2012 was a year filled with controversies in the pageant world, with this year’s home court decisions prevalent among the Big 4 pageants (with only Miss Earth as exception). This is also a year of changes, with Miss World starting this year’s international pageant extravaganza, and culminating in the very first holiday edition of Miss Universe.
Miss Universe is still by far the most exciting pageant among the Big 4. Consequently, it is also the most followed and most publicized, with pageant forums and websites going abuzz for the so-called Miss Universe fever. Many anticipated the pageant for almost a year and the late airing of the pageant has effectively built tremendous excitement. It was pushed back to late of the year due to the Olympics and the US elections.
When delegates started arriving in this year’s host city, the exciting Las Vegas in Nevada, it has also signaled the start of the Miss Universe season. Fans and pageant aficionados alike started the funfare of analyzing all delegates from pre-arrival (after winning the national title), followed by the post-arrival (after seeing the delegates sans the glam shots), then the preliminary competition. And everything they’ve seen from the aforementioned phases will help them determine their semi-final predictions.
You can read my analysis here, where I named the 9 ladies I considered of having the strongest chance of winning the crown, eight made it to the semifinals. I only missed one, the Ruth Ocumarez award recipient of 2012, Puerto Rico’s Bodine Koehler. But of course, my accuracy would definitely be low this year if we’ll account the overall Top 16, considering the surprises like Hungary, Russia, Turkey and India. Hungary’s Agnes Konkoly is a pleasant surprise, considering how far she have reached in the finals. The most daunting of all is the inclusion of India. Shilpa Singh just came from nowhere.
The Opening Number
Miss Universe’s holiday special opened complete with Christmas theme and Donald Trump dressed as the grumpy old Santa. The candidates were introduced in the music of Selena Gomez’s Winter Wonderland and One Direction’s Live While You’re Young. Instead of having the ladies introduce themselves LIVE (like last year), the production had it recorded. It was a good decision although the first contestants were hounded by technical glitches.
Candidates walked through the stage in different groupings and patterns, making it more interesting. Although the overall impact of the opening number is significantly lower compared to the energetic musical numbers of 2009 and 2010. Like last year, the contestants wore the sponsor Sherri Hill dresses for the introduction. I actually missed the old format wherein candidates introduced themselves wearing their colorful national costumes.
This year saw the debut of Andy Cohen and Guliana Rancic in the Miss Universe stage. The two were already hosts of the Miss USA pageant in 2011 and this year. Guliana replaced Natalie Morales who hosted the Miss Universe pageant in 2010 and 2011.
I love them both. The two showed amazing chemistry on stage. Guliana is such a hosting diva, complementing Andy’s exuberant style. I also love seeing them being really into the job, showing genuine interest on the pageant. Jeannie Mai returned as this year’s sole color commentator after doing it last year with Shandi Finnessey. Jeannie did a decent job this year, but I find it more effective to have her someone to banter with, just like last year. It’s more fun and light that way.
Announcement of Top 16
This year’s announcement of the Top 16 was filled with technical boo boos like cameramen shown on TV screens getting shots of the candidates. But it is still the heart of Miss Universe’s excitement. Fans all over the globe (in 190 countries as claimed by Miss Universe during the live telecast) are surely dying in anticipation for their favorites to enter the first cut.
The following countries made it to the semifinals, the show, however, failed to mention who among the Top 16 was voted by fans. Last year, the color commentators mentioned that it was Portugal. I do think this is a disservice to pageant fans who actively voted for their favorites in the hope that they’ll be assured of a semifinal spot. The least the organization could do is to inform fans who really won.
Top 16 (in order of announcement)
- South Africa
I was surprised with India’s inclusion since she’s not really a competitive delegate facially and body-wise. I assumed she won the online vote and joined the 15 ladies voted by the preliminary judges and the Miss Universe Organization. On the other hand, I am pleasantly surprise of Hungary’s inclusion. I am a big fan of hers, and I was having second thoughts of her placement due to her weak sash. Turkey is also a big surprise, however, she got the face that could answer all the questions why she’s in.
Venezuela kicked off the first round of competition with her sassy and vivacious stage presence. She was clearly enjoying the moment, and she sashayed the stage like no other. Turkey, although undeniably beautiful, lacked the energy and the strong presentation skills. She obviously was overshadowed by the overly-energetic Venezuelan.
France followed with her toned body matched with her subtle French elegance. She’s just the 2nd runner-up in the Miss France pageant and yet she’s fiercer and more molded to Miss Universe than the actual winner, who by the way, clapped in the Miss World pageant. Peru, a stunningly beautiful Latina, had this slow and awkward walk, which might have affected her chances to advance to the next cut. Russia, who appeared on screen as heavy, complemented her angelic face with seductive poses at the end of her catwalk.
