12.31.2018

End Of The Year Review 2018

Pageantry in 2018: Civil War in Miss America, Miss Universe Accepts First Transgender Contestant, Miss World Exposed?



PHOTO CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES

THE BATTLE OF MISS AMERICAS  The beginning of 2018 saw Gretchen Carlson, Miss America 1989, being elected as the new chairwoman of the Miss America board of directors. It was the first time that a former winner has served as the leader of the nearly 100-year-old organization. The announcement comes days after three board members resigned and former Miss America titleholders, including 2013's Mallory Hagan, called for the organization's entire board of directors to be replaced following a leak of derogatory and sexist emails from CEO Sam Haskell and others.  But Carlson's leadership has so far proven to be chaotic and dismal. She decided to drop the swimsuit competition, which irked many loyal Miss America fans. Not long after the announcement of the swimsuit decision, two board members - Jennifer Vaden Barth and Valerie Crooker Clemens, a former Miss Maine - said they were pushed out, while Carlson said they departed because their contracts were temporary. Then, two other board members - Kate Shindle and Laura Kaeppler Fleiss - also resigned. 


PHOTO CREDIT: MISS AMERICA ORGANIZATION


A few weeks before relinquishing her crown, outgoing queen Cara Mund (above) released a five-page letter addressed to "Miss America Sisters" and obtained by USA Today in which she called out Carlson and Miss America CEO Regina Hopper and accused them of bullying, silencing and marginalizing her. Carlson denies that she ever bullied Mund, and because of such "false" allegations,  scholarships worth $75,000 were withdrawn by donors. On August 8, eleven former Miss Americas demanded Carlson and Hopper's resignation. Despite Carlson's attempts to redeem herself, she and Hopper are now being sued by a former board member and four states that have had their licenses terminated "illegally" by the Miss America Organization. The Nielsen ratings for the September 10th telecast proved to be dismal: viewership was down 19% from last year. It seems that neither Carlson nor Hopper will have a great start for 2019.
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Digging Its Own Grave?   On December 9, an anonymous individual created a Facebook page entitled, Exposing Miss World Contest, which aims to expose the corruption that has been plaguing the world's most popular pageant.  The author/creator of the page claims to have worked with the Miss World Organization (MWO) for decades. This author also tagged Steve Douglas on the page to elicit a reaction from Douglas, who is the son of Julia Morley, the pageant CEO who took over the organization after its founder, her husband Eric Morley, passed away in 2000. The author makes several allegations: Steve Douglas is a felon, Eric Morley is a sexual predator, MWO sued an American pageant organizer for infringing on the word "World," the winner is predetermined, Venezuela and India will never win again, Mexico's current win is political, and that MWO has been engaging in charity fraud. The page garnered the attention not only of pageant fans who have always suspected something shady about MWO, but also of former contestants and national directors who feel deceived and exploited by MWO. Some pro-MWO individuals claim that the allegations are false and fabricated by a disgruntled former employee. It's interesting to note that the media have not reported the page and its contents, which makes you wonder if the allegations are nothing more but sordid rumors or fake news. Only time will tell. Meanwhile, new revelations have been posted by the anonymous author at the time this review was published. You be the judge if they're true or not.

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PHOTO CREDIT: INSTAGRAM

Osmel Sousa Retires:  Osmel Sousa, the indisputable beauty queen maker responsible for making Venezuela the most successful country in pageantry, announced in February that he decided to retire as president of the Miss Venezuela Organization (MVO) and he will continue to struggle and to work for a better country (whatever that means).  Sousa was rumored to have resigned due to unfounded allegations that he had pimped contestants to wealthy men to get sponsors. Due to the alleged corruption and prostitution scandals, the 2018 Miss Venezuela pageant was cancelled. MVO is now directed by former Miss Universe 2013 Gabriela Isler

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PHOTO CREDIT: MISS UNIVERSE ORGANIZATION

Don't Judge Me. Select Me:  For the first time in the history of Miss USA pageant, an all-female jury (read: sexist) was installed and selected Sarah Rose Summers of Nebraska as the 2018 winner. And for the first time in the history of the pageant, the word "judge" was thrown out and replaced by "selection committee." For some reason, the Miss Universe Organization (MUO) found the word "judge" rather unpleasant and trivial.  
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PHOTO CREDIT: INSTAGRAM

