THOUGHTS OF MISS UNIVERSE

2018




The pearl of the Orient has captured a fourth Miss Universe crown thanks to Catriona Gray. The Philippines also won the Miss Universe title in 1969 thanks to Gloria Diaz, 1973 thanks to Margarita Moran and 2015 thanks to Pia Wurtzbach. There has been a rumor circulating that the colors of the Philippines flag were worn by the winners but that is false as both Gloria Diaz and Margarita Moran wore white gowns when they won Miss Universe, Pia Wurtzbach wore a blue gown and Catriona Gray wore a red gown so there hasn’t been a winner from the Philippines wearing a yellow gown…yet but we’ll see if that happens in the future! The gap between the wins of Gloria Diaz and Margarita Moran was only four years and it took another 42 years until Pia Wurtzbach won again but only three years later, Catriona Gray won another crown in Philippines. Other countries have won 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6 years apart but never 3 so this is a first time for there to be a 3 year gap for a country to pull off another Miss Universe win. Pia Wurtzbach’s win was also affected by Steve Harvey’s notable error when he mistakenly proclaimed runner-up Colombia’s Ariadna Gutierrez as the winner only to correct his mistake two minutes later creating one of the most controversial events in Miss Universe history so it’s great that the Philippines got a proper win this time around.

Catriona Gray of the Philippines settles for a top 5 finish at Miss World 2016 won by Puerto Rico's Stephanie Del ValleCatriona Gray of the Philippines is crowned Miss Universe 2018 by outgoing Miss Universe, Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters of South AfricaThis Gray Cat has two lives with the second being significantly more triumphant than the first! Cat’s first life was representing the Philippines at Miss World 2016 where she finished in the top 5 in a pageant won by Puerto Rico’s Stephanie Del Valle and her second life was a new opportunity to represent the Philippines where she would get that other renowned international crown and the title of Miss Universe 2018. She didn’t settle for the world when she could have the universe! A lot of people, including myself, felt that Catriona was robbed at Miss World 2016 after she aced her final question and answer even if Catriona’s look was suspiciously similar to that of Megan Young who won the 2013 Miss World title for the Philippines. When asked what qualities it would take to wear the Miss World crown, Catriona responded, “I think, first of all, it takes bravery. To be a Miss World is to carry a burning torch. It is an action carried out by one to illuminate the lives of many and I would dedicate my whole self, my love for the arts and my voice to trying to uplift, empower and educate people and it would be my greatest honor and duty to hold this torch high enough so that all the world could feel and see its light.” With the ability to answer several challenging questions with ease, Catriona has definitely been preparing for this moment for a long time. The universe was waiting to hear what Cat had to purr and this kitty gurl got her twirl! She wasn’t kitten around meow. Catriona also perfected her “Cat”walk skills and her walk has been named the lava walk and her gown was certainly reflective of that since it was a gradient of lava-colored tones mainly of red with hints of oranges, yellows and blacks adorned with crystals. The ear-cuff that Catriona wore was also a patriotic symbol as it is very similar to the sun and stars in the Filipino flag. Did you also notice Catriona Gray and Michelle McLean-Miss Universe 1992, who was also one of the judges for 2018, both placed in the top 5 at Miss World prior to winning the Miss Universe crown? Did you also notice that both Catriona and Michelle both wore a red gown with a high slit when they won their respective Miss Universe crowns as well? Red seems to be a popular color among Miss Universe winners. Other Miss Universe winners apart from Catriona and Michelle that wore red include: USA’s Chelsi Smith (1995), India’s Lara Dutta (2000), Venezuela’s Stefania Fernandez (2009), Mexico’s Ximena Navarrete (2010) and USA’s Olivia Culpo in 2012 although Olivia’s gown might be deemed dark pink in certain lights. As you can see, there were a lot of little details taken into consideration with producing this win. Other Miss Universe winners that experienced losses at Miss World prior to winning Miss Universe, aside from Catriona and Michelle, include: Lebanon’s Georgina Rizk (Miss Universe 1971 who was unplaced at Miss World 1970), Holland’s Angela Visser (Miss Universe 1989 who was unplaced at Miss World 1988), and Botswana’s Mpule Kwelagobe (Miss Universe 1999 who was unplaced at Miss World 1997).

Catriona Gray with her parents Normita and IanCarson Kressley, Catriona Gray and Lu SierraCatriona, like many recent Filipina titleholders, is biracial. She has a Caucasian father, Ian Gray who is Australian (of Scottish descent) and Catriona was born and raised in Australia as an only child to both Ian and Catriona’s Filipina mother, Normita Ragas Magnayon. Passionate about the arts, Catriona’s achievements include earning a Certificate in Music Theory from the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. Catriona was also the lead singer of her school's jazz band and also performed in local productions of Miss Saigon. She even earned a black belt in Choi Kwang-Do martial arts and works as a commercial model in the Philippines. This is a very similar background to Miss Universe 2015, Pia Wurtzbach but Pia was born in Germany to her German father and Filipina mother.

Other interesting tidbits about this pageant include: that the last names of the top two delegates were colors (Gray for Philippines and Green for South Africa). Philippines prevented back to back wins for South Africa in 2018 just like they did for Colombia in 2015 which is similar to what USA did to India in 1995 and Venezuela in 1997! Are the Philippines becoming the new USA??? Venezuela is the only country to actually win two years in a row and it happened when they won in 2008 and 2009. All of this year’s top 3 countries had won earlier in this decade (Venezuela in 2013, Philippines in 2015 and South Africa in 2017). Did you notice that Philippines crowned South Africa Miss World 2014 but South Africa crowned Philippines Miss Universe 2018 so maybe China wins Miss Universe 2019 since they won Miss World 2012? Or does Puerto Rico win Miss Universe 2019 because every year after Miss Universe was held in Thailand, Puerto Rico won the next year (1993 and 2006). Also, since Philippines had a 4 year gap then a 3 year gap between Miss Universe wins then maybe Philippines next gap will be 2 years apart so maybe they win again in 2020? Also there seems to be a pattern tied with the Miss International pageant alternating winners. In 1979 and 2013, Philippines won Miss International and Venezuela won Miss Universe and in 2015 and 2018, Philippines won Miss Universe and Venezuela won Miss International! In fact, both Miss International 2018 and Miss Universe 2018 had Philippines, South Africa and Venezuela as their top 3 countries just in a different order. Thank yous go out to Paulo, Etienne, Wassim, Dave, Michael, Hernan and Diego for your contributions.

