And the winner is... Miss Transformational. Runners-up include Miss Take Up Space and Miss Mental Awareness.
2022 pageantry was characterized by transformations starting with new ownership of the Miss Universe Organization. For the first time in its 71-year history, MUO is no longer owned by an American but by a foreigner - a Thai entrepreneur who happens to be a transwoman. Dramatic scandals afflicted the Miss USA system which led to director Crystle Stewart being suspended and her husband Max Sebrechts being fired from his post. This was followed by Miss USA contestants who took up space on their social media to question the official results. The death by suicide of Cheslie Kryst traumatized the pageant industry and mental health all of a sudden became everyone's buzz word. Miss World learned a hard lesson not to do business with friends. The Covid-19 pandemic seemed to have dissipated, which allowed Miss International to stage its 60th edition in December after three years of absence. A cautious Miss Earth produced a hybrid pageant consisting of virtual prelims and real staging for the finals. Miss Supranational crowned a former Miss Universe finalist while Miss Grand International sensationalized the month-long pageant that included the contestants wetting and sullying their gowns as they rushed to the beach.
FOR KRYST'S SAKE: The pageant world was shocked by Miss USA 2019 Cheslie Kryst's death by suicide on January 30, 2022. Just six weeks earlier, Chesli had been in Israel working as a color commentator for Miss Universe 2021 contest. A highly accomplished young woman, Cheslie practiced law and became a New York correspondent for the entertainment news program "Extra" after her reign. The day after her death, her mother April Simpkins released a statement where she stated that Cheslie had suffered from "high-functioning depression". Her untimely tragic demise reignited conversations about mental health and led to mental health awareness as one of the most popular and relevant causes advocated by pageant contestants. Nearly eight months after Cheslie's death at age 30, the Miss USA 2022 pageant honored her with a touching tribute. Correspondent Christian Murphy said during the Oct. 3 show, per Insider. "If you're lucky in life, you get the chance to know someone who lights up a room, makes every moment seem better, and makes you feel important with a simple gesture or a word. That was Cheslie Kryst."
MISS WORLD SHAKE-UP: : On February 28, Miss World 2016 Stephanie del Valle of Puerto Rico announced that she would not be participating in the Miss World 2021 finals which was held on March 17 in her own country. On her social media, Stephanie posted a lengthy note addressed to "dear Puerto Rico and fans around the world." Her decision to withdraw was made after Puerto Rico With a Purpose L3C, a company led by wealthy businessman Brock Pierce and contracted to help organize Miss World 2021, filed a lawsuit against her foundation Reignite Puerto Rico due to "embezzlement or illegal appropriation of federal funds allocated by the government" amounting to $1.2 million. Stephanie called the lawsuit "frivolous and malicious." Stephanie countersued for $31 million for moral damages caused by the company's alleged defamation against her image and reputation. As a consequence, the court dismissed Pierce's lawsuit. Meanwhile on December 28, Stephen Morley, son of Miss World Organization CEO Julia Morley, filed a lawsuit against Pierce for failure to repay the money he owed to MWO. The case is pending in Puerto Rican court.
NEW OWNER OF MUO: Jakapong “Anne” Jakrajutatip, CEO and biggest shareholder of JKN Global Group (JKN), bought the Miss Universe Organization (MUO) for $20 million, making her the first woman - and transwoman - and foreigner to own the famous beauty pageant in its 71-year history. Commonly known as Anne JKN, she is a well-known figure in Thailand after she appeared in the Thai versions of shows such as “Shark Tank” and “Project Runway.” She hopes to transform the beauty pageant into an event that inspires women around the globe as well as promote her several businesses. Anne bought the organization much to the delight of former owner and famed superagent Ari Emanuel, who reportedly had a difficult time trying to find a buyer after refusing to slash the price. MUO also runs Miss USA and Miss Teen USA pageants.