#WomenRuleTheUniverse:  Following Miss USA's footsteps, for the first time in the history of the pageant, Miss Universe has also decided to install an all-female jury to select the 2018 Miss Universe winner. And for the first time in a long time, these women judges (oops, I meant women "selectors") oversaw both the preliminary and final rounds of the competition. In the photo from left to right:  Liliana Gil Valletta, a Colombian-American businesswoman and entrepreneur;  Bui Simon/Porntip Nakhirunkanok, Miss Universe 1988; Monique Lhuillier, a Filipino-American fashion designer noted for her luxurious wedding gowns; Michelle McLean, Miss Universe 1992; Iman Oubou, a Moroccan-American scientist and entrepreneur;  Janaye Ingram, an American political organizer (Women's March) and Miss New Jersey USA 2004; and Richelle Singson-Michael, a Filipino businesswoman and architect. Miss Universe's decision to install an all-female jury reflects Miss America's earlier decision to install an all-female Board of Directors.

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PHOTO CREDIT: MISS UNIVERSE ORGANIZATION

Pinching Pennies: For the first time in the history of the Miss USA/Miss Teen USA pageants, the mother flagship (Miss Universe Organization) - under its new management by WME/IMG - decided to hold both pageants at the same venue and only three days apart from each other. One can only assume that the reason behind this concurrence was that MUO was trying to stretch its budget. While the Miss version was broadcasted live on TV via FOX, the Teen version had to settle with a live stream via Facebook.  Could Miss Teen USA be on its way out? 
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PHOTO CREDIT: MISS UNIVERSE SPAIN

Herstory MadeAngela Ponce, 27, became the first transwoman to be crowned Miss Spain last June. She also became the first transwoman contestant to compete in Miss Universe which started accepting transgender contestants in 2012. Even though Ponce did not place or win, her presence is historically (or should we say, herstorically) significant as it contributes to the advancement of LGBTQ rights and further promoted inclusivity in pageantry. However, some critics claim that MUO was forced to accept transgender contestants due to pressure from human rights groups.
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 Mr and Miss Albinism East Africa 2018 Emmanuel Silas Shedrack, 20, from Tanzania (seated) and Maryanne Muigai (seated right) and other finalists. Photo | Dennis Onsongo

Redefining Beauty:   The common saying, "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder," seems to hold true for the organizers of the first Mr. and Miss Albinism East Africa pageant that took place on November 30 
in Nairobi, Kenya. The event is groundbreaking as it celebrates people who were born with albinism, a rare, non-contagious, genetically inherited condition that leads to a lack of pigmentation in the hair, skin and eyes, causing vulnerability to the sun and bright light, according to the United Nations. People with the hereditary condition - commonly called "albinos" - have faced discrimination, violence and even murder. Albinos have been attacked or even killed in some African countries for their body parts because of a primitive belief that they possess magical powers. Some ignorant people also dig up graves in the misguided belief that albinos will bring wealth and good fortune. These beliefs have no place in a civilized and tolerant society.

In America, there are countless special pageants that cater to contestants who otherwise would not qualify in traditional pageants. However, in the last decade or so, we have seen the likes of Miss USA and Miss America accepting contestants with disabilities (deaf, partially blind, mute, Parkinsons' disease, etc.). But no such contestant on a national level has ever participated in an international pageant (excluding the ones that are designed purposely for contestants with disabilities) - until Danish beauty 
Celina Riel - a woman born with left forearm missing - reached the top 25 in Miss Supranational 2018 pageant in Poland on December 7. Not to be dismissed is Marina Kere who suffers from vitiligo (
 long-term skin condition characterized by patches of the skin losing their pigment) and became a contestant at Miss Universe New Zealand last August. Unfortunately, for Paulett Rosales, her story does not have a happy ending; Rosales flew thousands of miles to Malaysia to represent Panama in Miss Tourism International on December 21. After competing in three rounds, the organizers banned her from competing further because she has vitiligo, according to Panama America's Twitter account:



Rosales was forced to stay in her room during the remainder of the pageant and took to her social media asking fans not to post bad things about her fellow Latina contestants who have been supportive of her. She also received love and support from Miss Universe Panama Rosa Iveth Montezuma who was competing in Miss Universe in Bangkok, Thailand. On her Instagram, Montezuma tagged Rosales with this comment (translated in English): “When we fall into stereotypes we can not see what is really beautiful, beauty is integral, it is the reflection of our hearts, in the 21st century we can not keep classifying people or deciding on the dreams of others, because it does not define you a condition, you define the desire of your heart. @ Paulettrosales.”
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Dethrone & Disqualify Her:  Pageantry wouldn't be as dramatic as soap operas if controversies and scandals did not occur. Take, for instance, the case of Veronica Didusenko who was crowned Miss Ukraine 2018 on September 20th. Pageant officials stripped her of her title after they found out that Didusenko was an unmarried mother of a 4-year-old boy. 