It was one night (or technically one morning) in Bangkok and the world’s your oyster! 2018 fulfilled the 13 year chain of Thailand serving as the host country as they did in 1992 and 2005 so naturally we expect the 2031 Miss Universe pageant to be held in Thailand! The productions in Thailand have always been spectacular and I thought they did a great job this year. The recent Miss Universe soundtrack had some remixes and alternations this year with the Thai xylophone called the ranat ek incorporated and some Thai Buddhist chants heard during the preliminary and national costume competitions. I liked how the opening showed some Thai dancers and instrumentalists along with Ne-Yo who opened the show with his song “Nights Like These” with the delegates walking on stage. The 2018 Miss Universe pageant had a record-breaking 94 contestants breaking the previous record of 92 set last year. 3 countries debuted this year: Armenia, Kyrgyzstan and Mongolia. It was originally supposed to be 95 contestants competing this year but interestingly enough, the delegate from Sierra Leone arrived late both this year and last year and missed registration and fittings and therefore could not compete. Marie Esther Bangura may represent Sierra Leone for the 2019 Miss Universe pageant instead assuming she arrives on time, of course… Steve Harvey returned for the fourth year of his five year contract so we will expect to see him hosting in 2019 and we’ll see if his contract gets extended and if he continues after that. His speech at the beginning which included describing his custom-made jacket with all the countries competing written on the inside was a little long and unnecessary. We want to see more of the delegates! Serving again as backstage commentators were: Ashley Graham, Carson Kressley and Lu Sierra who did a fine job. The stage design was also nice with the long X-shaped runway with graphics in the background. I’m glad they took the time to introduce the judges or selection committee as they are now called. In addition to having the most contestants ever, this pageant had another historic first as this is the first time in Miss Universe history that the judges were all female. The idea of the all-female judging panel was first implemented during the chaotic 2015 Miss USA pageant that almost got derailed due to a certain someone saying some controversial things but it wasn’t until 2018 that it happened at Miss Universe so IMG who has owned the Miss Universe pageant family since 2015 wants to be in step with the MeToo movement and is making pageants more feminist so this move didn’t really surprise me.

The 7 judges were: Porntip “Bui” Nakhirunkanok Simon-Miss Universe 1988 from Thailand (who also served as a judge in the 2005 pageant which was also held in Thailand), Michelle McLean Bailey-Miss Universe 1992 from Namibia (who I am glad got some recognition this time around as I mentioned in my 2005 commentary that she was not acknowledged even though you could see her sitting next to Miss Universe 1965, Thailand’s Apasra Hongsakula who surprisingly went unacknowledged during this year’s pageant but Apasra was shown in pictures when it was announced earlier this year that Thailand was this year’s host), Janaye Ingram-Miss New Jersey USA 2004, Iman Oubou, Lili Gil Valletta, and 2 Filipina judges: Monique Lhuillier, and Richelle Singson Michael… There was another change in the number of advancing delegates as there has been every year (2015 had a top 15, 2016 had a top 13, 2017 had a top 16 and 2018 had a top 20). There hasn’t been a narrowing down to a top 20 since 2006 which was the only other year that was done.

In terms of my predictions, I picked 10 of the top 20 plus 1 alternate (Ireland) and 1 honorable mention (Brazil). The 8 ladies that missed my list were: Costa Rica, Curaçao, Nepal, Belgium, Hungary, Indonesia, Jamaica and Poland. Costa Rica and Curaçao were mentioned in my next tier below honorable mentions. Surprises are always to be expected and there were quite a few but I was happy the actual top 5 ladies were all in my top 6. I originally had Vietnam in my top 5 but just dropped her to 6th place in my final predictions list and replaced her with Great Britain when I heard that Vietnam’s English was limited so I was very close to correctly picking the top 5 even if the order was little off. In terms of the U.S. ratings, Miss Universe pulled in 4.19 million viewers which is the second lowest rated in history just slightly below last year’s 4.4 million and above 2013’s 3.8 million. I think a lot of people have watch parties where several people gather at one house to watch together as I know that’s what I have been doing in recent years so I’m not sure how accurate these ratings measurements are. I still think it was held at the decent time as December seems to be a good time to hold the pageants since it is close to Christmas and the holiday season even though it was up against a football game on NBC and sports tend to dominate the ratings as they did on December 16. The 2012 and 2015 Miss Universe pageants were held in December and they had over 6 million viewers but even if pageants are losing viewers in the U.S., they are still extremely strong internationally. There was also no online voting this year so that also could have had an impact.