The beautiful Mexico seems to have this rough and unpolished catwalk. She was only saved by her beauty, height and that curvaceous Latina body. Following her is the Euro bombshell Miss Poland. She’s gorgeous and her body is definitely to die for. I don’t understand why she missed the next cut. Hungary, a surprise semifinalist, looked elegant in her simple catwalk. She has this warm smile, and possibly the best body among the Top 16.
Fan favorite South Africa had a strong performance in the swimsuit even though she looked short. Her well-toned body and divine projections secured her a spot for the next round. Then the venue roared with Philippines, who matched Venezuela’s strong presentation skills. She had the strongest catwalk among the Top 16, compensating for lack of sexy curves. Another European beauty, Croatia had a weak presentation, closing the curtains for the very beautiful Elizabetha Burg.
Brazil, who appeared older on TV, had a very competitive body and the typical Brazilian strong stage presence. Her poses at the end of the catwalk reminds me of the Brazilian supermodels of the recently concluded Victoria Secret’s Fashion Show. Kosovo, although very beautiful (in fact she won Miss Photogenic), looked short and pudgy in her swimwear. Her tummies weren’t toned enough for the competition. Australia, is again employing its tried and tested formula of energetic, bubbly and unassuming presentation. India is an embarrassment with her flabby body and that amateurish catwalk.
And lastly, USA came out strong with her sweet presentation. She may not be leggy and had the best body, but her face saved her in this round of competition. Her warm smile and personality totally shone in the stage.
Top 10 (in order of announcement)
- South Africa
Evening Gown Round
My favorite round in Miss Universe, this year obviously incorporated the Miss USA 2012 Evening Gown choreography. The music used was a bit off since as Train sang it live. It could have been better if live performance will be used on Swimsuit instead, as Evening Gown has to be formal, subtle and elegant.
Australia came out as sweet but still strong with her evening gown with an ultra sexy heart neckline. The color is perfect for her, and the embellishments gave it a sophisticated and expensive feel. The choice of hair is also perfect, complementing the over-all look of her dress. Russia wore a Sherri Hill dress, with that pageant-must-have slit. It’s a hybrid of a swimsuit and an evening gown, which I’m not a personal fan. The sequined top is gorgeous and she’s absolutely stunning. Although, it was quite obvious that she’s very conscious in handling the bottom part of her dress.
Brazil had the most beautiful gown of the night, with intricate detailing at the tummy part, and the metallic silver color gave it an expensive feel. Brazil gave a very strong performance here, strutting the runway, giving highlights to her fabulous figure and that magnificent dress. France is next, wearing a conservative neckline, in a white beaded gown. She had a good catwalk, and a classic vintage styling with her hair placed in one side.
And Venezuela gave a stunning presentation, wearing an exotic green gown with beads and embellishments which made it look like a Christmas tree. Talk about taking the Holiday spirit to the next level. Irene Esser showed everyone how a Miss Venezuela should do the twirl. She’s a performer in every inch. USA came out next with her big dress, covering her all over except her breasts. Even with her unconventional dress, Olivia capitalized on her stunning face. She sported a bun, to give her an overall high fashion look. She looks like a Disney princess.
Hungary is next and is a total look of elegance. She’s beautiful in white dress, heavily ornate at the bottom, and was kept simple at the top. She’s perhaps the best delegate Hungary has ever sent in the Miss Universe and it showed. Too bad she forgot to do her last pose before exiting the stage. South Africa, a heavy favorite among pageant pundits, wore a gold gown with a cape at the back. I am actually not a fan of the color of the dress, Melinda being a blonde herself. The overall look gave me the impression of monotony and a darker color on her dress could have broke it. Nonetheless, South Africa looked stunning and gave strong performance.
The beautiful Mexico wore a red gown, a color considered lucky for Mexican queens. Another hybrid gown like Miss Russia, Mexico gave a rather weak performance. Her catwalk is rough and bouncy; and she seems unpolished, a far cry from her predecessors. And lastly, Philippines sashayed in her metallic blue transparent gown. Philippines’ catwalk is very strong, and the styling highlighted her assets — her neck and jawline. Her oriental features were preserved, and her final pose is a classic one, worthy to be kept in the annals of pageantry.
Top 5 (in order of announcement)
For the Question and Answer Portion, judge it for yourself. Watch the Top 5 as they were grilled by the judges below.