Natalie Paweleck was crowned Mrs. Scotland World in September but was forced to give up her title after a topless photo of her resurfaced on the Internet. She accused the organizers of "body shaming." 



Salwa Akar, Miss Earth Lebanon 2018, was stripped of her title after she posed for a photo with Miss Earth Israel 2018, Daza Zreik making peace sign with their hands, even though Zreik herself is a fellow Arab. The Miss Earth Lebanon organizers gave a statement saying that they, “categorically rejected the relationship with Israel."  Ofir Gendelman, the spokesperson of Benjamin Netanyanhu, the Prime Minister of Israel tweeted about the issue and condemns Lebanon for being an "apartheid" state.
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Juthamas Pothong, winner of the Miss Grand Thailand Lampang 2018 pageant, was disqualified for competing in another beauty pageant. Isn't there a word for this deed? Ahhh... it's called moonlighting! This directly violated the rules and policies of Miss Grand Thailand whose organizers banned Lampang from competing in any Miss Grand Thailand competition in any province and has been blacklisted forever.
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SCREENSHOT OF TEXT CHAT BETWEEN FELINE WONG XIN YI AND PAGEANT ORGANIZER


Feline Wong Xin Yi was crowned Miss Bikini Universe Singapore on September 15. Two weeks later, she turned to her social media to complain that she has not received her prizes. She even posted a screen shot of her private conversations with the pageant organizer. As a consequence, Wong was dethroned for violating the terms of the contract, one of which states that the titleholder should not be badmouthing the organizers behind their back.  Andrea Wong, a 20-year-old undergraduate, was announced the new winner and will represent Singapore in Miss Bikini Universe 2019. 
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Taylor Hamlin, 18, who was crowned the Maine Lobster Festival's Sea Goddess on August 1st, was forced to resign after "controversial" pictures from her private Instagram account were shown to the lobster festival leadership. In one photo, she was holding a vaping device called a Juul. In another picture, she is holding a joint. Since then, people involved in organizing the festival have received everything from mocking comments on Facebook to death threats.
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In October, Daniela Zivkov was stripped off her title as Miss Austria 2018 because she was making appearances scheduled by parties other than the one with whom she had signed her contract. She is the first titleholder to be dethroned in the history of Miss Austria.

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PHOTO CREDIT: FACEBOOK

She is the dancing fainting queen: Seconds after hearing her country's name as the winner of Miss Grand International 2018 on October 25th, Clara Sosa of Paraguay was in state of shock, fainted, and fell on the stage floor while her first runner-up, Meenakshi Chaudhary from India, looked for help.  Eventually, first responders rushed to the stage to revive the new queen who managed to regain her strength, be crowned, and do her victory walk. 
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PHOTO CREDIT: FACEBOOK


She's On Fire - LiterallyDorcas Kasindes, a 24-year-old model from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), was crowned Miss Africa 2018 on December 27th. Seconds after she was announced as the winner, fireworks coming from the ceiling landed on her wig which caught fire. Her wig had probably been stylized with inflammable hair spray. After desperately trying to kill the fire, with the help of her runner-up and the emcee, the beauty queen managed to maintain her composure during her coronation. 

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PHOTO CREDIT: FACEBOOK

In Hot Water:  In early October, Miss Colombia Valeria Morales (left), got in hot water with critics after she stated that she was not in favor of  pageants allowing transwomen contestants to compete - alluding to Angela Ponce (right), Miss Spain, who would be the first transwoman to compete in Miss Universe pageant. Morales later clarified that if Miss Universe accepts Ponce, then she would treat her "with respect and tolerance that a candidate deserves because she will be competing with me in the same contest." Neither women placed in the contes held in Bangkok, Thailand on December 17.