ACTUAL TOP 20:

MY PREDICTIONS:

Winner=Philippines-Catriona Gray

Winner=Puerto Rico-Kiara Liz Ortega*

1st Runner Up=South Africa-Tamaryn Green

1st Runner Up=Philippines-Catriona Gray*

2nd Runner Up=Venezuela-Sthefany Gutierrez

2nd Runner Up=Great Britain-Dee-Ann Kentish-Rogers*

FINALISTS (alpha'l):

FINALISTS:

Puerto Rico-Kiara Liz Ortega

South Africa-Tamaryn Green*

Vietnam-H'Hen Niê

Venezuela-Sthefany Gutierrez*

SEMIFINALISTS (alpha'l):

SEMIFINALISTS:

Canada-Marta Stepien

Vietnam-H'Hen Niê*

Costa Rica-Natalia Carvajal

Canada-Marta Stepien*

Curaçao-Akisha Albert

USA-Sarah Rose Summers*

Nepal-Manita Devkota

Australia-Francesca Hung*

Thailand-Sophida Kanchanarin

Albania-Trejsi Sejdini

QUARTERFINALISTS (alpha'l):

QUARTERFINALISTS:

Australia-Francesca Hung

India-Nehal Chudasama

Belgium-Zoe Brunet

Colombia-Valeria Morales

Brazil-Mayra Dias

Mexico-Andrea Toscano

Great Britain-Dee-Ann Kentish-Rogers

Greece-Ioanna Bella

Hungary-Enikő Kecskès

Nigeria-Aramide Lopez

Indonesia-Sonia Fergina Citra

El Salvador-Marisela de Montecristo

Ireland-Grainne Gallanagh

Spain-Angela Ponce

Jamaica-Emily Maddison

Thailand-Sophida Kanchanarin*

Poland-Magdalena Swat

Peru-Romina Lozano

USA-Sarah Rose Summers

Denmark-Helena Heuser

 

ALTERNATES: Ireland*, Iceland, Zambia, Kyrgyzstan, Ecuador

 

HONORABLE MENTIONS: Brazil*, Japan, Sri Lanka, Lebanon, China

 

* = made actual top 20



You might also notice that the delegates I placed in the 2nd, 4th and 5th position made the top 3 which coincidentally was also what happened in 2015 and both the 2018 and 2015 pageants were won by the Philippines! But what happened to my 10 ladies that didn’t place? Well, (say in Daisy Fuentes’ voice) First up, Albania! I mentioned in my prethoughts that Albania’s Trejsi Sejdini was the life of the party and she developed a fan following in Thailand even if she posed provocatively or too playful on occasion but this made me liken her to Estonia’s Kristiina Heinmets who placed 7th at Miss Universe 1997 so I included her in my list just because I like how she was such an entertaining character but I also suspected that an all-female panel of judges wouldn’t warm up to her as was the case so I wasn’t surprised to see her not included in the top 20 but she would have added a lot of spice to the mix. Spain-Angela Ponce Next up was India’s Nehal Chudasama who had a great story of transforming herself from fat to fit and adopting a lifestyle of fitness and encouraging others to do so. She even lost her mother at age 13 due to ovarian cancer so Nehal would have been a great inclusion but they omitted her and I think what looked like a near wardrobe malfunction during her introductions at preliminaries might have been a reason. For her national costume, she also carried a 105 pound chair on stage so that was impressive. India was once a powerhouse but they haven’t placed since 2014 but it’s interesting to note that neighboring countries like Sri Lanka placed last year and Nepal placed this year. Next up was Colombia who was one of the characters along with USA and Australia who went viral after posting a video speaking about the delegates from Vietnam, Cambodia and Brazil having limited ability to speak English. She also suggested that she didn’t support transgendered delegates competing at Miss Universe so these may have been cutting grounds for Colombia ending the 4 year streak Colombia had in the top 3 of the Miss Universe pageant. She did have a great body and walk but her eyebrows were polarizing and I really only included her in my list because many others felt that she would place. Next was Mexico’s Andrea Toscano who received from recently retired beauty czar Osmel Sousa who is credited for Venezuela’s success in pageantry since the 1970s. Andrea also had a great walk but her red gown was perhaps a bit too risky so maybe that’s what did it. Greece was next on my list and Ioanna also had a great body and carried it well and I was impressed with her but the judges might have thought she looked too plastic. Nigeria followed and she was tall and graceful but she seemed a bit reserved when watching interviews of her so perhaps that was what did it. El Salvador was another one to watch because she won the reality competition Nuestra Belleza Latina in 2013. You’ll remember that Nicaragua’s Nastassja Bolivar was Nuestra Belleza Latina in 2011 and placed among the semifinals at Miss Universe 2013 but that was a different era. I would like to congratulate Venezuela’s Migbelis Castellanos who was my prediction to win Miss Universe 2014 on winning Nuestra Belleza Latina 2018! I always knew Migbelis had that star quality and I was glad that she was recognized for it. El Salvador was very strong delegate but with so many strong delegates in the Americas, it can get easy for some of them to get missed. Next up was another delegate that made this year’s pageant historic. It was Spain’s Angela Ponce who became the first transgendered delegate to compete in Miss Universe history. Born male in 1991, Angela transitioned to female as a young adult and it was a groundbreaking event. Of course, there was originally that rumor that France’s 2001 delegate, Elodie Gossuin, was born male which was false but the controversy helped Elodie get a top 10 spot at Miss Universe 2001 and she would go on to win Miss Europe 2002 and Elodie would even give birth to two sets of twins! Transgendered delegates weren’t allowed to compete until Jenna Talackova entered the 2012 Miss Universe Canada competition only to be disqualified but then Jenna hired lawyer, Gloria Allred, showing that Jenna’s passport indicates that she is female. Jenna was originally born male with the first name Walter but she got the rules changed and Jenna was reinstated and would place in the top 12 at the Miss Universe Canada pageant which was won by Sahar Biniaz who was later replaced by runner-up Adwoa Yamoah who represented Canada at the 2012 Miss Universe pageant. This opened the door and 6 years later, Angela Ponce would become the first transgendered delegate to compete for the Miss Universe crown after winning Spain’s national title. While Angela easily could have placed, situations like these have to be handled delicately and while they could have kept it quiet, IMG is progressive and dedicated an emotional special segment for Angela and this historic moment during the telecast after the 20 quarterfinalists gave their speeches. A similar segment was done last year for Iraq’s delegate who I also predicted to place for 2017 but she did not yet she was recognized through a special segment. Now, the question remains if there will be a transgendered delegate to place or even win but we’ll see what the future holds. Peru’s Romina Lozano was next on my list and she was a formidable candidate in all aspects who spoke great English and had over a year to prepare but perhaps her body wasn’t quite up to par. The Miss Peru pageant has made headlines in recent years and in the pageant won by Romina, the delegates substituted their measurements with statements about gender-violence statistics and in the pageant that crowned next year’s Peruvian delegate, the contestants removed wigs to reveal bald heads to raise awareness about cancer. Finally, I gave my last European spot to Denmark because early on, she was considered a favorite and she had a great look that some likened to former Miss Universe winners, Oxana Fedorova and Natalie Glebova or even pop star Katy Perry and while she was very photogenic, her styling and walk and overall performance in the preliminaries was underwhelming. It’s also interesting to note that Nepal, Poland and Indonesia were all in my list last year but they all placed this year when I didn’t have them in my list! Oh, why do they tease??