NEW ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS OF MISS UNIVERSE: In a letter sent to the national directors in August by Miss Universe Organization CEO Amy Emmerich, starting in its 72 edition (2023), Miss Universe will be accepting “women who are or who have been married, as well as women who are pregnant or who have children.” Emmerich also stated that MUO President Paula Shugart “has been with me on this journey.” Honestly, I am not at all surprised by these changes since Emmerich became CEO on February 2022, MUO is a private company that has the right to make its own rules, and the majority of the public - at least those who responded to the survey - seem to agree with the changes which Emmerich refers to as “evolution.” So if MUO starts accepting married women, and should the winner be married, will she still be called “Miss Universe?” However, I’m surprised that they are not accepting “pregnant men.” I guess the pageant’s evolution has its limits - at least for now. The pageant also dumped its tagline #ConfidentlyBeautiful by replacing it with #BeautifullyConfident.
BLURRING THE LINES: In its mission to be more inclusive, the Miss Universe Organization (MUO) decided that men can also menstruate and therefore they should also be treated like women. And some biological women cannot menstruate and therefore they should also be treated in the same way as pre-op transmen who can menstruate. Not only is MUO forcing people to change their views about sex and gender, they also want people to stop using language that may “offend” the trans community. As a free speech activist, this is a big no for me! Hey MUO, by neutralizing language via your twisted notion of inclusivity, you are actually diminishing the essence of a woman. And canceling “woman.” Speaking of which, how do you define a woman? What’s next? Changing “Miss Universe” to “Universe Spokesperson” because the word “Miss” sounds rather limiting and sexist, don’t you think?
MISS USA SEX SCANDAL: Max Sebrechts, the Belgian-born husband of Crystle Stewart, Miss USA 2008 and President of Miss USA, was forced to step down from his position as Vice President of Miss USA after he was accused of allegedly sexually harassing former contestants. Sebrechts resigned earlier this year after a contestant in 2021 accused him of coming into her hotel room and kissing her without consent. The Daily Mail reported that “a whistleblower penned a furious email outlining the alleged misconduct and copied it to multiple top execs across Miss Universe and parent company Endeavour in June. Endeavor knew about the early allegations but did not do anything to stop Sebrechts from committing further sexual improprieties.
RULES ARE MEANT TO BE BROKEN: In October 2019, the Miss France Committee announced that transgender women would be allowed to compete in Miss France competition. In October 2021, a feminist group "Osez le féminisme" sued Miss France for discriminating against three unsuccessful applicants who did not meet the eligibility requirements. An application form for the 2021 pageant unveiled that candidates would not be eligible if they were not at least 5-foot-5 without heels, if they went pas the age limit of 24, if they had ever been married or had children, if they wore hair extensions or weaves, if they smoke, if they had tattoos, or if they cosmetic surgery. While the mission statement of the competition is to find “the young woman most representative of beauty and elegance,” the strict application requirements limit the applicant's opportunity of working as Miss France. The lawsuit prompted Endemol, the owner of Miss France, to update the requirements by eliminating the age limit and allowing applicants regardless of their marital status and lifestyle choice. My opinion is that Osez Le Féminisme is against the Miss France pageant and would like to see it shut down.
ADIEU SYLVIE: Sylvie Tellier, Miss France 2002, has resigned from her job as national director of Miss France Committee. She has held the post for 17 years. Sylvie posted a touching message on her Instagram account where she thanks her supporters and encourages them to support her with her future plans. However, she did not give the reason for her retirement.
According to the French newspaper Le Point, it is possible that Sylvie is displeased with the new direction under the new CEO of Miss France, Alexia Laroche-Joubert. Since becoming the new boss a year ago, Alexia has allowed transsexuals, married women, divorced women and single women with children to compete in the pageant - changes that Sylvie - a traditionalist - couldn’t accept. Cindy Fabre, Miss France 2005, is reportedly replacing Sylvie as director.
Under Sylvie’s directorship, France has enjoyed several placements in Miss Universe (including a win in 2016 with Iris Mittenaere) and two first-runner-up spots in Miss World 2013 with Marine Orphelin and in Miss World 2019 with Ophély Mézino.
HOMOPHOBIC DAYANA? In June, Miss Universe 2008 Dayana Mendoza. Dayana received tremendous backlash from the LGBT community after she posted on her Instagram story a meme illustrating the word “pride” in rainbow colors and a biblical verse in Spanish saying, “Delante de la destrucción va el orgullo” which translates in English to “Pride goes before destruction” from the book of Proverbs, chapter 16 verse 18. Her post pitted fans against each other, some condemning her "religious fanaticism and homophobia" and canceling her while others praising her honestly and religiou conviction. I vlogged about this event which you can watch here.
