kenya, Mary Esther Were; Philippines, Maxine Medina;  Thailand, Chalita Suansane; Canada, Siera Bearchall; Mexico, Kristal Silva; USA, Deshauna Barber.

Top Thirteen: Colombia, Andrea Tovar;  France, Iris Mittenaere; Haiti, Raquel Pelissier; Kenya, Mary Esther Were; Philippines, Maxine Medina;  Thailand, Chalita Suansane; Canada, Siera Bearchall; Mexico, Kristal Silva; USA, Deshauna Barber; Brazil, Raissa Santana; Indonesia, Kezia Warouw; Panama, Keity Drennan; Valeria Piazza, Peru.

(Top 9 Online Favorites: Thailand, Philippines, Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Mexico, Indonesia, USA, Panama).

Best National Costume: Myanmar, Htet Htet Htun. She wowed the crowd with her amazing puppet-theater inspired costume that truly paid homage to her country's culture. 

At the after party event held at the Okada Manila Hotel, two other special awards were presented respectively to Jenny Kim of Korea (Miss Congeniality) and Lindita Idrizi of Albania (Miss Photogenic).

The Golden Girls

 Misses Philippines, Kenya and Thailand were eliminated after the Top 6 question round, which left Misses Colombia, France and Haiti (all wearing gold gowns)  
as the remaining Top 3:


Immediately after the Top 3 Final Question round, the official results were announced: an anxious Miss Colombia was declared 2nd runner-up, which left Miss Haiti and Miss France as the last two women standing:


Finally, host Steve Harvey declares Miss France as Miss Universe and Miss Haiti 
as 1st runner-up: 


The Bad Stuff 

The opening number, or lack thereof.  It reminds me of the 1998 opening when it lacked its most important quality - its international touch which is usually realized when the contestants proudly introduce themselves in their colorful national costumes. This year's candidates have been reduced to plain mute beauties who only gained their speech if they were selected as semi-finalists. No name introductions. The contestants had to sashay to the front of the stage wearing different outfits by dress sponsor Sherri Hill (some of which were hideous or outdated); everything felt rushed, and before a girl could even reach the front, the following girl was already being called. One girl, Miss New Zealand, was literally speed-walking!

Steve Harvey has a five-year contract to host Miss Universe. This is his second year - which means that he could recycle his Pia-Ariadna jokes for the next three years. Heaven help us! Lol

Lack of Filipino cultural significance. To think that the pageant was held in the pageant-craziest country in the world, there was no hint - not even a minimum - of Philippine culture visible on stage. Compare this year's edition with the two times that the Philippines had hosted the pageant (1974, 1994) during which some of the best aspects of Philippine culture were showcased during the telecast (i.e. the world-famous Bayanihan Dance Troupe, the majestic Banaue Rice Terraces, the beautiful sandy white beaches of Boracay and El Nido, the mysterious Taal volcano, the abundant flora and fauna, and much more.) But we didn't see any of that on stage, except for a pre-taped video of Pia giving backstage host Ashley Graham a little tour of Bohol which is famous for its chocolate hills and the  Philippine tarsier.  Another pre-taped video showed some of the contestants trying out a Philippine delicacy called "balut" (a developing duck embryo that is boiled and eaten from the shell).  

The swimsuit and evening gown presentations in groups of three. Keeping up with the theme of rush, there's nothing more irritating than being subjected to a swift look at each of the semifinalist in their swimsuits and evening gowns. Compared to the 2015 competition where the semifinalists had an average of 25 seconds of airtime to strut their stuff and allowed viewers to have an ample look at each girl, the average time was drastically cut down to 10 seconds in 2016/2017. Also, Steve Harvey failed to catch up with the fast pace of the competition, having announced Mexico and Brazil twice.

Not so special stage design. Which is basically similar to the one in 2015 held in Las Vegas, with gigantic LED screens that featured uninteresting graphics which had nothing to do with Filipino culture. When the pageant was held in Thailand (2005), Vietnam (2008), Bahamas (2009, Brazil (2011), and Russia (2013), the stage design incorporated local colors and motif. 

Oh, the disproportionate timing. Compared to the 2015 competition where a pre-taped video of each semifinalist was immediately shown after her name was called, each semifinalist this year was asked a bio-related question on stage by Steve Harvey. Some of the girls enjoyed more airtime than others, especially Kenya whose airtime lasted nearly two minutes, compared to Indonesia's with a little under a minute.

Those ugly Chinese Laundry tippy toe shoes. Tippy toe shoes are fine with swimsuits on a state or even on a national level, but not on the international stage. Why? Because not everyone appreciates exposed toes which also divert some attention away from the face. To me, tippy toe shoes are sandals with high heels; they are not as sophisticated or sexy as covered toes heels, though they are a tad better than clear, 7-inch stripper heels! Chinese Laundry has been the official footwear sponsor of Miss Universe/Miss USA since 2011, and I still have to see them supply the contestants with better shoes that don't look cheap and whose straps do not break. Miss Kenya's look during the intros would have been perfect had she worn a pair of Louboutin heels or anything close to it, and not a pair of cream-colored strapped platform shoes (below center) which were visible a mile away.


 Please stop with the political questions already! Don't get me wrong. I am all for asking political questions during the Q & A segment, as long as they are relevant to the contestant's country's politics or are universal in scope, but asking Miss Kenya about her concerns on Donald Trump's presidency is like asking Miss USA about her concerns on Uhuru Kenyatta's presidency. Like who cares? Even though Miss Kenya's response lacked depth and substance, she nevertheless delivered decently. You can't say exactly the same with Miss Philippines who had her question translated in Filipino (as she had requested) but answered in English without making any sense whatsoever. In the 2015 edition, the top 5 questions had been tailored specifically for each finalist - which was fair because it allowed all of them to mentally prepare their respective answers in advance without stressing about it.  Why did the writers scrap this element this year? No one really knows why. Oh, and did anyone notice that Philippines was randomly picked as the first to be asked, just like in 2015? Was this co-incidence or was it scripted?

The three-hour long show could have been shortened to two-hours if the producers had greatly reduced the generous time allotted to Steve Harvey jokes (one or two jokes is tolerable, but more than two is insufferable). They could also have totally eliminated the chat segments of several contestants discussing different perceptions of beauty and cyber-bullying - two topics that disinterest the truly serious beauty pageant fan who just wants to see a great, superficial beauty pageant show. Imagine all that useless waste of airtime that could have been used to select two more semifinalists.

A somber-looking Miss Venezuela Mariam Habach who was looking down at the floor, anxiously waiting for her name to be called as one of the Top 13 semifinalists. Why do I dislike this scene? Because it illustrates Mariam's lack of self-confidence - which is rare for Venezuelan contestants who are usually known for their absolute confidence and fierce competitiveness. But during the 3-week long pageant in the Philippines, Mariam had earned the reputation for being arrogant and condescending - which irked the MUO staff. No one wants to work with a bitchy diva who will destroy all the plump positive publicity that Pia Wurtzbach had brought to the pageant.


 It's all in the script. After the thirteen semifinalists left the stage to prepare for the evening gown competition, a production crew member grabbed Canada's plump delegate Siera Bearchall for what appeared to be an impromptu chat with backstage host Ashley Graham. I really think that the only reason Canada had placed is just so IMG could further promote their idea of "diverse beauty" while using Bearchall as their unofficial spokesperson. Now the question is, will IMG even sign her up as a house model the way they did with Pia Wurtzbach?  

Fake excitement?

 Shocking exclusions. I was hoping for Brazil and Panama to have advanced to the top 9, instead of Canada and USA. Brazil would have certainly given Colombia a run for her money, and Panama's beautiful face and perfect swimsuit body would have rivaled that of France. 

Where were Gloria and Margie? When the pageant was held in the Philippines in 1974 and 1994, the country's two former Miss Universe winners were introduced and acknowledged like national heroes. In fact, Gloria Diaz and Margie (Margarita) Moran even greeted the televiewers during the opening of the 1994 telecast and assisted in the coronation of the winner. This year, they were completely ignored, which now explains the reason Margie wrote a scathing piece rebuking MUO for dissing her and Gloria but also for placing them in unfavorable seats in the arena: "the extreme side of the stage closest to the backstage, next to the seat reserved for Vice President Leni Robredo, putting her an even shorter distance from the restrooms." Seriously, which idiot or idiots from MUO (or perhaps the local organizers) had arranged to place two iconic beauty queens closest to the backstage so they could hardly be seen? Margie writes, "From where we were, no way could we be caught on camera, no matter how much we stretched our necks. The focus was on the politicians and sponsors seated behind the judges." Pathetic.

Gloria Diaz (left) and Margie Moran (right) left in the dust. (

 The Good Stuff

Pia Wurtzbach doing her final walk wearing a luminous cobalt blue strapless ball gown by Filipino designer Michael Cinco! To me, this gown was an absolute show-stopper and will be considered as one of the most striking dresses ever worn by an outgoing queen:


Miss Myanmar Htet Htet Htun winning the national costume award.  Her costume represents, according to her, "princess figures of traditional Burmese puppetry." Any contestant who is able to wear a culturally rich costume that weighs "approximately 40 kilograms" (about 88 lbs.) deserves significant airtime, and that's exactly what she got. Good for her!


Even though they were not introduced during the show, it was a delight to know that several MUO titleholders were in the audience, like Miss USA 2015 Olivia Jordan, Miss Universe 2005 Nathalie Glebova, and Miss USA 2014 Nia Sanchez:


Be the change you want to see. The original Miss Universe creed - which was recited by the outgoing titleholder after crowning her successor - goes as follows: "We, the young women of the universe, believe people everywhere are seeking peace, tolerance and mutual understanding. We pledge to spread this message in every way we can, wherever we go."  The creed, which was recited for several decades until it was abolished in 1986, summarized the true mission of the pageant. After this abolition, the pageant remained without a viable new creed, despite the fact that the contestants were still seeking peace, tolerance and mutual understanding in every way they could and wherever they went. Then when the pageant began actively affiliating itself with various charitable causes, its goal was no longer limited to just spreading peace and goodwill; nowadays, the titleholder is given the opportunity to promote any cause that is dear to her heart (i.e. anti-bullying, anti-body-shaming, scientific research, anti-racism, anti-sexism, etc.). To those of us who have been following Miss Universe for so long, we may agree or disagree that the pageant has undergone many changes and sometimes not for the best. But we can all agree that despite these changes, Miss Universe has never fallen short as far as empowering women from different social, ethnic, economic, educational and cultural backgrounds is concerned - and this makes Miss Universe #ConfidentlyBeautiful to the max.


by Rafa Delfin, 2/19/2017


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