Steve Harvey with Australia's Francesca HungI liked the clips of rehearsals with Lu Sierra coaching and the clips of the preliminary interviews with the delegates standing in front of the panel of judges. Repeating what was started last year, the delegates were divided into regions of Africa/Asia Pacific, Europe and the Americas with wildcard spots for the remaining 5. The introduction of the delegates was actually much better this year. It didn’t seem to quick and I think the pre-taped introductions look nicer than just quick on-stage introductions that have been done in recent years and we get to hear the delegates’ voices so this was an improvement even though they just said their country names and not their actual names which I think they could have done. I like to see introductions done in national costumes since the general viewing public also didn’t get to see all the national costumes during the telecast but only the few that were featured in that segment. First up was South Africa who was asked by Steve Harvey if she felt pressure to pull off a back to back win, South Africa replied that it was normal to feel pressure and that South Africa was supporting her even if it was 2 a.m. in South Africa. Next up was Philippines who cutely incorporated that she bet Steve has happy to see her alluding to Steve’s 2015 debacle and Catriona was asked what she would call a song about her experience at Miss Universe since she is a singer/musician. Philippines replied that she would call it ‘Raise Your Flag’ because she stands there not as one but as 104 million Filipinos also saying that she felt like she brought half of her country there and there were certainly many Filipinos in that Thai audience loudly cheering her on. I saw a video where Catriona spoke with a very Australian accent when she was younger but her accent has changed over the years so this is where her acting skills came into play. Nepal was up next and she also sounded more American and I discovered the reason for this would be because she goes to school in North Carolina even if she was born in Nepal. She was more of a surprise but I am sure she did well in interview which likely influenced her ranking. She earned a Public Health Degree from East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina, where she was on the Dean's list for seven consecutive semesters. Nepal was asked about one of the many good luck charms she brought with her and she confessed to being somewhat superstitious and said she visited a Buddhist monastery 4 months back and they gave her a thread bracelet to protect her and help her in her journey. Next up was Vietnam who was asked why one of her hobbies is grocery shopping. While Vietnam’s English was still a bit broken, I was pleased with how much she was able to convey. She said grocery shopping is her happy day when she gets off early to buy food for cooking at a local market and it’s very nice. Steve also complimented her on her haircut which I also loved and as mentioned in my first round prethoughts, H'Hen Niê was my henny and her placement in the top 5 made the world say ‘Good mornting, Vietnam!’ Finally, the curse was broken and Thailand made the top 20 in her home country. The previous two Miss Universe pageants held in Thailand in 1992 and 2005 saw an absence of the host delegate in spite of being such a great host so I was happy to see that change in 2018. When Steve asked how she was, Thailand said she was hungry and Steve said she could eat some of the cheers she was getting from the audience. He said she went from a failing student to graduating college with a 3.9 GPA and asked what sparked the change for her. She said she wanted her parents to be proud because they paid her tuition a lot… and the love of herself empowered her to put all the effort to accomplish her academic goal so she said to love yourself and love will make a way for you. For Europe, first up was a surprise delegate, Poland. It’s interesting to note that Poland was Canada’s roommate and they both speak Polish so it was nice to see both of them in the competition. Poland was asked why she would be her country’s first Miss Universe as Poland has never won (they do have 2 3rd runner ups in 1986 and 1989). Poland replied that their mentor, Lu Sierra told her that she was the best Polish girl they ever had and that woman can’t be wrong! I would debate that though as even last year’s Polish delegate was among my picks but not this year. Belgium was up next and other’s suspected her but she was more of a surprise for me due to her body type. She was unique in sporting an afro hairstyle though. Belgium was asked what she says to people who think all accountants are boring since she has a degree in accounting. She said she doesn’t agree because it’s beautiful to know accounting to do a lot of shopping! Steve Harvey with Great Britain's Dee-Ann Kentish-Rogers Great Britain was up next and she was asked about her ability to find a song for any situation and she was asked what song would be appropriate for her making the top 20. Great Britain responded and sang “A Moment Like This” which was sung by Kelly Clarkson when she won the first season of American Idol which was broadcast on FOX but that show is now on ABC so I’m wondering if that counted against her somehow. She did sing it beautifully though and Steve comically danced along. Next up was Hungary who was another surprise but she was suspected early on with some great headshots but didn’t really seem that strong in person. Nobody from her family was able to come to Thailand so Hungary was asked what she would like to say to them and she said they she loved them so much and they said she would be there and without them she wouldn’t be there and she considers everyone who was with her on her Miss Universe journey to be her family as well and she loves them too. Finally, Irish luck struck twice and Ireland placed for the second year in a row. She does have a great personality and was asked about why she read every Harry Potter book three times. She asked Steve if he ever read them to which he jokingly responded he didn’t even know who Harry Potter was and Ireland said if you read the books, then you would know why she read them so many times. For the Americas, Curaçao was up next and she started making other’s predictions lists after preliminaries. I rewatched her and didn’t see what others were seeing so I just put her in my next tier below honorable mentions. I still don’t get it. Anyway, she was asked what inside tips her grandmother and mother gave her since they also competed in pageants. She said her grandmother told her to eat as much as she could in Thailand and so she did. Her mother said a winner is a dreamer who never gives up and she was there at the Miss Universe pageant in the top 20. It’s interesting to note that Akisha seems to be good luck for the Philippines as in the pageants she competed in (Miss Universe 2018, Reino Hispanoamerica 2017 and Miss Earth 2014) were all won by the delegate representing the Philippines. Next up was Costa Rica who is a TV host and Steve Harvey asked her what tips she had for him and she said the outfit and smile were good but comically leaned it close to say “If you ever give you like a really, really, really important envelope, try to read carefully, okay?” This was a humorous allusion to the notable incident of 2015 when Steve mistakenly announced the wrong winner. That moment alone probably was what helped her advance into the top 10 and it’s good that she was able to use the situation to create a spontaneous but funny and memorable moment. Next up was Canada who was asked whether being a model or a engineering student was more fun. She said it was so hard to choose because for modelling, she gets to feed into her creative side and for engineering, she gets to better the lives of people with her talents in math and physics so it was a win-win situation. Steve concluded with a funny keeping-it-real statement and said that engineering isn’t fun. Next up was Puerto Rico was asked what she thought her dad would tell her if he was there right now since he is her biggest fan. She said he was there in the audience and she told her dad that she loves him and she’ll remember that experience for the rest of her life. Finally, Jamaica was asked to share a winning recipe for jerk chicken. She said it was something new for her and just to remember your seasoning. Now, it was time for the wildcards. First up was USA who was asked why she liked to bike like Beyonce. She said she loved those fad fitness classes and she teaches pilates but her favorite thing was those cycling classes where they turn all the lights off and turn on colored lights and have loud music especially Beyonce and you can hear yourself pant and some think it’s torture but she loves it and invited Steve to try it but he said, “Absolutely not.” He added that he likes slow cars as opposed to fast bikes and Sarah added that he would work out well in New York City because traffic is slow. Next up was Venezuela who was asked what it was like to study with students so much older than her since she started college at age 15. Venezuela replied, “Well, it was not so easy because of the fears. I did not know how to relate with older people and professional but then I, I, now, I learned relate with her (smiles) with a following the example with responsibility and discipline. Thank you.” (turns and walks off and shows off long, luxurious hair). Venezuela walked away a bit early causing Steve to do a bit of a scoffing laugh and then he called up the next delegate, Indonesia. She asked Steve, “How is little Ezra (Steve’s grandson)?” At first, I thought with her accent that she said “Have a little extra.” Bless. Steve Harvey with USA's Sarah Rose Summers Anyway, she was asked if she has an awkward family dinner due to her 6 siblings practicing 4 different religions. Indonesia replied that it is a really lively conversation and her mom is the queen of her family and she is watching her now and she has to behave but they normally joke asking who will do the dishes after this and she usually tries to get out of it saying that she is the youngest in her family. Indonesia has regularly invited Miss Universe for decades to their country to crown Miss Indonesia and there are many Indonesian fans so I think that influenced this placement but yet again, Indonesia has never advanced past the first round whenever they place. Brazil was up next and was asked what the important survival skill was that she learned living with a tribe in the Amazon for a week. Brazil replied, “To respect and value nature’s importance for our survival.” Brazil has maintained their streak in the semifinals placing 8 years in a row since they hosted the Miss Universe pageant in 2011. Brazil and USA both tie for having the second longest streak in the semifinals placing every year since 2011 which is after Philippines which has placed every year since 2010. Finally, Australia completed the list and she felt the nervousness from being called last. She was asked to tell a joke. She wasn’t sure they were P.C. (politically correct) enough sometimes but her intelligent joke was, “An optimist and pessimist met in a bar. The pessimist said, ‘Ah! Things couldn’t get any worse.’ And the optimist said, ‘No, of course they can!’” Australia humorously tagged on, “I said I could tell jokes. I didn’t say they’d be good!” I adore Australia’s personality and was so happy she placed even if Steve said he didn’t know what a pessimist was. In spite of the viral video controversy, USA and Australia advanced to the top 20 whereas Colombia did not and the victims of said controversy, Vietnam and Brazil also advanced but Cambodia did not. I was glad to see USA and Australia in the competition as I have commented before that those two had extremely warm and sunny personalities which enhanced their beauty and I know they didn’t mean any ill will and that it was blown out of proportion and I understand the need the contestants to learn English in today’s society as a job requirement to be Miss Universe as she has to live in New York for a year so the inability to speak English makes her appear unprepared for the job. Vietnam and Brazil both did speak some English during the competition so the judges recognized that they tried.