BITTER LOSERS? Several Miss USA 2022 contestants took to their social media to protest the possible rigging of the Miss USA 2022 pageant finals that took place last October 3 in Reno, Nevada. They also criticized the Miss USA Organization for having mistreated them. The scandal revolves mainly around the winner from Texas, R’Bonney Gabriel, whom many believe had been pre-selected as the winner. The contestants insisted that they do not harbor any hatred against the winner but that they demand an explanation from the Miss USA Organization about the perceived manipulation of the final results.
“We are not bitter or sore losers.” Miss Montana USA 2022 Heather Lee O’Keefe did an Instagram Live chat on October 5 to talk about the “collective experience” that she and other contestants went through during the pageant. The Miss Universe Organization (MUO) stated that the alleged rigging would be investigated by a third party. On December 27, upset and disillusioned Miss USA 2022 contestants, led by O’Keefe, took to their social media to express their disappointment and frustration with the results of the investigation claiming that the Miss USA 2022 contest had not been rigged - during a Zoom meeting conducted by MUO President Paula Shugart and attended by O’Keefe and her fellow contestants.
According to O’Keefe, she and her colleagues had submitted several questions to MUO before the virtual meeting but none of the questions was answered. The meeting lasted ten minutes and Shugart basically reiterated that there is no proof of rigging and that MUO values integrity. The winner of Miss USA 2022, R’Bonney Gabriel of Texas, has not been dethroned and will compete in Miss Universe 2022 to be held in New Orleans on January 14, 2023. MUO CEO Amy Emmerich was supposed to conduct the meeting but she was a no-show, so Shugart ended up filling for her. Shugart said that the Miss USA 2022 contest is still under investigation.
MISS VENEZUELA SCANDAL: Several members of the judging panel (consisting of celebrity personalities and former queens) protested the results of the Miss Venezuela 2022 pageant on November 16. One of the judges was Maritza Pineda, Miss Venezuela 1975, who posted that she has been receiving numerous inquiries and complaints from disgruntled fans who questioned the results. Maritza said that she and the other judges did not vote for the declared winner of Miss Venezuela, Diana Silva (Miss Distrito Federal) or for Andrea Rubio (Miss Portuguesa) who was declared Miss International Venezuela.
Pineda stated that the judges had voted instead for second runner-up Andrea Romero (Miss La Guaira) as Miss Venezuela and for first runner-up Daniela Malavé (Miss Delta Amacuro) as Miss International Venezuela because these two women performed better. Pineda approached Nina Sicilia, one of the three directors of Miss Venezuela Organization (the other two are Gabriela Isler and Jacqueline Aguilera) and asked her what happened; Nina said that there were 20 judges, 11 of whom are celebrities and the rest are from MVO. But it appears that the MVO votes carried more weight (70%) than votes of the celebrity judges which only carried 30%. What is the point of inviting celebrity judges if their votes are overpowered by a different set of non-celebrity judges? This is very strange. I have been following Miss Venezuela for nearly 30 years and this is the first time that I’ve heard of a scandal involving judges questioning the results.
Venezuelan photographer and fashion journalist Ivan Dumont posted on his Instagram stories that La Guaira and Delta Amacuro were the rightful winners and accuses MVO of being corrupt. He also posted that La Guaira lost because she was trained by the legendary queen maker Osmel Sousa - which makes you wonder if there is bad blood going on between Osmel and the three MVO directors. Jacqueline Aguilera, who did not want to be associated with the scandal, stepped down from her task as image director.
GRAND OPEN BOOK: During the 2022 competition, Miss Grand International did something that no other major pageant has done before - to do a livestream of the interviews and charged viewers a certain fee to watch it. This approach was genius from a marketing and business perspective, but also detrimental to certain contestants who may be compelled to expose their vulnerability as in the case of Miss Grand Türkiye Deria Koc who confessed that she ate tissue paper soaked in water to lose weight, or to expose their real intention as in the case of Miss Grand Hong Kong Chan Mei To who stated that she wanted a job with MGI as a historian.
