Saturday, December 22, 2012

Robbed with Crown and Glory?

The result of the recently concluded Miss Universe contest, supposed to be the most prestigious beauty pageant in the world, puzzled me to death. Has the organization changed its rules of choosing a winner?And if yes, since when?And if no, did I miss something crucial during the coronation night? 
Miss Philippines, Janine Tugonon during the coronation night of the 61st Miss Universe beauty pageant at Planet Hollywood and Casino Resorts in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. 

I've been watching Miss Universe pageant live on television since 1994 and even recorded the individual scores. Based on the pageant's history (I kept a complete list of the Miss Universe winners since 1952), judges picked a winner based on these critical areas: poise, grace, charisma and intellect, a winner must leave a remarkable presence on stage, she must possess an incredible mass appeal and self-confidence, a woman with substance indeed.

My observation on the way a winner was chosen each year made me believe that Miss Universe organization puts weight heavily on poise, intellect and confidence. The new Miss Universe must have an instant connection with the masses, someone with a sharp intellect and could represent the organization with dignity and honor.

In 1996, I got it right when I predicted during the question and answer portion that Miss Venezuela, Alicia Machado, would bring home the crown, she was smart, confident, attractive and pretty and the crowd's favourite. In 1999, I immediately conceded that Mirriam Quiambao would end up only first runner-up because she got really nervous during the final round of the question and answer portion and she stuttered when she gave her answer, Miss Botswana was remarkably poised and confident and gave the best answer.

However, there were instances that I could not understand the manner of judging of the contest, thus, I have few reservations on the accuracy of the criteria, each year the result seemed confusing, for example in 1994, Sushmita Sen was not considered smart and attractive, her first runner-up, Carolina Gomez was one of the crowd favourites and who displayed a fantastic appeal and charm.

In 1995, I was also shocked when Chelsi Smith of USA was declared the winner when the first runner-up, Miss India, was very smart and highly intellectual, I thought at that time, well, maybe the organization prohibited two successive winners from the same country.

This observation was repeated in 1997 when Brook Mahilanie Lee of USA won the crown, I thought well, the crown must not worn in succession with women from the same country. During that year, Lee was in a close fight with Miss Venezuela but the 1996 winner, Alicia Machado, came  from Venezuela so it was easy to see that Lee would be the sure winner. But this observation was thoroughly changed in 2009 when Venezuela won the title in two successive years. Dayana Mendoza of Venezuela was the 2008 Miss Universe back to back with her fellow Venezuelan, Stefania Fernandez, in 2009.

After analysing the circumstances, results, history of the past Miss Universe pageant, I was not sure anymore what are the basis and criteria of the organization in choosing a winner. What are they looking for in a contestant?

It was recalled that the Miss USA contest this year where Culpo won the title was embroiled in a controversy of contest rigging prompting Miss Pennsylvania to withdraw from the pageant. Donald Trump, the owner of Miss Universe Organization since 1996, decided to sue her for spreading false rumor. Trump, as ever controversial as the Miss Universe contest, and who is famous for giving his opinions to almost everything, heavily criticized Miss Pennsylvania. (When criticizing people, Trump never hold limitations nor consider a little courtesy. In 1996, when Alicia Machado gained weight unimaginable for a beauty queen, he called her an "eating machine, he also slighted Kate Middleton with her unwise decision to go topless, among the "victims" of his technological wrath are Barack Obama and Rosie O'Donnell.)

But despite this confusion, I still believe, up to the last minute of the 2012 Miss Universe coronation night, contest that the basis of the judging would eventually boil down to spontaneity, grace and intellect, critical factors that would assure the contestant of a sure place in the seat of Miss Universe winners.

But I was wrong.

When the hosts declared Oliva Culpo of USA as the 61st Miss Universe winner, I was appalled. What happened? Why the result suddenly became so unbelievable when Miss Philippines, Janine Tugonon had all what it takes to become the winner?

The Top Five finalists from left: Miss Brazil, Miss USA, Miss Australia, Miss Philippines and Miss Venezuela

Don't get me wrong, but Miss Culpo's win was really surprising. When it was announced that she won the coveted title, I was speechless and in great shock, wondering if the official tabulator handed the wrong result or the names of Oliva and Janine were interchanged. For 5 agonizing seconds, I was unmovable in my seat wondering if Donald Trump had made a last-minute decision to change the rule to give way to Olivia Culpo and made USA appeared clean, inspiring and admiring to the eyes of the world amidst  the controversies and disasters that happened lately.