After the top 20 were announced, they incorporated something new at Miss Universe which has been done at Miss World for years which was the delivery of a 15-second prepared speech. South Africa was up first and said, “Sawadee ka, Thailand! As a medical student and tuberculosis survivor, a disease that kills millions of people every year. I am one of the lucky few to survive and I’m able to tell my story through my #breakthestigma campaign and I hope I can encourage everyone out there who’s facing any adversity or any challenge to speak up about their story. Kop khun ka.” Philippines said, “Working in some of the poorest areas of my country, I found that it was a lack of child support, not poverty that killed their dreams. A child once told me, ‘Cat, that’s just not my life and those dreams aren’t meant for me.’ but I stand here today because someone believed in me and we owe it to our children to believe in them. Kop khun ka.” Nepal said, “I see myself… I see myself as a pioneer. I’m a first generation immigrant and a first generation college graduate. That fact alone has made me value my dreams and feel empowered. I now work to empower the women and girls in my community who face menstrual health challenges by providing them health training, solutions and health education. Sawadee ka.” Vietnam said, “Sin chao. I am an ethnic minority. I’m just to get, uh, to get married at 14 but NO! I’m chose educations, eh, from nothing and here I am. I can do. You can do it! Thank you!” Even if her English was slightly broken, you got Vietnam’s message and it was cute the way she delivered it. Thailand said, “To many, I dream an impossible dream to be a Miss Universe. I dare to overcome all fear of failure, criticism to join this journey and I’m doing with all I am and all I have to fulfill not only my dream but the dream of Thai people.” I would like to point out that Thailand often used the on-the-verge-of-tears speech tactic in this speech and in other interviews perhaps to garner sympathy. Poland said, “The fact that I’m standing here is the proof that it’s always worth it to be yourself and this is the message especially for the youngest girl. You don’t have to be perfect. You just have to be the best version of yourself and you have to work hard and also believe in yourself. Thank you so much.” Thailand during top 20 speeches Belgium said (through translator), “I wanted to tell you that at age 13, I didn’t embrace my body and I would like to pass on a message to all women, ‘Be strong. Don’t let anybody judge you.’ To be here in front of you is my biggest success. Kop khun ka.” Great Britain said, “When a knee injury ended my dreams of becoming an Olympic athlete, I quickly realized that in this life, we are all entitled to more than one dream. This belief inspired me to become a barrister and the advocate for victims of acid attacks and equal pay. This is what I want the world to remember me for. Thank you.” Hungary said, “After I graduated high school, I decided to travel as a model. I end up in the most beautiful places all around the world but I felt so aimless and alone now I’m back to Hungary studying at the University, finals in Accounting and I’m very satisfied and happy with my life. Thank you.” Ireland said, “As a nurse with a dream of become…opening my own female health clinic. I want to use my knowledge and my experience to educate women on how to look after themselves. I want to raise awareness about female health and as Miss Universe, I would shine a light on the unfortunate stigma that surrounds female health in society. Kop khun ka. Thank you.” Curaçao said, “Despite of society’s ideology of beauty, the most important thing for me is to stay true to the woman I was created to be making sure to express the highest and the truest expression of myself with love, respect and a lot of confidence.” Costa Rica said, “Well, I come from a place where they taught me to find happiness in the simplicity of nature and the healing power of love. This is why I don’t dream with a physical crown or a title, I dream with the opportunity to represent each and every one of you behind that screen that still believe that the world can be changed by planting seeds of love and acceptance. Thank you.” A novel speech so Costa Rica must have done really well in interview. Canada said, “I’m fortunate enough to come from the land of opportunity. I was blessed with a 10 year modelling career that took me around the world where I realized that there is a need for change. I chose to be a part of that change by pursuing studying biomedical engineering so that I can help people all around the world regardless of who they are and where they come from. I believe that it’s important to always be the hardest working person in the room. Thank you.” Puerto Rico said (through translator), “I’ve been a fighter and a believer. I haven’t had a very easy life and even though many doors have closed on me, I have never lost my faith and I’ve never stopped believing in myself. That’s why wherever I go, I always want to deliver a message of hope. I want to inspire and motivate people to achieve their dreams whatever those may be. Kop khun ka.” Jamaica said, “I started my Miss Universe journey despite my insecurities. I know that… I know that… I actually started it to work on my insecurities and… aw (long pause)… and now that I’ve realized that a queen defines her own perfection, I know I have what it takes to inspire, to relate and most importantly, to comfort young women across the world and across the universe. Thank you so much. Sawadee ka.” Jamaica’s youth really showed here and it’s unfortunate that her nerves got the best of her that she messed up the speech so it’s important to speak from the heart and not necessarily give a robotic memorized speech. USA said, “As a certified child life specialist, I break down medical jargon to relieve anxieties. As the next Miss Universe, if I were to be chosen, I would utilize my career experience as well as my own hospitalization to bring children from around the world child life strategies because I don’t believe any child believes…needs to feel alone or scared. Thank you. Kop khun ka.” Venezuela said, “I had learned to be confident, constant and determinated (determined) woman thanks to the example from my mother who give (gave) me the valour for in my…in my family. He (She) fought and beat cancer in a country where the people suffer the consequence due don’t feeding the medicine (due to not giving the medicine?). I am here so proud to shout to the world that we Venezuelans are warriors of love. Kop khun ka, Thailand.” Indonesia said, “Being raised with a family from 4 different religions and seeing that there’s many cultural differences and also religion intolerance and gender equality…inequality have been much… have been the cause of the trouble in Indonesia and also persecution inspired me to do a campaign called Be Diverse, Be Tolerant to encourage all the people to embrace the differences and respect for others. Thank you. Kop khun ka.” Brazil said, “Sawadee ka, Thailand-ja. I am Mayra Dias, Miss Brazil 2018 and I’m proud of being from the Amazon in Brazil and my mission is make people aware of the importance of the environment. This is crucial to ensure the future of the next generation. Conserve the Amazon is preserving life on the Earth. Thank you so much.” Australia said, “I am an advocate of cultural diversity and I have come to learn the importance of diversity through my own experiences of growing up biracial in Australia. I believe that there is not one single definition of beauty but embracing one’s difference is what truly makes you beautiful. Thank you.” I think it’s interesting to note that both Miss Australia and Miss Philippines were born in Australia and are both biracial (half-Asian and half-Caucasian).
Laos won the National Costume competition with her 3 person ensemble and I felt that was a deserved award.