GRAND SCANDAL: Miss Grand Mauritius Yuvta Rinishta (left) resigned from her 5th runner-up position of Miss Grand International 2022 after her director found out that the real winner of the popular vote was Russia and that MGI published a fake story to cover up the organization’s corrupt business practices. However, a reliable source informed me that Russia did not win the popular vote and that the director and Yuvta were having an affair, and that the director demanded that he travel with Yuvna and the MGI team everywhere they went - a demand rejected by MGI. Yuvna claimed that she resigned because her values did not align with MGI's when the truth is that her national director was being a pain in the ass. Yuvta was replaced by Miss Grand Philippines Roberta Tamondong (right) as one of the five 5th runners-up.
ADIOS, QUERIDA FERNANDA! On November 17, Miss Universe Bolivia Fernanda Pavisic allegedly made fun of the official photos of some of her fellow delegates on the Miss Universe app.This video, which was posted on her IG story, seems to indicate that she was. One could also hear another woman’s voice named “Camila” who mocked with her. Hours after posting the video on her IG story. Pavisic received tremendous backlash from pageant fans some of whom demanded that she should be banned from competing in Miss Universe next January - which prompted her to post a video a few hours later in which she explains that her video was a “social experiment.” As a consequence of her unqueenly deed, Pavisic was dethroned and replaced by Camila Sanabria who represented Bolivia in Miss Grand International 2022 last October 25 in Indonesia.
WITHDRAWAL: On her Instagram account , Miss Universe Kazakhstan 2022 Diana Tashimbetova posted on December 27 that she is officially withdrawing from the Miss Universe 2022 competition because her national pageant organization refused to pay for her travel expenses and for her training, and as a consequence the organizers denied her the right to compete in Miss Universe. This is terrible news especially for a young woman who has been dreaming of representing her country on the global stage. What kind of organizers do this to their own national queen? The Miss Universe Organization usually does not interfere with problematic issues within a national pageant organization, but perhaps they should start doing so to prevent organizers from deceiving and exploiting their titleholders. As of this writing, Tashimbetova is currently stuck in Los Angeles and still lamenting her unfortunate fate.
GRAND ANIMOSITY: On her Instagram post in early October, Miss Grand Ukraine 2022 Olga Vasyliv expressed her “rage and pain” after reading a letter from the Miss Grand International organization advising her that her roommate would be the Russian representative Ekaterina Astashenkoy. Olga calls Russia a “terrorist country” in the light of the Russian invasion of the Ukraine which began in February 2022 and resulted in a war between the two countries that continues to this day. The Ukrainian beauty tagged MGI President Nawat Itsaragrisil and told him that she is “also for peace, for love, friendship, and support but not for those who I cannot forgive.” She also pleaded with the pageant community to share her story and to message Nawat to disqualify the Russian representative. Frankly, it was a terrible idea for MGI to even think of putting Ukraine and Russia as roommates without first consulting with either contestant. It’s like putting mortal enemies Israel and Lebanon in the same room.
SIGNIFICANT VICTORIES: - Lalela Mswane of South Africa was crowned Miss Supranational 2022 in Malopolska, Poland on July 15. She made history by becoming the first South African winner, the first black winner, and the first former Miss Universe contestant to have placed in top 5 and won Miss Supranational. Lalela was second runner-up in Miss Universe 2021.
- R’Bonney Gabriel, 26, a model and fashion designer representing the city of Friendswood, was crowned Miss Texas USA 2022 on July 2nd. She is the first Filipina and the first Asian American to win the state title. Gabriel was first runner-up last year. For the first time in the history of Texan pageantry, two Filipinas represented the Lone Star State respectively at Miss USA and Miss America 2022 pageants. Averie Bishop, who was crowned on June 25 as Miss Texas 2022, is also Filipina and also the first Filipina and the first Asian-American to win Miss Texas.
