2nd place – Jennifer Hawkins, Australia
(Our judges are: Greg Borowski, Willian Prendiz de Jurado, Edwin Toledo (Times of Beauty), Ricardo Guiraldes (Chilean Charm), Julio Rodriguez (Belleza Venezolana), Alberto Dubal (Miss Memorabilia), Jimmy Harris (Beauty School), Pepe Medel, Jean-Marie Vandecasteele, Andre Sleigh, Rose Foulger, Luis Trujillo. From GB, Ed Dominguez, Henrique Fontes, and Chris Kuntz)
Miss Universe 2004 happened at Quito’s Convention Center, on June 1. Eighty candidates competed in the beautiful country of Ecuador, with Georgia, Ethiopia and Vietnam debuting. Taiwan would compete for the last time in Miss Universe, at least until 2011. The final event was hosted by Billy Bush and the always great Daisy Fuentes. The pageant was watched by some 600 million people in nearly 70 countries.
The candidates started arriving in Ecuador on May 12. Ecuador wanted to show to the rest of the world its tourist potentialities, and delivered it well. Although it was a time of political instability in the country, the local organizers did a very good job and Ecuador was an excellent host country. It was only the second time a South American nation hosted the Miss Universe pageant (the first had been Peru, back in 1982).
The people of Quito, and Ecuador in general, were happy with Miss Universe being held “at home”. Those who could not attend the final event, cheered the 80 international beauties during Quito’s open car parade.
The girls visited Guayaquil, Cuenca, the Andean region, and a group of girls traveled with Amelia Vega, Miss Universe 2003, to the Galapagos Islands.
Since the beginning, four candidates stood out as the major favorites for the crown: Miss Ecuador, María Susana Rivadeneira; Miss USA, Shandi Finnessey; Miss Venezuela, Ana Karina Áñez; and, Miss Ukraine, Okelsandra Nikolayenko. Miss USA was seen as ‘the one to beat’. Tall, blonde, congenial, Shandi had all the attributes to become America’s 8th Miss Universe.
Other favorites were Misses Norway, Kathrine Sørland, who had come from a 4th place in Miss World an year earlier, and Aruba, Zizi Lee, vice-Miss World 2001. Laëtitia Bleger, Miss France, was another possibility.
As the pageant progressed, other delegates started getting more and more press attention and the status of favorite: Australia, Greece, Canada (one of the big favorites among locals), Turkey, Japan, Egypt, Colombia, Serbia & Montenegro and Spain.
Some curiosities about the contestants:
* Miss Bolivia, Gabriela Oviedo, was heavily criticized after saying that she was “a tall, white woman, and not a short indigenous peasant”;
* Miss Venezuela, Ana Karina Añez, impressed everyone for her preparation. The fact that she used the sentence, “I am my only competition here”, several times, was also remarked by the Ecuadorian press;
* Miss Ukraine, Oleksandra Nikolayenko, had been a top 10 semi-finalist in Miss World 2001. Amazingly beautiful, she was a favorite to become Miss Universe. She always made an effort to speak English with journalists;
* Miss Australia, Jennifer Hawkins, traveled abroad for the first time in her life on that occasion. Her vivacity, natural beauty and spontaneity, stole the scene whenever she arrived at an official event. After the preliminaries, Global Beauties had her as one of the 5 favorites for the crown;
* Another favorite, Miss Norway, Kathrine Sørland, said that in her opinion, Miss Universe was just a great as Miss World. “I have the honor to have participated in the two biggest beauty pageants in the world, both are amazing”. She was pleasant, smart, always full of energy;
* Miss Cayman Islands, Stacey-Ann Kelly, never missed on an opportunity to promote her island! She always carried with her souvenirs, booklets, and CDs with photos and info on the beautiful Cayman Islands.
After the Presentation Show, a few candidates stood out and were often mentioned as favorites, among which were Australia, Norway, Paraguay, Greece, Switzerland, Jamaica, Philippines (one of the most elegant in the batch). Misses USA, Ukraine, Venezuela, and Ecuador, remained among the top-contenders.
Days before the final event, there were rumors that Miss Greece, Valia Kakouti, was going to be the winner because of the Olympic Games being held in Athens that year. The contestants themselves hated that idea: they considered the Greek stunner to be too stuck up and arrogant.
The candidates who made the first cut and advanced to the top 15, were: Puerto Rico, Norway, Trinidad & Tobago, Ecuador, India, Australia, Angola, Jamaica, Colombia, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Chile, USA, Paraguay, and Mexico.
There were many unexpected surprises, like Puerto Rico, Trinidad & Tobago, Angola, Costa Rica, Chile, and Mexico. Favorites from Aruba, France, Greece, and mostly, Ukraine, and Venezuela, were eliminated very early in the competition. It was the first time in 22 years that Venezuela missed the cut!
Costa Rica placed for the first time since 1954, which was celebrated like a victory in her country. For Ecuador, it was also a big fiesta: Miss Universe 2004′s host country had had a single Miss Universe semi-finalist in the past, back in 1981.
After the evening gown round, another cut and more surprises: Costa Rica, Trinidad & Tobago, USA, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Paraguay, Ecuador, Australia, India, and Colombia. At that point, all Europeans had been diced from the competition, including the favorite from Norway.
Swimsuits were next, and only 5 beauties were to remain in the game: Paraguay, USA, Puerto Rico (a big shock!), Australia, and Trinidad & Tobago. The beautiful candidates from Jamaica and Ecuador stood behind, and no longer competed for the title.
Miss Trinidad & Tobago finished in 5th place, Miss Paraguay was 4th, Miss Puerto Rico was 3rd, Miss USA was 2nd, and Australia conquered its second Miss Universe title with Jennifer Hawkins, the thunder from Down Under!
Hawkins broke many patterns upon being crowned: she was natural, unrehearsed, REAL. It looked like that could be the beginning of a new era for Miss Universe (which, unfortunately, was not necessarily true). The Australian stunner was one of the best titleholders in history, having traveled to countries like Korea, Bahamas, Brazil, Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Singapore, Indonesia, Canada, Trinidad and Tobago, Cuba, India, Ecuador, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Thailand, where she crowned her successor. Jen truly enchanted the world!
Up to date, she has graced the covers of dozens of magazines around the globe, and is a talented and popular television presenter and celebrity in her native Australia.
(Special thanks to Alberto Dubal, who covered Miss Universe 2004 in Quito for GB)
MISS UNIVERSE 2004 – JENNIFER HAWKINS
MOST BEAUTIFUL MISS UNIVERSE FROM OCEANIA (1952-2010)
MOST BEAUTIFUL MISS UNIVERSE FROM THE 2000′s