When it came down to the top 10, obviously I would have replaced: Costa Rica, Curaçao and Nepal with my girls: Australia, Great Britain and USA. There was a complete shut-out of Europe and I thought at least Great Britain would advance and even last year in 2017, only Spain advanced to the top 10 for Europe so this shows how tough it is for them. The top 10 first competed in the swimsuit competition wearing swimwear designed by Thai princess Sirivannavari Nariratana. After a parade of the other delegates in swimsuit to “No Stylist” by French Montana, the top 10 delegates came out individually wearing capes with some Thai horns on the shoulders and it reminded me of something you would see in a Victoria’s Secret fashion show. The top 10 walked to “Finesse” by Bruno Mars and Cardi B and South Africa was up first again and she has a great body and an excellent walk. She also had the very popular straight hair parted down the center which I think a lot of girls may be looking to replicate the styling of Russia’s Oxana Fedorova, the original Miss Universe 2002. Vietnam followed and even though she didn’t win Vietnam’s Top Model when she competed, she will likely get some top modelling offers and she has received much praise from her country and even more money which she is donating to charitable causes so H’Hen has a very bright future ahead of her as she deservedly got a second placement for Vietnam with their first time in the top 5 and H’Hen did everything right. She rocked the unique short hair and had an amazing body and carried it beautifully and she also has a series of videos about her reign on Youtube. Venezuela proudly carried on the tradition of being the world’s pageant powerhouse and she showed us why with her great, fit body and long hair and outstanding beauty. Philippines has purrfected her “Cat”walk complete with the slow motion twirl so she definitely practiced this thoroughly and had a smooth delivery. Costa Rica followed and although I’m aware she has a great body, some things like her age of 28, her wider hips and not as strong facial beauty kept her out of my list but I understood the hype more when she performed and she proved herself worthy. Curaçao was favored by others but I found her to be too small-bodied but she was fit and carried herself well. Nepal looked out of place here. Canada had an amazing body perhaps one of the best in the competition. Thailand looked decent but her home country cheering for her certainly emboldened her. Finally, Puerto Rico looked stunning with her amazing body and overall beauty. She exuded warmth and I got very youthful and fresh vibes from her.

Canada and Costa Rica enjoy donuts after not making the top 5The evening gown competition followed starting with a parade of all the delegates to “I Like Me Better” by Lauv. South Africa came out first in a silver gown with a curtain-like part toward the bottom. She sported a high ponytail and she stumbled a lot in this gown and I wasn’t sure that she was going to be able to walk all the way in it. I much preferred her preliminary gown with the white cape which was heavenly and her finals look seemed somewhat pedestrian so I felt let down here. Vietnam’s silver gown with the sleeves also looked decent. I thought her yellow preliminary gown was a little more fun and flirty and she did a Dayana Mendoza-like twirl in it also but her finals gown was more mature looking in it but Vietnam was amazing no matter what she wore. H'Hen Niê is my henny! H’Hen must have been inspired by Dayana since she won the Miss Universe crown in 2008 when Vietnam hosted. Venezuela followed wearing a nude illusion gown with silver designs on it and it was quite similar to something Cher wore decades ago in an outfit designed by Bob Mackie so perhaps that was the look they were going for here. Philippines followed doing the lava walk in a lava gown! This bold gradient gown really stood out adorned with crystals and she was like a stunning volcanic eruption! I should add that Catriona revealed that her mother dreamed that Catriona would win Miss Universe wearing a red gown and it came true! Costa Rica’s blue off-shoulder, high-slit number was nice but just not outstanding. Curaçao’s gown was certainly very sparkly with open back and cut-outs on the sides of the stomach. Her hips looked quite small which was a sharp contrast to Costa Rica who was right before her. Nepal’s gown supposedly had some symbolism with the marigold color at the bottom fading to the silver and white mountains of the Himalayas but she didn’t walk well in this gown and again looked out of place. Canada followed in an exquisitely stunning Michael Cinco gown that looked stellar but the train might have been perceived as over-the-top contrary to what Lu said. Thailand followed in a red gown with silver designs and she looked like a Christmas tree ornament which works for this time of year but this was as far as she would go. Finally, Puerto Rico came out in a nice silver illusion gown with vertical stripes but I heard she had a red gown for finals that apparently got damaged and was not wearable so I think this may have been the cause of Kiara losing some steam here as a lot of people felt that she lost her spark or that winning energy somehow. Of the top 10, Venezuela, Curaçao, Canada and Puerto Rico didn’t change from their preliminary gowns but Canada added the train for finals and then took it off after.