- On November 29, Mina Sue Choi became the first Korean woman to win Miss Earth, and the only second Korean woman to win a major pageant (Jenny Kim was crowned Miss Supranational 2017). Miss Earth also saw the first representative from Palestine, Nadeen Ayoub, making the finals of any major international pageant. Nadeen was crowned Miss Earth Water 2022 (third place).
- Germany's Jasmin Selberg, 22, was crowned Miss International 2022 during the pageant's 60th anniversary on December 13 in Tokyo, Japan. She is the third German to win the crown after Ingrid Fifi Finger in 1965 and Iris Klein in 1989. Savannah Lynn Delos Santos also made history by being the first representative from Northern Marianas to place in any major pageant by making it in the top 15 and by winning the most popular vote for the Asia/Pacific region.
- Le Nguyen Bao Ngoc of Vietnam won the first Miss Intercontinental crown for her country during the finals held in Egypt on October 14.
- Anabel Payano of the Dominican Republic won the first Miss Globe crown for her country during the finals held in Albania on October 15.
- On March 27, a pair of Vermont sisters (above photo) made pageant history. For the first time ever, sisters were crowned Miss Vermont USA and Miss Vermont Teen USA - a situation that has never happened before in the Miss USA pageant system. Kenzie and Kelsey Golonka are from Montpelier. They won their new titles over the weekend. Kelsey Golonka was crowned Miss Vermont USA 2022 while younger sister Kenzie Golonka was crowned Miss Vermont Teen USA 2022. Kelsey made the top 12 in Miss USA 2022.
- Luis Daniel Galvez of Cuba won the first Mister Supranational title for his country during the finals in Poland on July 16.
- Miguel Angel Lucas Carrasco of Spain, who won Mister Global 2022 last March in Thailand, has been dethroned for failing to fulfill his responsibilities and replaced by the 1st runner-up, Danh Chieu Linh from Vietnam.
- Lochian Carey of Australia won Manhunt International 2022 on October 1 in the Philippines. He is the second man from his country to win the title.
- José López Duvon of Puerto Rico won Mr. Gay World 2022 on October 15 in South Africa.
- Manuel Franco of the Dominican Republic won the first Mister International title for his country during an event held in the Philippines on October 30.
- Kendall Switzenberg of the USA won Caballero Universal 2022 on December 2 in the Dominican Republic.
PHILIPPINES IS THE COUNTRY OF THE YEAR - AGAIN
The Philippines remains as the most prolific and successful country in pageantry. The country won at least 10 titles and several placements in major and minor pageants in 2022.
January 27 - Nica Zosa became the first winner of Miss Summit International contest held in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA.
March 17 - Kathleen Patton was crowned Miss Eco International 2022 in Egypt
March 30 - Jerelleen Rodriguez was crowned Reina Internacional del Chocolate 2022 in Panama
June 11 - Shane Tormes was crowned Miss Global 2022 in Vietnam
June 25 - Fuschia Anne Ravena was crowned Miss International Queen 2022 in Thailand
August 7 - Joanna Camelle Mercado was crowned Miss United Continents 2022 in Ecuador
October 15 - Alexandra Rosales was crowned Miss Supermodel Worldwide 2022 in India
October 16 - Camacho Elcid won Mr. Universe 2022 in India
November 25 - Jovy Bequillo became the first winner of Man Hot Star International in Thailand
November 27 - John Ernest Tanting won Mister Beauté Internationale 2022 in Türkiye
Cheslie Kryst was perhaps the most notable pageant royalty we lost in 2022. But there are other ones who deserve recognition for their contribution to the pageant community:
Zoe Bethel, who represented Alabama during the Miss For America Strong 2021 pageant, died after “falling out” of a Miami hotel in February. Her death was considered by the police as accidental. She left behind a 5-year-old daughter.
Kailia Posey, one of the child stars of Toddlers & Tiaras, died by suicide on May 2. She was just 16 years old. Posey was best known for being featured in one episode of “Toddlers & Tiaras,” a TLC reality TV series that focused on the families of children who competed in beauty pageant competitions.
Amelia Aboud Michael Sky, who represented the South Sudan in several pageants most notably Miss Environmental International 2022 where she placed third, died at 27 on September 12 from throat infection and not from being murdered as some pageant sites had falsely reported.
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