It felt like Janine had been robbed with a crown in the most blatant way and the Philippines looked like being deprived with a third Miss Universe title. Up to now, the reality would not sink in mind, no matter what aspect of the contest I would check, it was really baffling.

Janine and Olivia during the final moment of the pageant waiting for the winner to be announced
Olivia Culpo of Rhode Islands, USA won the 2012 Miss Universe title. Interestingly, Olivia Culpo, at 5 feet 5 inches, is the shortest Miss Universe winner since Apasra Hongsakula of Thailand won the title in 1965.

Why she won the title? What made her stand out in the contest? Was she exceptionally smart and attractive? She was not even a crowd favourite and had no tremendous audience impact, her answer to the question thrown by one of the judges, 2010 Miss Universe, Ximena Navarete of Mexico, was not convincing and her facial expression suggested that she was tensed and nervous in great contrast to Janine's smart composure.

Culpo's presence was not even felt on stage. It was as if she did not exist at all. She romped like a confused neophyte model who just started learning how to trot with her high heels, she almost stumbled on her feet. Her facial expression was terribly awful, or would I say, she displayed no facial expression at all. Miss Venezuela and Miss Australia were smarter than her (I chuckled when Miss Venezuela gave her answer, I did not understand a bit on what she was saying, she pronounced the "laws" as "leys" but I was shocked when she was declared second runner-up when Miss Australia answered the question clearly and precisely).

Miss USA's over-all appeal sent a message that she lacked self-confidence. She wore a vintage, overtly plunging gown that made her boobs looked like two balloons ready to pop out, terribly fidgeting in the open slit and ready to burst, so disgusting. Watching her wore that ridiculous long-sleeve gown, I wondered if she was attending the wrong party. It did not speak what glamour and elegance are all about. The design is so painfully ancient.

I am not biased, but Janine Tugonon exemplified charm, poise and confidence on stage. During the question and answer portion, Olivia Culpo seemed nervous, she even stammered, stared at the ceiling searching for ideas before she voiced out her answer that sounded like an entry in a slam book of my grade school classmate "The next time around I would not fight with my siblings" heaven, so shallow! While Janine answered the question with confidence and spontaneity earning a loud applause from the audience. 

At the conclusion of the pageant, the audience seemed shocked and the people who watched it on live coverage could not believe with the result, soon reactions and angst flooded at the social networking sites, comments favoured Janine Tugonon as the eventual winner.

But there's nothing we can do about it. Miss Universe Organization never entertained complaints, much more bothered the sentiments of the observers. So let's leave it that way.

This is the first time that the pageant did not show the individual scores of the top ten finalists on the two categories: Evening Gown and Swimsuit, so the audience had no idea how each finalist was voted by the judges and who performed well on stage.

This is not the first time that the pageant was involved in controversies. In 1994, everyone was surprised when Sushmita Sen of India was declared the winner when it was very clear that Miss Colombia, Carolina Gomez was more attractive, confident, poise, graceful and smart, Gomez also gave a good answer without baffling in contrast to Sen who seemed confused what to do, she answered the question in a searching manner gripping the microphone hardly as if she was about to collapse. 

Another one was that of Miss Universe 2001, Dennise Quinones won the title when it was clear that Miss Greece, Evelina Papantoniou displayed more grace and poise and gave the best answer. Quinones was also the first woman to win the title from a host country outside USA. Before her, no host country except USA ever won the Miss Universe title.

This year, Miss Universe Organization had to go through lots of controversies and issues. Usually, the pageant is usually held in May or July but in March this year, the organization announced, due to unavailability of the venue, that the pageant would be moved to December, making Leila Lopes of Angola, the longest serving Miss Universe in history. 

The 2012 Miss Universe was initially planned to held in Mexico then in South Africa and finally Dominican Republic but due to unknown reasons none of the above-mentioned countries had finalized the agreement so the organization struggled to find another venue until it was settled at Planet Hollywood and Casino Resorts in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Another reason of the postponement was due to the conflict of schedule coverage of NBC for London Olympics and US Presidential Elections.

Despite the sad circumstances, frustrations and distress I felt for this year's result, I would still watch the pageant in the next years to come and hoping by that time, Philippines would not undergo the same discrimination and would be fairly treated by the judges.

It was already announced that the 62nd Miss Universe pageant will be held in May 2013 if that would happen, Olivia Culpo would be the shortest-serving Miss Universe in history, she will have only five months to enjoy the title, the crown and the prestige but the most important thing is, she is now part of the history of the pageant and the memories of performing the tasks and responsibilities that go with the title will last for a lifetime.

No comments: