65th Miss Universe: A Different Show, an amazing Winner

Watching the 2016 (in 2017) Miss Universe finale was kind of shocking. In terms of production, it was perhaps not their best show, but thank God it had a happy ending. We explain why:

There was a lot of hype regarding the changes implemented by IMG on this year’s Miss Universe show; after all, with a few changes here and there, the format of the competition had pretty much stayed the same since 2003.  It was time for a turnaround.

The opening was more dynamic than in recent years, with each delegate parading on stage for all of three seconds,  good camera direction, multimedia and energy.  But it was not all good:  The delegates had no ‘lower thirds’ showing their name and country, only the host announcing their country’s name (like the 2000 pageant). Flo-rida is a popular performer, but the songs he performed were not appreciated by most Miss Universe fans; in the end, with no Filipino-elements, the opening ended up looking more like a Vegas-themed fashion show, which would be just fine for Miss USA.

The gowns that the contestants wore during this segment were chosen by themselves, all from the Sherri Hill collection.

We do believe that all contestants (especially the non-placing ones) deserve to have more exposure during the show, now with a 3 hours running.

Going back to the so-called change, the presenters made a lot of emphasis about women empowerment, as well as mentioning some of the delegates’ achievements (Microbiology student, military soldier, dentistry student, the list goes on).  IMG seems to be getting inspired by Miss World and Miss America (which is a positive thing).

The Hosts

Steve Harvey came back to make up for last year’s impasse (though the media reported that it was exactly the ‘mistake’ which got him a 5-year old contract hosting the competition);  not the best presenter, but his skills have certainly improved since last year. He was even funny on a couple of occasions, who would have thought? Pia Wurtzbach came out on stage, looking stunning and radiant, thanking Steve for making her the most famous Miss Universe ever!

Ashley Graham is always a delight to watch (and to listen to), since she always conducts herself with lots of class.  She expressed how happy she was to be part of this competition.

The Competition

When Miss Universe officially announced that this year would feature 12 finalists, the pageant world exploded throughout social media; fans and followers were running and screaming here and there trying to polish up their lists of favorites; others voiced their concerns and injustice about a Top 12 with 86 stunning contestants.  However, most fans don’t remember that up until 2002 there were only 10 semi-finalists. So this change was not really something new, or a shock.

The producers made a considerable changed in the announcement of the Top 13; it was split in three blocks (with two commercial breaks) and a brief question to each delegate which they had to answer in English.

Having the interviews back (which disappeared in 1999) was cool, but the execution was not very good; it would have been better to call the Top 13 in a single block and then have all of them do their brief interviews with an adequate interpreter. And what with that background YouTube for free song??

The announcement started with a surprise for most: Kenya (who was always a strong candidate for pageant experts).  In the end, there was one girl from Africa (Kenya), one from Europe (France), none from Oceania, three from Asia (Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand) and a whooping eight from the Americas (USA, Canada, Mexico, Panama, Haiti, Colombia, Brazil and Peru). It looks like some things have not changed at all…

Left behind, some great performers like Ukraine, Spain, China, Australia, Sierra Leone, Dominican Republic, Curaçao and Argentina. There was a surprise among traditional (and new) fans about Venezuela not making the cut.  It was not surprising to us, considering the pageant´s new format.

The very elegant Haiti was a pleasant surprise, while Canada, a surprise for most, was always expected by Global Beauties. This girl rocks, talk about being confident!

In the swimsuit competition, the candidates came out on stage wearing suits by Yamamay, chosen by themselves  in groups of 2 or 3. Then they went for a short walk, one by one. MUO had made it clear: it was not longer about how thin and fit they looked, but rather about being confident and showing it.

Coming out in groups do not avoid a comparison, it actually forces it when you have several contestants on stage.  With the speed that these contestants were parading on stage, production had time to call a Top 20 instead of showing some of the promotional videos twice.

Nine beauties survived this round: Canada, USA, Mexico, Kenya, France, Philippines, Thailand, Colombia and Haiti. Again, Indonesia stopped in the swimsuit round, as it has been happening in recent years. Most fans were shocked about the exclusion of Brazil and Panama, who were expected to fight for the crown. But the show had to go on, and evening gowns would come next.

How incredibly cool it was to see Miss Canada advancing, showing that Miss Universe is indeed maturing and evolving with time. She looked stunning and confident, even if not skinny as most other competitors. A positive message was sent to girls around the world here.

Back to the show, the evening gown competition also divided the candidates in three groups of three, taking away much of the charm and elegance of their individual walks.

Kenya, Philippines, Haiti, Thailand, France and Colombia kept going. Canada survived the swimsuit competition and lost all the points in evening gown, with a very poor choice of gown highly criticized by fans and the media. The one she had on in the preliminary show was much better, and had the Canadian stunner advanced to the round of questions and answers, no one would be able to stop her! In Miss Supranational 2015 she scored a perfect 10,00 in the preliminary interview competition and placed 2nd overall. Siera was one of the stars of the night and made Miss Universe history!

About the interviews at this point of the competition: why most questions were about the United States, its new president and its political crisis?? Is it a show for America only? Isn´t the world much more than the US, or MUO organizers, based in America, think like their president (who was the president of MUO until a couple of years ago)? Further to the point: what was the point of asking such questions? Even political analysts would probably have a hard time coming up with quick answers for such nonsense questions.

It killed the chances of lovely Kenya, for example. Miss Philippines got the easiest question and gave the worst possible answer: The Miss Universe pageant being held in the Philippines was, in her view, the most significant fact taking place in the world in the last 10 years. Come on, girl! Something curious: Miss Philippines 1994 Charlene Gonzales did exactly the same back in the last time when the Philippines hosted Miss U, ruining her chances to go from the Top 6 to the Top 3, after giving a very silly answer to her equally easy question.

A re-match of last year´s Philippines X Colombia final would no longer be possible! Haiti shined and once and for all entered the race! France was charming and the clear front-runner at that point! It had to be her.

The final question was: Tell us about a moment when you failed in your life and made something positive out of it. Colombia got completely lost and spoke in general terms in a very confusing way, Haiti mentioned the earthquake which hit her country a few years back (which was certainly not her fault), and France, although nearly ruined by the interpreter, was the only one to actually answer the question in a proper way.

The final walk was done as the 3 finalists were serenaded by Boyz II Men, one great moment of the contest. Colombia came out already in tears. After that answer, she knew she had ruined it. France was all poised, stunning, shining like a diamond! And then there was the surprising and elegant Haiti, who had the Filipino crowd on her side.

Miss Universe 2015 appeared to crown her successor in a gorgeous blue dress, looking more beautiful than ever! She did an excellent job as Miss Universe, we totally think so. However the dress didn’t come with its own malfunctions; Pia tripped several times during her final walk, always recovering with grace.

Then, the moment of truth: Colombia in 3rd place. France, predicted by GB as a possible winner, hand in hand with Haiti, who no one predicted to be there, but certainly deserved to do so, waited for the final announcement. No mistakes by Steve Harvey this time, and Miss Universe 2016 is Miss France!!

Her crowning was an exciting moment and Miss Universe finally allowed someone out of its comfort zone to bag the crown and be Miss Universe! We will gladly follow her steps during this year.

Production Values

The stage was kind of flat, being exactly the same stage design used during the 2015 edition held in Las Vegas.  But for a strange reason, it looked much better at the Axis Theatre than at the Mall of Asia Arena, where it seemed kind of small and simple.  The Multimedia displayed on the LED screens was indeed an improvement and of nice quality. Lighting was not as good as we are used to see.

One thing was interesting: The Philippines paid around USD 12 million to host the competition, but there were not any Filipino elements to the show!  No Filipino judge (having two former Miss Universes), no local dances, no local music, no multimedia showing Filipino cultural elements.  Compare the show to the editions held in Vietnam (2008), Thailand (2005), or Panama (2003) for example, and you will know what we were talking about.

Locals got really involved and the host committee did an excellent job with the pre-event galas and trips to the islands, but the truth is:  The country was barely promoted as a tourism destination!! Back in 1994 and in 1974, when the Philippines also hosted, the production was all about the Philippines, its natural beauties and rich history. This year, if someone did not know it was being held in Manila, this person could have thought it was taking place in Vegas, Los Angeles or Miami… It was somehwat very disappointing.

Wrapping Up

The winner is outstanding, the show was too long, at times boring without much emphasis in the competition. It is good that Miss Universe has finally opened its eyes to different kinds of beauty and now appreciates what they are in the inside more, but in terms of production, there are a lot of aspects to be worked on. We can only hope that in 2017 the quality of the telecast improves, keeping their new motto but saving some of the pageant’s long-time traditions.

Congratulations to the Miss Universe Organization for bringing a light into today’s world, for respecting more all types of beauty, and above all, for turning its back on the negative values of pageants, such as all the shaming, criticizing, insulting and bullying.  The panel of judges was excellent and a reflection of the results (However, should they express their preferences during the show? It could even influence other judges´voting!).

It is also important to know if this was actually Miss Universe 2016 or 2017, as there are contradicting reports everywhere.

And also, congratulations to FRANCE, the Miss France Committee headed by Sylvie Tellier and to Iris! Europe is back, which is fantastic!