The Wheel and Axle

Miss Universe 2016: Energy and Substance

by on Jan.31, 2017, under Film & TV, My Life, Queer

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Dream Come True

So yesterday, I fulfilled my dream to be able to watch Miss Universe live as a member of the audience.

It was everything I hoped for and more.

From feeling the positive energy of an international audience (a true melting pot of cultures, though I must say there were especially a lot of nice Thais, lovely Indonesians, and hot hot hot Latin men) to seeing beauty queens past and present, it was an experience I want to live again and again. Steve Harvey was funny, and the guest acts were surprisingly good (I’d been afraid they were too old school). We got to see what happens when the show is on commercial break (hint: not much, really), and over-all, it was indeed worth having won those tickets last minute.

Then there was the feeling of awe that you were in the presence of Miss Universe legends like Sushmita Sen and Dayanara Torres – along with another great one, Leila Lopes.

Legends.

Wow.

Of the thirteen finalists, nine were from my personal picks. Not bad! I’m sad that neither of my top two faves made it to the Top 3, with Brazil not even making the Top 9, but I’m happy Thailand made it to the Top 6. Based on the other Top 6 answers, I’d guess she was actually Top 4.

Our very own Miss Philippines, Maxine, will be controversial. She definitely made a great showing, but her Top 6 Q&A failed miserably (let’s not sugarcoat it). She got what was perhaps the easiest question but she bungled it because she should know by now that verbal communication is not her strongest suit (unless she refuses to accept feedback) and still she did not maximize the interpreter provided, the first time a Filipina used one. That said, considering that the odds were against her (the chances of a back-to-back win that is also a hometown triumph are probably very low), she managed to represent us well and was still an inspiration to a lot of people. Wonderful work, Maxine! It wasn’t an easy position to be in, but still you gave it your most confidently beautiful all.

The Thai supporters were awesome!

There were also a lot of surprises, including a complete snob for powerhouse Venezuela and unexpected placers like Kenya, and it truly seems the pageant is veering towards reviving the glory days of the pageant in the 80s/90s when it focused on beauty and brains. Let’s face it: in the last decade and a half, the focus became more on physical beauty, and only with the departure of Trump from the organization and the success of Pia Wurtzbach has the focus started to shift.

Hail, Queen Pia!

Pia, perhaps one of the most loved (if not the most loved) titleholders, elevated what it meant to be Miss Universe –  being classy and sassy at the same time, being more than just a pretty face, being genuinely caring and compassionate, being a woman of substance. She has become a new standard in pageantry.

Proof of this, perhaps, is that the first candidate called for the Top 13 was Kenya, who looked baffled and didn’t seem to believe she had been chosen. With her first casual interview, she sounded almost as profound and articulate as Sushmita Sen (my gold standard for Miss Universe brains and class). She only faltered with her Top 6 Q&A, where she got cut, because truth to tell, she got the most difficult question, a politically-charged Trump-related one that could also be seen as baiting and will stump almost anyone else who would’ve gotten it. It could even be seem as a bit of an unfair question to put out there, but it is what it is. That said, Kenya most definitely does not fit the mold of your typical finalist from the last decade and a half.

Miss France: Moulin Rouge!

And so goes with a good number of the rest of the finalists. It is a combination of beauty and human interest stories that highlight how these are ladies of substance. Canada deals with body-shaming. Peru had been in a car accident, got paralyzed, was told she may not compete any more, but forged on. Thailand rose from poverty. Haiti survived the 2010 earthquake. And so on and so forth.

It almost seems like they’re erasing Trump’s legacy on the show since he took over in the late 90s – a legacy that had transformed the pageant into a pale reflection of its former self, one that valued only physical beauty, with substance and brains mere afterthoughts to deflect feminist criticism about female objectification.

Now, starting with Pia (who won a few months after Trump separated from MUO), it looks like they’re reverting back to make the pageant all about empowerment.

1st Runner-Up: Miss Haiti

And with the Final Three, this paradigm was still fully in place. Before the pageant, I was honestly ranking France higher than Haiti. With the final question, I started rooting more for Haiti. I thought France’s answer was too long-wended, though good, while Haiti was more direct and concise; Colombia completely missed the mark. I did think Haiti would finally win with her answer, but in the end, France took the crown.

Still, I am not unhappy as I also love France.

Here’s hoping this trend continues. It’s time for Miss Universe to level up!

Passing The Torch

Top 13
* Brazil
* Indonesia
* Panama
* Peru

Top 9
* Canada
* Mexico
* USA

Top 6
* Philippines
* Kenya
* Thailand

2nd Runner-Up: Colombia

1st Runner-Up: Haiti

Miss Universe 2016: France

 

Lobby

Before the show!

During the show!

The New Queen

This is a BFFs event!

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