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PHOTO CREDIT: MISS UNIVERSE ORGANIZATION

Guyana national director Jyoti Hardat (left) with Miss Universe 2017 Iris Mittenaere 
and the newly crowned Miss Universe Guyana 2017 Rafeiya Husain


Country Non Grata:  In January, the Miss Universe Organization (MUO) notified Jyoti Hardat, the director of Miss Universe Guyana, that Guyana is banned from competing  in 2018 and the next two years following the controversial coronation of Rafeiya Husain as Miss Universe Guyana 2017. A committee member revealed that after complaints were filed which indicated that Hardat had rigged the results of the 2017 contest, Hardat was fired. Disenchanted contestants complained of alleged mistreatment, sexual harassment, and disrespect by the organization.  Some also claimed that they did not receive their money’s worth from the US$2,500 registration fee that they were required to pay. Hardat said that the country is being barred because of the “nasty emails” and “death threats” sent to MUO (as well as to herself and Husain) in the ensuing controversy involving the selection of Husain. Hardat told MUO that she was no longer interested in the franchise. After the 2017 Miss Universe pageant, Husain took to social media to state that she received very little support from the national organization.
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Fair Distribution: Unlike in previous years when one country won at least two of the major beauty titles, 2018 saw winners from diverse nations. Miss Universe Catriona Gray is from the Philippines, Miss International Mariem Velasco is from Venezuela, Miss World Vanessa Ponce de Leon is from Mexico, Miss Earth Nguyễn Phương Khánh is from Vietnam, Miss Supranational Valeria Vasquez Latorre is from Puerto Rico, and Miss Grand International Clara Sosa is from Paraguay. The last four women have won their respective titles for their countries for the first time.


PHOTO CREDIT: FACEBOOK

Mexico has been competing in Miss World since 1963 and has almost won the crown three times when its candidates placed second (2005, 2009, 2017). Lady Luck - or should we say, MWO Chairwoman Julia Morley - finally favored the country when she chose Vanessa Ponce de Leon as the 2018 winner. Lupita Jones, a former Miss Universe, used to own the Mexican franchise for Miss World but lost it in 2016 to the Miss Mexico Organization. Lupita's dream of producing a Mexican Miss World under her directorship never materialized.
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PHOTO CREDIT: MISS UNIVERSE ORGANIZATION
Catriona Gray waves to the crowd after being crowned 
Miss Universe 2018 in Bangkok, Thailand on December 17.

COUNTRY OF THE YEAR:   For the 4th consecutive year, the Philippines has remained unbeatable in terms of pageant successes in 2018 - thus winning the title of "Country Of The Year" in pageantry.  The country won its fourth Miss Universe crown and its fifth Miss Asia Pacific International crown, numerous minor international titles (Miss Eco International, Miss Multinational, Miss Tourism Worldwide, Miss Landscapes International, Mr. Universe Tourism, Mr. Universal Ambassador, Mister Star Model Universe, Mister National Universe Ambassador), and several runners-up (Miss International, Miss Progress International, Manhunt International, Man Of The World, Men Universe Model, Miss Tourism International, Miss Cosmopolitan World, Face Of Beauty International), and semifinalists notably in Miss Globe, Miss Supranational, Mister Supranational, and Mister International. 

Honorable Mention: Thailand (top 5 in Miss Universe, 1st runner-up in Miss World, top 8 in Miss International, finalist spot in Miss Tourism Worldwide, Miss Landscapes International, Mister Global, Man Of The World, Miss Tourism Queen International)

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IN MEMORIAM


On September 8, the pageant world was devastated by the untimely passing of Chelsi Smith, Miss USA & Miss Universe 1995 from Texas. The cause of death was liver cancer. Chelsi was only 45, having left this world too soon. Read my tribute to her
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CREDIT: MANHUNT INTERNATIONAL

Beauty pageant veteran and founder of the Manhunt International competition, Alex Liu, died on Jan 22. He was 57. According to a spokesman for his company, Exclusive Resources Marketing, he died of a heart attack in a taxi en route to Tan Tock Seng Hospital from his house in Toa Payoh at about 2 P.M. Described as "the godfather of beauty pageants in Singapore," Liu organised women's beauty pageants such as Miss Singapore Universe and Miss Chinatown after he set up Metromedia Marketing in 1984. Noticing an increase in men's products at a department store, he came up with the idea of the first male model contest in Singapore. He settled on the name "Manhunt" because it was catchy, and organised the debut edition with 16 contestants at a local disco in 1988. Entertainment lawyer Samuel Seowwho had known him for 15 years, says that Liu was "always very driven." "He was very proud that he had built up Manhunt into the world's largest male pageant."
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Donna Axum Whitworth, the first woman from Arkansas to win the Miss America crown in 1964, passed away on November 4 from complications from Parkinsons disease. She was 76. “She made everyone she met feel like they were the only person in the room,” said former Miss America and Fayetteville, Arkansas native Savvy Shields on a Facebook post. “She lived as a role model to everyone who knew her name, and inspired so many more."
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 Beauty is truth's smile when she beholds her own face 
in a perfect mirror.  - Rabindranath Tagore

By RAFA DELFIN, 12/31/12018

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