Top 5Then it was on the top 5 being asked questions submitted by other delegates but it wasn’t revealed which ones wrote them. Puerto Rico was up first and was asked, “Hundreds of journalists across the world were jailed this year for writing stories that were critical of their governments. Why is freedom of the press important?” Through her translator, she replied, “The press is there to inform us. Their job is to give us the news about what’s happening in the world right now. They should have total freedom to be able to report exactly what’s happening without forgetting that they have to have sympathy because there are a lot of people that are suffering different problems in the world. Kop khun ka.” It was a great answer but this would be the end of the road for Puerto Rico and I think going up first was a hindrance as it often is. In my prethoughts, I mentioned the Olivia Jordan effect which was that Olivia represented the USA at Miss World 2013 and Miss Universe 2015 and both of those pageants were won by the delegate from the Philippines so subconsciously I must have thought that because Catriona Gray competed at Miss World 2016 which was won by Puerto Rico that Puerto Rico would also win Miss Universe 2018 but it flip-flopped and went from the Olivia Jordan effect to the Michelle McLean effect. When Michelle McLean finished as a top 5 finalist at Miss World 1991, the delegate from Venezuela won Miss World but when Michelle McLean won Miss Universe, the delegate from Venezuela finished as a top 5 finalist which is what happened here. Catriona Gray finished in the top of Miss World 2016 when the delegate from Puerto Rico won and then she won Miss Universe with the delegate from Puerto Rico finishing as a top 5 finalist. Vietnam was up next and was asked, “The #MeToo movement has sparked a global conversation. In response, some have said that the world has become too politically correct. Do you think the #MeToo movement has gone too far?” Vietnam replied through her translator, “I don’t think that it has gone too far. Protecting women and women’s rights is the right thing to do. Women need protection and rights. Thank you. Kop khun ka!” I’ve seen online that some others who speak Vietnamese didn’t think this answer was well translated and I was worried that this question might be too difficult for her but she handled it well and got her message across so Vietnam gave a commendable performance even if this was also the end of the road for her. Philippines was asked, “Canada recently joined Uruguay as the second nation in the world to make marijuana legal. What is your opinion on the legalization of marijuana?” Philippines answered, “I’m for it being used in a medical use but not so for recreational use because I think if people were to argue, ‘What about alcohol and cigarettes?’ Well, everything is good but in moderation. Thank you.” Some people took issue with the ‘everything is good but in moderation’ part of her answer but she got her message across. South Africa was asked, “Many countries across the world are experiencing an increase in immigration. Do you think countries should limit the number of refugees allowed across their borders?” South Africa replied, “I think that every country should have their own rules and regulations but for a thriving society and for all of us to stand together, we have to understand that we are all human and we all are more alike than we are not so we should be open to loving each other, accepting each other. Doesn’t matter where we come from.” As expected, Tamaryn delivered a solid answer here. Finally, Venezuela was asked, “What would you say to someone who believes that pageants are archaic and against the feminist movement?” Venezuela answered through her translator, “Nowadays, we live in an era in which we have advanced greatly. Beauty pageants are not just about beauty. They’re about sensitivity and about having a heart. In beauty pageants, we can show that women like me can achieve any dreams that we may have in the world. Kop khun ka, Thailand.” There was a similar question to this one posed in the 1994 Miss Universe pageant coincidentally to Venezuela’s delegate Minorka Mercado but it was phrased “What relevance do you think pageants such as this have for a women today?” and just like Minorka, Sthefany gave a wonderful answer. This was clearly a strong top 5 and they all confidently delivered their answers.

Top 3Top 5Then it was down to three and the ladies were all asked the same final question, “What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your life, and how would you apply it to your time as Miss Universe?” Philippines answered, “I work a lot in the slums of Tondo, Manila and the life there is very… it’s poor and it’s very sad and I’ve always taught myself to look for the beauty in it, to look in the beauty in the faces of the children and to be grateful and I would bring this aspect as a Miss Universe to see situations with a silver lining and to assess where I could give something, where I could provide something as a spokesperson and this I think… If I could teach also people to be grateful, we could have an amazing world where negativity could not grow and foster and children would have a smile on their face. Thank you.” This was a very novel and astute answer for which Catriona certainly prepared very well and she definitely showed it here. South Africa answered, “Throughout my life, I’ve been exposed to both those who are privileged and underprivileged and what I’ve learned is that we are all human. We all want to be loved. We all want to belong and we all want to be seen so we should treat each other that way. Thank you.” Tamaryn also delivered a relevant message with her answer and it seemed to have almost been an extension of her top 5 answer. Finally, Venezuela answered through her translator, “I grew up in a family filled with women and each one of them taught me something very important but what I always remembered is that by working hard and chasing for our dreams, and by having courage and strength and willingness to achieve these dreams, we can achieve anything we want in this lifetime and tonight, I am proving this. I am here at Miss Universe.” This was also a very nice answer but Venezuela not speaking English might have been what caused her to rank as 2nd runner up.

After a final look with Ne-Yo performing “Miss Independent” and Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters doing her final walk as the reigning Miss Universe, Venezuela’s Sthefany Gutierrez was declared 2nd runner up, South Africa’s Tamaryn Green was the 1st runner up and Philippines’ Catriona Gray would take a 4th Miss Universe crown for the Philippines. It was nice that the Philippines got a proper crowning this time around after the 2015 one was botched. Catriona wasn’t immediately flown to New York after her win, rather she was flown to the Philippines on the Singson family private jet for a quick homecoming and she even met with Rodrigo Duterte, the president of the Philippines, but a more official homecoming parade should be happening in the early months of 2019 probably with a large crown-shaped float like they did for Pia Wurtzbach. Originally, I thought that after Catriona Gray was declared the winner that the Philippines would host the 2019 Miss Universe pageant since both Margarita Moran and Pia Wurtzbach completed their reigns in the Philippines as the 1974 and 2016 Miss Universe pageants were held there in those years. However, Filipino businessman and politician, Luis “Chavit” Singson (who is the father of one of the 2018 judges, Richelle Singson-Michael, and was a key contributor to bringing the 2016 Miss Universe pageant to the Philippines and also contributed to the 2018 Miss Universe pageant in Thailand) has said that there are plans for the upcoming 2019 Miss Universe pageant to be held in Korea. The land of kim chi last hosted the 1980 Miss Universe pageant when the USA’s Shawn Weatherly captured the Miss Universe crown in Seoul in South Korea. There might even be some involvement with North Korea but we’ll see if that actually happens. The last time the Miss Universe pageant was held successively in Asian nations was when the Miss Universe pageants were held in Singapore in 1987 and then in Taiwan in 1988. Catriona Gray is surely destined for stardom in the Philippines so this should be a memorable reign so this Gray Cat must have many more lives ahead of her!












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Some photos courtesy Miss Universe L.P., LLLP